I read “Charlotte’s Web” as a child and vaguely remember loving it. Truth be told, I didn’t remember what it was really about. I remembered there was a spider named Charlotte and a pig. And that (SPOILER ALERT) someone dies but it’s generally uplifting.
Well, I watched it with my boys during my recovery from surgery and it was beautiful. Netflix only had the Dakota Fanning 2006 version and I think I saw an animated version as a kid, but whatever, it was fine. And all of the celebrity voices were really good. Julia Roberts as Charlotte? Genius. And that actress who played Vincent D’ Onofrio’s wife in “Men in Black” was in it and I love her, the one who says he was wearing “An Earl suit”…
Anyway. Here’s what I learned from watching it:
1. You never know what’s going on in life if you only look on the surface.
This girl’s mom thought her daughter was crazy to spend so much time with this pig. Then we come to find out: The pig and all of his friends totally understand her! Her mom was wrong! She’s not crazy! Childhood is magic and full of possibility, and sometimes we just need to let that be. And also, everyone thinks they know that animals can’t speak but when the humans are gone, they can! The take home message for me is that you never know until you dig deep what’s really going on with anyone or anything.
2. Animals have feelings.
I already knew this. Maybe you do, too. But a lot of people don’t. And it’s not just because I’m vegan that I know this. Animals have emotions. We neuroscientists test them in all sorts of ways (some of which I approve of, some of which I don’t!). But animals are made of the same chemicals and hormones and cells that you and I are made of. They totally have emotions and feelings. Really, they do.
3. Pigs don’t want to be eaten.
They really don’t. I mean, if faced with the reality of mortality for the purposes of someone eating you, I don’t think you’d choose death either. That’s just my totally biased vegan opinion, but still. As one of my favorite vegan bumper stickers says, “Bacon Had a Mom.” Just sayin’.
4. Promises kept.
There are so many lovely promises in this movie! The girl promises she will save Wilbur. She does. Then she promises to be his friend. She is! Then Charlotte promises she will save Wilbur. She does! Promises are important. Especially ones about friendship. Sweet.
5. Even creepy crawly things are miraculous.
Why does Charlotte save Wilbur? Because he was the first one to be interested in her and find her miraculous. (Yes, this would be the first time during the movie that I sobbed like a child.) She’s so creepy and crawly and spidery and kind of gross, but Wilbur wants to be her friend. She repays him with kindness and enduring friendship.
6. The greatest promise of all is motherhood.
Oh boy, did the waterworks flow when Charlotte says her greatest promise is to lay 500 spider eggs and make sure they survive. Oh my goodness. My children literally knew not to look my way on the couch; I was crying so hard. They knew they would never think of their mother the same way again if they saw her weeping openly at a spider laying eggs in a gross egg sac with her best friend, Wilbur the pig, crying as she tells him she’s dying.
7. Mama cries a lot.
Even when I’m not premenstrual. I do. The whole movie plumb worked for me. The underdog pig, the “don’t eat animals” stuff, the ugly becoming beautiful, the Sarah McLachlan song about ordinary miracles. Oysh, I’m getting all ferklempt just typing this. It was just a really good choice. I didn’t need Dakota Fanning’s tomboy character to “come around” and wear a pretty dress and ribbons in her hair at the end; she was fine just the tomboy way she was, but I guess that’s the old fashioned vibe of the book. I can let that slide.
All in all, that was some movie. Some terrific, radiant, humble movie.