The goofy family comedy film “Thunderpants” follows Patrick Smash, a young boy born with an extra stomach who has to deal with a tremendous flatulence problem. The film’s message is one we see in a lot of family films: the things that make us different are the very things that make us strong, that give us our place in society and allow us to affect positive change. Watch the clip above and as you do, ask yourself, what is right with this picture?
A key scene early in the film has Patrick meeting his best friend, Alan, on his first day at his new school. While the other children point and laugh at Patrick for letting wind in class, Alan, having no sense of smell, extends his hand in friendship.
The Strengths of Patrick and Alan
Right from the start, the film is putting forth an interesting theory on strength: Our shortcomings are not always weaknesses, but rather, strengths in disguise. Alan and Patrick are able to become very close very quickly because they are experiencing compatible disorders: Patrick has terrible gas and Alan cannot smell. Here we see that strengths of individuality are in fact a contributing component to strengths of citizenship and teamwork, to working together. We are not individualistic and different to spite the tribe, the community, but to help support it and do our part.
This theme is driven home again and again throughout the film but it is made especially clear in this early scene. In “Thunderpants,” Patrick experiences tremendous lows as society outcasts and punishes him for his flatulence, and eventually, tremendous highs as his individual set of skills are called upon in times of need.
Strengths of Society
In this early scene, Patrick’s classroom displays a sense of community that is, expectedly, immature. It is an unfortunate point of growing up that groups of children often display a sense of fairness and citizenship that can be more exclusive than inclusive, and those who are especially different are often scorned and mocked.
Through this, Patrick displays tremendous courage and resilience. While the laughter may hurt, Patrick is strong enough to let it ultimately slide off his back as he greets his new friend.
As Patrick goes on to deal with other children who don’t always understand him, he finds that he can put his unique quirks to use in defending himself from bullies, getting out of trouble, and in the end, using it to fulfill his dreams of becoming an astronaut.
The film puts these positive ideas of strength and individuality on display in a manner that will appeal to children and, in some cases, instill a sense of appreciation for “weird.” The new century is moving away from the conformity-driven industrial era and towards a period where it it our quirks that make us strong. If you can hear the core message of “Thunderpants” repeated in a hundred other family films, well, so be it, because it’s an important message.