Case for Pollyanna
Well, seeing as this is my last blog (thank you, Signs & Wonders), I figured I owed it to myself to make it a fun one. So I’m writing about my favorite film of all time: Pollyanna. It’s a Disney movie, it’s family-friendly, it’s from 1960, and it’s all about the power of goodness. Unfortunately for most people, that last sentence was 4 good reasons to stay far away. This is a terribly underappreciated movie, and I think it’s because most people can’t get over the idea that it’s just for kids. Practically any description of it would make it seem so. After all, the main character is a good little girl. The name “Pollyanna” alone conjures up the thought of a sickeningly sweet, goodie-two-shoes personality. I once read a review that made a distinction between “goodness” and “sweetness,” and it was an eye-opening way of looking at her character. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
The Plot. It is set in the early 1900’s. An orphan girl named Pollyanna comes to live with her Aunt Polly. A typical little girl, she spends most of her summer days adventuring and making new friends. There are simply too many characters to go into so much detail, but the basic gist is this – every adult she meets is grumpy, especially her aunt. Pollyanna, however, is not grumpy in the least. She deals with sad situations by playing a game her father made up, called the Glad Game. Essentially, the rules are to look on the bright side of things instead of dwelling on the bad. This is her attitude towards everything; she wears a locket that says, “When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.” Pollyanna is all about looking for the good in life, and she always seems to find it.
Going Deeper. It’s so easy to dismiss this film as sugary nonsense. After all, how could anyone possibly be glad every minute of the day? Only a foolish child would think that there’s always some reason to be happy. The message of Pollyanna goes so much deeper than that. Her character is quite human. When you watch, you never get the impression she’s a perfect little angel. She’s downright bratty in a couple of scenes (which makes sense – what little girl isn’t occasionally a brat?), and she loses her temper once or twice. Most importantly, Pollyanna is NOT glad 24/7. She’s human, and sadness is a part of humanity. Her philosophy is not to delude herself into thinking that life is perfect. She merely understands, as Annette Funicello once said, that “life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.” This movie doesn’t preach it at you either. The message comes naturally out of the characters and the story. It’s not a silly, sappy concoction. Positive thinking has genuine power, and the story reflects that authentically, heartwarmingly.
The Bottom Line. I loved it as a kid because of Pollyanna’s fun adventures. As I got older, I understood more of Polly’s plot, and it made me appreciate it even more. Even today, every time I watch, I learn or understand something new. It just never gets old. That is why I love Pollyanna. Its childlike innocence and universal message is so refreshing in a world of worthless moviemaking. Give it a shot, I beg of you, and don’t dismiss it as a sugary kids movie.