Recently, I watched The Goonies for the first time. My parents apparently committed a great crime against my childhood in never renting the movie for me, though to be fair I didn’t even know it existed until I was in college. It is one of those movies that Partner remembers fondly from his childhood, and decided I needed to see.
For the uninitiated, The Goonies is about a group of kids who have one volume (shrill). There entire town of (outside of?) Astoria, Oregon, is in danger of being razed by a country club to build a golf course. Oregon also apparently had pirates, and the kids set off to find the treasure so they can pay off the greedy rich people and have one last adventure.
In the meantime, some bumbling murders are stumbled upon, and they are either actively searching the treasure or just trying to catch the kids so they can’t turn them in to the cops. I swear I paid attention.
I thought it was pretty cool that the movie took place in Astoria. I’ve never been there, but I have archived newspapers from that town! If I am remembering correctly, The Daily Morning Astorian was one of my favorites, and it was also the one that featured the sometimes racist weather duck.
So outside of my appreciation of the Astoria shoutout, you can probably gather that I didn’t really like the movie that much. I appreciated the Rube Goldbergs, and the triumphant ending, and seeing young Samwise Gamgee as more than a sidekick, but I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m too old, maybe I have no patience for loud children, even if they are fictional. I just couldn’t get into the movie from the get go.
But then there is the character of Sloth… and frankly, I am really torn about how the inclusion of such a character makes me feel. The character appears to have some kind of craniosynostosis possibly Apert Syndrome . I’m familiar with Apert Syndrome from one of the blogs I follow, the family has an adopted daughter from Ukraine with Apert Syndrome, and she has undergone several surgeries to correct the physical issues. I will not name names or link to the blog here, out of respect and privacy.
I’ve talked about my ties to the special needs community at least twice. No one I know personally has any form of craniosynostosis, but they do look differently, and they present a visage to the outside world that leaves no chance of hiding or disguising their differences. They get to be judged on their looks every time they venture out into public.
How are we supposed to relate to the character of Sloth? Well, when we are first introduced to him, he is chained in front of a TV, being verbally berated by his brother. It is revealed/inferred that Sloth has been the brunt of much abuse, not that anyone in the family acts in a particularly loving fashion. Honestly, my first reaction was “Wait, is that a troll?” Unaware of the whole premise of the movie, I assumed a troll had been captured and it would be revealed that this was a fantastical adventure with ghosts and shit. Spoiler alert, it’s not! It’s just filled with Chekov’s Rube Goldberg Machine!
Sloth ends up being the hero of the movie, he saves the kids, sticks it to his horrible, heinous family. He is adopted by Chunk, the kid who does the Truffle Shuffle (what even WAS that?). Or, he is adopted by Chunk’s family? I dunno, they get the police not to shoot and Chunk just announces that Sloth will be living with him. Hope your parents are cool with that! His inclusion as a character was so very random, and yet he ends up being the hero, even moreso than Samwise Gamgee. Sure, Sam saves the town, but Sloth saves the kids who save the town. He does it for friendship. And he turns in those scummy family members.
It was an overwhelmingly positive portrayal of someone with special needs, and it gives that character a happy ending. I was initially very put off by the inclusion of the character, on guard for something really offensive to happen, but it didn’t. I suppose the Fratelli’s treatment of their family member was offensive, but we don’t have to look that far into American history to find times when that sort of treatment was the encouraged norm, let alone look at other countries today. I didn’t like The Goonies but think it deserves a lot of praise for having the special needs character be the savior, and be shown as someone harmless and awesome. I wonder if that’s what viewers got out the movie though, and that leaves me feeling uneasy. If he’s taken as a punchline by the audience, then the movie has failed. Partner’s retort to my first impression was “No, that’s Sloth and he’s cool.” I didn’t really believe him, because he told me I’d like the movie (funny, he said the same thing about John Carter).
I don’t know how I feel about the inclusion of Sloth (or that his name was Sloth?), but I want to feel positive.