Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Part 2 of My Quest To Prove Atlantis Is The Best Disney Movie

Link To Part 1 of Part 1

Part 2: The Importance of Being a Nerd

Milo Thatch is the hero of Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

And Milo is a nerd.

Milo is a big, giant nerd. He probably got beat up a lot growing up, and he certainly gets beat up a lot now. He's small and skinny -- so small and skinny that Cookie the Cook tells him, "If you stood sideways and stuck out your tongue you'd look like a zipper."

But Milo is really, really smart.

The whole idea of the movie is that no one can find Atlantis but him. He's studied dead languages his whole life, in single-minded pursuit of his dreams. He believes in knowledge, beyond anything else. Everyone else on the expedition is focused on money, but Milo waxes rhapsodic about how discovering Atlantis will enrich mankind's knowledge of the universe.

This kind of belief, and that kind of nerdiness, is what is needed to find Atlantis. Everything hinges on Milo's ability to READ. From the moment he's introduced, he is focused on a book. A specific book, The Shepherd's Journal, but I think really the journal is symbolic of books in general. The quest for Atlantis can be seen as a quest for knowledge in general, and it's all in books.

The crew that goes to Atlantis (SPOILER: They find Atlantis.) is made up of people who are very good at what they do, but none of them read like Milo, and they know they can't find Atlantis without him, which, really, is why they 'put up with him.' The first part of the expedition, pre-Atlantis, shows the divide between Milo and the rest of the crew, the way they ignore him and/or play possibly deadly practical jokes on him. They crack jokes and they're all really great characters and it seems like we're being set up for your typical 'kick dirt on the smart kid' gag that's unfortunately all too common, but take a look at Milo here:
He is having the time of his life. Everyone else is off to the left, eating dinner and making fart jokes, and Milo is reading and doesn't even NOTICE that they look over at him in disdain.

Milo is always reading. Audrey, the teenage tomboy mechanic prodigy (set up as being more masculine than Milo in the first few lines of dialogue they share), asks him about it when the crew finally invites him over to eat with them.

Milo's response to her question is not shame, or self-derision. He doesn't even close the book. Instead, he tells them why he finds the book so fascinating, and they don't immediately shut him down. They don't recoil. In fact, this is a major turning point in the narrative for Milo, because from this point on the crew includes him a lot more. And he didn't compromise his love of knowledge and learning in order to do it. He finds Atlantis for them and for himself, and even though he's still a big dork, in the end his ability to read - and only his ability to read - lands him the best Disney Princess of Them All.

Also, he invented the Snuggie. Just saying.

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