The Fat Albert cartoon was aired on TV a little before my time. I never got to enjoy new episodes as they aired. I have been able to enjoy them many years later through the magic of YouTube.
How can you not groove to the theme anytime you hear it? It’s simply awesome and very catchy. So the kids got the movie “Robots” on DVD. In the previews it shows clips from the “Fat Albert” movie starring Keenan Thompson. Having been so long since I watched this great little film, we decided to watch it Sunday morning. If you don’t know the basic flow of the movie, I’ll break it down for you real quick. Fat Albert and the gang come out of the TV and into the real world to help a girl out. They discover many things about life, and of course, use their problem solving super skills to help the girl. They realize that real life and their cartoon world are vastly different. But some things are universal like love and friendship.
Awww, I know right? What a happy summary of the movie. It doesn’t even do it justice. I don’t care what the critics or box office says. It’s a smash hit in my book.
At the end of the movie, Little Dude seemed a little confused. He proceeded to ask me “Why is it over? Fat Albert didn’t kill the bad guy!” For someone who is into Transformers and GI Joe and Avengers, it wasn’t a total surprise to hear him ask this. Yet at the same time, I had a realization. The majority of movies he has watched involve violence as the answer to the problems caused by “bad guys”. Even in a lot of animated movies, there isn’t a softer, non-violent approach to overcoming threats from others or coming out the best person you can be. This quickly became a great teaching lesson.
With the issues we’ve already faced as parents this year, such as Little Dude being bullied and his struggle with low self-esteem, we have spent a little time talking about defending one’s self. We’ve discussed getting away from a bully, when to fight back if he’s being physically assaulted. We’ve also talked about how not to let other people get you down. But we have never discussed non-violent problem solving, or how to be a good friend, or know when someone really cares. And after the ending of Fat Albert, we were able to do just that. I started by explaining that Fat Albert wasn’t exactly a superhero. Not the way Little Dude thinks of a superhero anyway. But he was more of the kind of guy that is everyone’s friend. “Like Jesus” my son says. “Well, kind of, but not quite” I respond. I told him that Albert and the gang were just very nice people who liked to help other people solve their problems. “Like being picked on!” he shouts. Now we were on the right track.
There was a bigger lesson in this movie than just non-violent conflict resolution that was explained to Little Dude following the “kill the bad guy” statement. The main plot in the movie revolves around a girl, who is struggling to make friends, and whose only real friend is her foster-sister, who is wildly popular. It centers on being proud of who you are, having great self-esteem, and doing your best no matter what anyone else thinks about you. This is an especially important lesson for Little Dude at the age he is at.
Being a guy that was picked on a lot as a young kid, I completely sympathize with Little Dude, and it breaks my heart to see him gong through the same things. Being able to sit down with him and talk about how Albert and his gang helped her realize her potential, make friends by being proud of who she is, and always trying her best, hopefully sparked a little something in himself. He’s always worrying about whether or not he is good at something, or if we are proud of him, or if he is liked by others. It’s been a struggle recently to help build back up his self-esteem and the pride that makes him the vibrant, outgoing boy that he really is.
There are always lessons to be learned. From movies to real life situations, or in this case, cartoons who come into real life during a movie. Fat Albert not only became a family favorite upon the kids’ first viewing of it, but it also became another chance to teach a lesson. We learned about true friends, and people that care about us. We learned about not having to use violence to solve problems, and we learned about being proud of who we are. Thank you Fat Albert.
Cartoon image credit: “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” by Bill Cosby and Filmation Productions. Feature image credit: Official “Fat Albert” film produced by Davis Entertainment for 20th Century Fox.