Two superhero movies were released last weekend. Wonder Woman, which I hear was amazing and I will definitely watch later, and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, a movie based on the book series that first got me reading as a child. Since you can’t beat nostalgia, my brothers and I decided to watch our first favourite super hero adapted to the big screen, and boy was it a pleasant surprise. Charming animation, surprisingly great voice work (with Kevin Hart in particular giving a great performance), and one key element that actually elevates it above its source material: Empathy. This movie had a big heart, it reminded me of a time during my childhood when I actively tried to not think about other people’s, especially adult’s, feelings and then got confused when I was forced to confront them. This movie isn’t centred on that dynamic (it’s centred on the importance of friendship and creativity), but it addresses it in a way the original books never did.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a nineteenth century novel by Mark Twain, is at its core a Bildungsroman; a story that focuses on the mental and spiritual growth—the coming of age, of the protagonist from his or her youth into his or her maturation. In the case of Twain’s novel, the titular Tom Sawyer is taken on a journey that sees him go from an immature child to a young man capable of making rational decisions. Tom’s unruly nature sends him (and those he drags along with him) through a series of increasingly dire situations that provide him with opportunities to define himself as a person throughout. As Tom travels deeper and deeper into darkness (both literally and metaphorically), he comes to gain understanding in a world where others constantly seek to fill his head with their flawed conceptions. Eventually, Tom comes to embody the traits of what Twain defines as a hero. Through Tom’s adventures, readers come to understand that heroism manifests when people diverge from group human behaviour and focus on what they as individuals have to offer. Through overcoming society’s conception of what it means to be human, Tom is able to achieve a greatness and heroism that is independent of what others expect of him.