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Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Psychological Implications of Big Hero 6

The picture above is of Baymax (it's the plush I bought yesterday). Baymax is the main robot and one of the heroes in the Disney film, Big Hero 6. I rented it last week and although I loved the movie, it made me cry - even two hours after the film ended! I thought it was very deep for a children's movie and the message struck a chord with me, in a good way.

I've debated posting this for a week now because as an English major, psychology isn't my area of expertise. I've always been interested in psychology and as I was watching this movie, I saw a lot of psychology in Big Hero 6; especially the Kubler-Ross (Stages of Grief) model and even some of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

I posted in the grief forum of City-Data because I wondered if I was the only one who saw these things in the movie. It turns out I wasn't:

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i took my 11 yr old son to see it. he has severe autism & loves movies(he is also very ritualistic;he will only watch a movie once, movie must be seen at the cinema and only on the 2nd day of release)! I was in tears blown away too, but i noticed that the majority of the "grown-ups" did not seem to have been impacted by what i felt was such a profound message! my son was well-entertained as were the other patrons, but for me it was deeper...a case of "it takes one to know one", maybe?
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For those of you who haven't seen Big Hero 6 (and don't worry, I don't believe in spoilers, so I won't give the spoilers), this is my synopsis of the movie:

Hiro, the protagonist, loses his brother (Taidachi) - his brother is killed in an explosion trying to save a professor. Before Taidachi dies he creates a robot for Hiro. Baymax, the health care robot, is given to Hiro before the he dies. After his death, Baymax is brought to life by accident. When Baymax i activated, he starts to help Hiro through his grief. Baymax downloads a grief database into his hard drive and contacts Hiro’s friends that he met through Taidachi. With the four friends, Baymax and Hiro assemble themselves as super heroes to figure out what is going on in the old lab. Hiro tries to kill the professor because his brother died and it was the professor's fault. Taidachi was killed because he thought the professor was in the building, but he was being protected by Hiro's mini bot creation. The professor has his act of revenge too because he thought his daughter was killed by a company experimenting. In the professor’s grief, he tries to kill everyone as well. Except, he doesn't have the support system like Hiro and it takes Baymax and Hiro rescuing his daughter to realize he was wrong to want to hurt people as well. It is shown that love, surrounding yourself with friends and family, and having support are monumental in the grief process. Also, how powerful anger is as well.

Why did I see the psychological implications in this movie? As someone who has experienced grief, and we all have experienced grief at some point, I saw some of myself in this movie. The stages of grief were present in this movie, though it is a bit different from a child's standpoint.

Stage 1- Denial: Although I didn't see this too much with Hiro, I saw this when Baymax was first activated. He asked where Taidachi was and when Hiro explained that he died, Baymax was confused because Taidachi was healthy and he should have lived a long time (which is also how a child reacts to death). Hiro explains to Baymax that it wasn't health reasons that killed Taidachi, but there was a terrible fire and he was gone. Though, I see Hiro denies what he is feeling - but Baymax still comforts him. I will get to that point later because that's another important point.

Stage 2 - Anger: Anger is a trait definitely found in Hiro after his brother dies. He wants to avenge his brother's death once he finds out that the professor survived. In his primitive mind - he is acting in the id where those rages and emotions take control - he wants to kill to feel better. By doing so, he puts the death card in Baymax and removes Baymax's helpful/good chip.

Stage 3 - Bargaining: I see this more at the end when Hiro wants to prevent loss. But, I promised not to give spoilers - see the movie to see this.

Stage 4 - Depression: I actually see this before the anger and bargaining in Hiro. After Tadaichi dies, Hiro isolates himself. As seen in the first video, Hiro doesn't even want Baymax to call his friends! He wants to be left alone. He doesn't even go to college anymore.

Stage 5 - Acceptance: Again, by the end of the movie, Hiro accepts what happens and finally sees that Tadachi is still with him in spirit. He tries to live the life Tadachi would want him to have.

However, I do see Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in this movie. Baymax's hugs and loving really helps Hiro overcome his grief. Of course the friends do help as well, but it's Baymax's care and support that gets the other friends involved. Hiro doesn't see that Tadachi is never really gone, but his spirit lives on in memories; it's only after he realizes that his anger and revenge could have killed someone that Baymax shows him how important those memories can be. It's also the first time Hiro reaches out to be hugged and cries into Baymax. This is a catharsis moment and very, VERY, VERY important in the healing process. We all need that support and we all need to feel that love from someone you trust, especially through difficult times. I think hugs are very important to those healing and Big Hero 6 illustrates how important hugs and contact with others are so very important. That connection is necessary - without it, one will feel depressed and angry all the time.

I would recommend this movie. Big Hero 6 may be a Disney children's film, but I think it is very important for adults to see. Although I bawled like a baby for two hours after watching this film, I'd watch it again. I loved Baymax. I think in the grieving process, we should all surround ourselves with people like Baymax - warming, loving, and supportive.

The importance of a hug.


  1. I've not seen this movie, but it sounds close to Wall-e.

    I've been intrigued by psychology (or at least subscribed to Psychology Today) for 9 years now (I decided against majoring in it since I really don't want to eventually be paid to listen to people's problems). That is something Ian and I have in common, though he seems to be better at picking up on what others are thinking.

    Where I've heard of this movie actually was in PT, considering this same grief cycle you discuss, I believe.

    Personally, regarding grief, I reject anger when I notice it, so I abort the entire grieving process at an early stage. :D It seems to work!
    (On the other hand, I may be entirely messed up.)

    Have a nice day! ^_^

    1. I haven't seen Wall-E, but heard it's a good movie. I might have to rent it from the library.

      I wish I could abort the grief stage at an early phase because mine seems to last for a really long time. Then again, sometimes I feel anger is better than numbness (I've felt numb too and that's not a good feeling for me either... I think some emotion, even negative, is better than feeling nothing). I think we all just handle things differently and it's interesting to see peoples' responses to situations.

      Hmmm... I might have to check out Psychology Today in regards to this movie. I go back to both jobs tomorrow and I can check!

      Thank you and you too! ^_^