Trolls is a charming children’s movie starring Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake. They both voice computer animated versions of the 1980’s toy ‘Good Luck Trolls’. The plot revolves around the ambitiously optimistic protagonist Princess Poppy and her cynical friend Branch on their quest to save their friends (her friends) from the Bergens. The Bergens look like a more traditional troll-monster, with green skin and large thuggish hands, and they can only experience happiness when they consume our singing-and-hugging Trolls. Which of course, our Trolls are not too happy about. They then go on to (
The Bergens look like a more traditional troll-monster, with green skin and large thuggish hands, and they can only experience happiness when they consume our singing-and-hugging Trolls. Which of course, our Trolls are not too happy about. They then go on to (spoiler alert!) save their friends by showing the Bergens that true happiness can not be eaten, but rather is a feeling that you have to search for internally.
When this theme began to present itself in the movie, I was a little worried. Was Dreamworks really going to tell children that if you’re not happy, it’s because you have not looked hard enough for it? That if you sing, dance, and hug impractically frequently, then happiness is for sure to follow? Keeping in mind that if stats are anything to go by, almost a quarter of those kids will go on to be prescribed anti-depressants by the time they hit adulthood.
Are we telling children that if you keep yourself constrained to very specific activities, such as singing and dancing, the concept of being anything other than happy will completely allude you? This interpretation flys in the face of the stereotype of the crying clown; a comedic performer who battles with severe emotional turmoil.
However, as the movie developed it’s message became more hopeful. Poppy and Branch had failed to save their friends and upon waiting to be eaten by the Bergens, the colour literally drains away from the Trolls. They are hopeless, they had failed. However Branch, cannot bear to see her monochrome, begins to sing and encourages Poppy to hold on to her happiness. There is an element of choice in order to find the positives in life; a large proportion of which relies on the people you surround yourself with. No one can pick themselves up all of the time. We rely on our family and friends to look after us and we, in turn, look after them. The endeavour to be happy becomes a mutually shared responsibility.
This concept is further demonstrated in the movie in the storyline between King Gristle Jr. and the scullery maid Brigid. With help from the Poppy and co. Brigid impersonates the colourful glamazon Lady Glitter Sparkles in order to get a date with the King. They fall head over heels in love before Brigid pulls a Cinderella and runs away. Later on, Brigid frees the Trolls as a thank you for giving her a glimpse of happiness, an act which would result in prison / death penalty (it’s not super clear) for treason.
Poppy then risks her life to save Brigid and convinces the Bergens that the feelings King Gristle Jr. and Brigid have for each other are a form of happiness, one that will always be there to be found. This hopeful scene changes the message for me. Instead of being a warning against antidepressants, the movie became a story about how even in your darkest hour, happiness is still possible. You will be able to find it, especially if you have a little help. That help may be in the form of antidepressants for some, or singing and hugging for others, but the result is the same.
Trolls is essentially a story of happiness; how it appears to be so easy to have for some, and so difficult for others. We are all in pursuit of happiness and as a result, some turn to drink, drugs, or medication in order to assimilate it. Yet, Trolls tells us that to be happy requires work, and a support network. It requires help. Antidepressants are a tool which allows some of us to accept happiness. It can not give it to you. Happiness, according to the Trolls, is within us all, however, it requires work. It requires friends. It requires you.
What do you guys think about it? Did you like the film? Is it a message about our culture of anti-depressants, or am I reading too much into it?