Are we in for a hard winter this year? It doesn’t seem to matter, as society provides anything we would need in order to survive the winter. However, the fact that we can no longer use our own skills and instincts to guarantee our survival is rather frightening, because it shows just how much we depend on the civilization we have created through time. It seems that the wild creatures that humans have evolved from are now very far from us, and we regard the nature that we initially came from to be a frightening and unpredictable entity. Wes Anderson seems to agree that we are no longer the wild beings we once were, but also suggests that perhaps our civilized appearance is only an act, as he addresses some very common problems in modern society in his movie Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Wes Anderson’s movie adaption of the Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox takes us on an incredible journey into an animal world, where the main characters are quirky animals that appear walking on two legs in human clothes and struggle with common problems of the human world. The main character of the movie, Mr. Fox, struggles with his responsibilities within his family, while trying to feel fulfilled in his personal life. The story begins seven fox years back, when Mr. and Mrs. Fox are stealing birds from a nearby farm for a living. When they are suddenly caught in a trap, Mrs. Fox announces to Mr. Fox that they are having a cub and Mr. Fox is forced to conform into everyday life, leaving his old bird-stealing criminal life behind. The next scene takes us seven fox years into the future, where the Fox family can be seen leading a very normal American lifestyle. Mr. Fox is a column writer for a local newspaper, Mrs. Fox is a stay at home mom with hobbies like cooking and painting, and their young son Ash attends the local school. However happy and normal their lives seem to be, Mr. Fox does not feel satisfied at where he is in life. Fox’s desire for living a dangerous life on the edge has only grown more since adopting his civilized lifestyle, and he struggles with his desires to steal and cause trouble while remaining a responsible father. The struggle Mr. Fox feels in his life leads him back into criminal work, stealing chickens, geese, and apples from the nearby farmers in order to afford a new house for his family, but his criminal work eventually ends up jeopardizing the safety of his family.
Themes that run through Wes Anderson’s movie use the animal world that Anderson brings to life in order to satirize modern human problems that many families and individuals struggle with. For one, Mr. Fox’s desire to be incredible or “fantastic,” leads him astray and causes damage to his relationship with his wife and his son. Thus, Mr. Fox’s family life is used satirically to reveal problems that families may struggle with, including fulfilling oneself while taking care of a family. The American Dream for the perfect house and perfect family is also satirized in Wes Anderson’s movie in the way that it depicts Mr. Fox and his struggles. While having so many nice aspects to his life including a good wife, a son, and decent home, Mr. Fox still wants to live in a nicer house and be able to afford nicer things for his family. Near the beginning of the film, Fox announces to his wife “I don’t want to live in a hole anymore, and I’m going to do something about it.” Fox’s desire for more and lack of acknowledgement for what he already has is a perfect satire on the American dream, that seems to be an endless strive for material objects and fame among neighbors. As a father, Mr. Fox has desires to be the best he can be, but regardless of what he accomplishes he feels like he’s never good enough. Mr. Fox can be seen trying to outdo himself rather often, even in small examples like “[taking] the scenic route” while walking home with his wife (ultimately getting them both into danger), rather than taking the faster, safer way home. Part of Mr. Fox’s struggle with his family life is revealed to be a struggle within his personal existence, as Mr. Fox asks, “Who am I […] Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you’ll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?” Mr. Fox seems to be struggling in understanding where his role in the world lies, perhaps because it is difficult for a wild animal to be happy while trying to fit into a civilized society. Mr. Fox has talents that would come off to be very useful in the natural world, but society condemns these talents (such as chicken stealing) to be criminal and dangerous, ultimately causing Mr. Fox’s existential crisis, leading to a reversion of criminal life.
Through a deeper analysis of Anderson’s movie, we can see that Anderson’s usage of animals helps reveal an underlying theme that all humans are just wild animals beneath their civilized surface. The satirical animal world he creates is fairly civilized but at the same time animalistic in nature, which is displayed in acts such as the way the animals eat and argue. While having a civilized conversation with his wife, Mr. Fox breaks savagely into his breakfast, almost swallowing the meal whole. Mr. Fox’s manner of eating is viewed as normal in the movie, but reveals a corner of Anderson’s satirical poke at humans distancing themselves from nature, while remaining beasts at heart. Furthering Anderson’s argument that humans are beasts beneath a civilized coat, Mr. Fox’s phobia of wolves (mentioned a few times throughout the story) seems to ridicule humans for being afraid of nature, although it is initially where they came from. Anderson purposefully depicts most of the animal community as anthropomorphic by giving them clothes, language, and a real estate market, but leaves wolves specially out of his animal world, depicting them as creatures of nature that do not belong in a society. By leaving wolves out of his humanesque animal world, and making wolves Mr. Fox’s phobia, Anderson is able to argue that humans use society to distance themselves from nature, but that refusing to accept the wild beast inside as part of who we are leads to all kinds of problems (including identity problems and existential crisies) of the sort Mr. Fox endures throughout the movie.
Still, Anderson seems to be arguing that not all is lost if we still embrace our inner beast, rather than distancing ourselves from nature. By the end of the movie, Mr. Fox finally admits to his wife that he creates all sorts of trouble and lies to her “because [he’s] a wild animal.” By embracing the fact that he is a wild animal regardless of what he dresses like or what sort of life he lives, Mr. Fox is finally able to confront his fear of wild wolves and asks a wolf whether he thinks they’re “in for a hard winter.” Mr. Fox attempts using English, Latin, and French to talk to the wolf, but the communication between the civilized and wild animal seem to have been lost. Instead, Mr. Fox concludes that the wolf “doesn’t seem to know” whether they are in for a hard winter. Thus, Anderson seems to be saying that the link between humans and nature seems to have been lost in civilization, for Mr. Fox can in no way communicate with the less civilized, wild animals. On top of that, Anderson makes the argument that nature is unpredictable and that animals live entirely from survival instincts (in the example of the wolf not knowing what kind of winter lies ahead); something that would be long lost to humans if they failed to embrace their less civilized, wild side.
So, through his depictions of animals dressed in clothes and acting in ways that makes them seem civilized on the outside, Anderson seems to be mocking the human race for loathing the animalistic nature of humans. Fantastic Mr. Fox seems, therefore, to be a satire on humans’ attempt to act civilized, while really being the beasts that they so fear on the inside.