Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! – Isaiah 5:20-21
Home is a cute little movie about an alien invasion—it might not be your average alien movie, but it works. Oh is the misfit alien who his people, the Boov, blame for their troubles and need to relocate to earth. On earth, he gets thrown together with a feisty young “humans person,” Tip, and together they learn a lot, not only about the other being and their race, but also about themselves. Much of the comedy comes from Oh’s somewhat unusual use of the English language and from the Boov mistaken assumptions about the purposes of various items on earth. Underneath it all, are some great lessons about bravery, snobbery, and assumptions and a lot of other important things.
Bravery (and a lot of other related and important messages)
The Boov are famous for running away. They consider it a virtue. They praise their captain for saving them because they are always quick to run away. The Boov motto is that “it is never too late to run away.” When danger came, rather than protecting his people as a good leader should, Captain Smek ran past his people saying, “Sorry! It is my duty to run away first!” And because the leader of the Boov had made a virtue out of cowardice, they not only allowed him to be a coward, but praised him for it.
It seems laughable when you’re watching a funny little alien that you can’t really take seriously, but the message is a deep one, a serious one. The Boov were following a charismatic leader who had no character. Because of him, their nation was in constant danger: his cowardice had caused him to flee a meeting with another leader, and as he ran, he stole from the leader—now that leader was after the Boov to reclaim what was his. Captain Smek was a master spin doctor, however, and had convinced the Boov that they should be grateful for how he had protected them. He was exposed in the end, but a lot of damage was done, first.
Because of Smek’s example, none of the Boov saw the truth clearly. That’s what happens when you begin to call bad things good—the truth gets really muddled. In fact, the Bible warns against this: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). That’s what Smek did. He called cowardice a good thing. He called it virtue. Later, when Oh told a lie to Tip in order to protect her (it involved running away, of course), he explained to Tip that he didn’t lie because, “A lie is a bad thing. I did a thing so you can live. I am saving you. I am being your friend.” He didn’t see that an untruth was a lie. He justified lying because he did it to save her…because he saw cowardice as a virtue. If he had to lie to run away, and running away was a good thing, then lying couldn’t be bad, right? Things get really confusing when good and bad have been renamed and swapped out—but Tip saw straight through Oh’s confusion to the truth. “No. You are just running away,” she said. She wasn’t about to let him rename cowardice and lies and call them good.
Captain Smek and the Boov are a cautionary tale about what happens when we call bad things good. They are a cautionary tale about what happens when we are blinded by a charismatic leader and follow him or her instead of following the truth. And of course, they are a cautionary tale about the dangers of running from our problems instead of facing them.
On the other side of that coin, we have Oh, the one Boov who, because of Tip, learns courage. As one Boov says, “You ran towards danger? What sort of Boov are you? … A super-Boov?!…” Oh, formerly despised by his fellow Boov, becomes their hero and their leader because of his bravery and integrity. He shows character and humility (another quality sorely lacking in Smek), and the Boov appoint him as their leader. Bravery is the easy, obvious message. Any young child will see the importance of bravery in Home. Some of these related messages, however, while not as obvious, are far more important for our times, and perhaps for all times.
Questions for Discussion:
- Smek told the Boov that running away was a good thing, and they believed it! Has anyone ever told you that something was a good thing when it really wasn’t? Did you believe it or not? Why or why not?
- Since the Bible says: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)—how do you think God would have felt about Captain Smek and his thoughts on running away?
- How dangerous is it to follow a bad leader?
- Why do you think the Boov followed Smek? What qualities made him someone they trusted? Do you think those same qualities are ones we tend to follow today?
- What qualities made the Boov follow Oh? What qualities made him a better leader than Smek?
- What qualities do you think Jesus had that made him a good leader?
- How hard is it to be brave? How hard is it to run towards trouble? Have you ever had to be brave? What are some examples of times when Jesus had to be brave?
Snobbery and Assumptions (and other related and important messages)
The alien Boov, travelling throughout space, felt themselves superior to the beings who lived on the planets they decided to inhabit. They weren’t cruel, exactly. They didn’t kill off those beings, but they did relocate them to a facility to live there instead. The Boov were completely convinced that they were doing the humans a favor to uproot them from their homes and move them to this new place. They felt the humans should be thanking them for doing them such a service.
The Boov may have been technologically advanced, but they were rather simple minded in a way that made it easy to see how ridiculous it was for them to be such snobs. They gave out a pamphlet explaining humans in 3 simple drawings. When Oh realized that Tip was both sad and mad at once, he exclaimed, “So you are sad-mad?! Hmmm. Humans are more complicated than the pamphlet said!” All along the Boov had been getting things wrong—their snobbery led them to all manner of ridiculous assumptions—not only about man but also about his world. For example, they assumed they knew what things were made for, getting rid of things like bicycles and toilets which were useless and served no purpose.
This snobbery, when combined with their fear, also led them to incorrect assumptions about the Gorg, their enemy. They assumed the Gorg was bad (his face was a little scary), so they ran and stole. Then when the Gorg came after them, they assumed he was evil and hateful. They didn’t realize that he was only trying to get back what was stolen from him, because inside of it was the future of his race—little Gorg babies. They didn’t realize that he was, like Tip, sad-mad.
The Bible warns about this, too (in the very next verse from the one we discussed above!): “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:21) This problem of being “wise in their own eyes” led the Boov to make incorrect assumptions about the world and the beings around them. The cure to that was humility and deeper relationships. When Oh began to get to know Tip better, he realized she was more complicated than he thought, as well as more admirable than he thought. He began to see things in her which he valued, and that humbled him. Oh told the Boov, “The Boov may be superior in many ways, but not in the ways I now think are important.” This humility allowed him to stop making assumptions about others and to see them for who they truly were. Because of this, he realized the truth about the Gorg and reunited him with his offspring—an act which saved three entire populations (the Gorg from extinction, and the Boov and Humans from his wrath).
When the Gorg’s pain was diffused, a beautiful thing happened—he took off his shell. This tiny little starfish looking creature had wrapped himself up in a massive protective shell. That shell was a costume, a coating which not only protected his vulnerable little soft starfishy self, but also projected an image that was threatening and even scary. That image was a double edged sword. It helped others take him seriously as a threat, but it made them scared of him and unwilling to listen. The irony of it is that that scary shell is what made the Boov run and steal from him in the first place. If he’d been his vulnerable self to begin with, the Boov wouldn’t have been scared. And if he’d taken it off later, they might have been willing to listen to him. But as it was, he continued to push people away, making the thing he used to protect himself his own worst enemy. By trying to protect himself, he put himself and his race in danger.
So, there are a couple lessons here. When we think we are better than others, we make a lot of dumb assumptions and look pretty stupid. (I know, a lot of parents don’t like that word…but it’s the truth—and since I don’t think your little ones will be reading this, I’m leaving it in. You don’t have to use it when you talk to them.) Humility is the antidote to snobbery, and sometimes we only learn humility by really getting to know the people we think we are better than. There’s nothing like really getting to know someone to realize that they have value, too. Sometimes when people look mad they are really sad, but sad is a vulnerable emotion and mad is a strong one—we don’t like to be vulnerable, so we put on mad like that little Gorg put on his suit, to protect our vulnerable little selves. Rather than being afraid of someone when they are mad, sometimes it helps if we get to know what they are mad about, and we may find there is something we can do to help—and if we can do that, sometimes we save a lot of people from a lot of pain. Sometimes the scariest people are really just the smallest and most vulnerable people. They are just hiding that part of themselves. When we do like the Gorg and put on a suit to protect ourselves because we don’t want to be vulnerable or to let people see our true selves, or because we are ashamed of who we really are—we are really hurting ourselves and others in doing so.
Questions for Discussion:
- Why did the Boov think they were better than the humans? Were they right or wrong?
- How silly did the Boov look when they assumed they understand humans and human things?
- How are snobbery (or pride) and bad assumptions connected?
- Why does it mean, not to be “wise in your own eyes”? Why do you think the Bible says that? Do the Boov help you understand what that means a little better?
- If the Boov hadn’t made assumptions about the Gorg but had gotten to know him, how might that have changed things? How would it have made things better for everyone?
- Have you ever made assumptions about someone that were wrong? Has anyone ever made assumptions about you that were wrong?
- What changed things for Oh? Why did he stop thinking he was better than humankind, and what made him understand the Gorg? What can you learn from Oh?
- The Gorg wasn’t what he seemed—why do you think he put on that big scary suit in the first place?
- How did protecting himself actually put the Gorg and his people in danger?
- You may not have a big scary suit that you put on, but are there ways in which you hide yourself, or parts of yourself from the world? How so? What things do you feel you need to hide from others? Why? Would it change things if you felt you would be loved, completely, just as you are?
Just a side note—Donald Miller’s new book, Scary Close, pretty much deals entirely with this issue of the Gorg hiding behind his scary costume, and how we do it as grownups because we are told that some part of us is unacceptable, and so we hide in shame… It’s a fantastic read.