The Iron Giant directed by Brad Bird

“I am not a gun.”

The movie, ‘The Iron Giant,’ directed by Brad Bird, is a heartwarming film based around the relationship between a young boy, Hogarth, and his newfound, giant robot friend. The story is  about Hogarth’s discovery of the robot and having to teach him how to live and survive in a 1950s American town all while keeping him a secret from his family and friends. An idea that is presented throughout the film is that decisions made in fear are not always the best answer to a problem.

One of the best examples of where fear could be detrimental to the situation is shown towards the end of the film after the robot succumbs to his original programming. Over the course of the film, Hogarth forms a friendship with the giant robot and they grow to understand and care about one another. Hogarth tries to maintain this friendship all the while keeping the giant hidden from the rest of the world, especially from the prying eyes of a secret government agent named Kent Mansley. This proves difficult for Hogarth and towards the end of the film, the giant is forced out of hiding and becomes violent towards the population of the town, using a variety of weapons to destroy and kill. The movie comes to a climax in the middle of the giants rampage when Hogarth, knowing the giant has good in him, attempts to stop the robot, stepping into the line of fire to prevent any further harm. By speaking to the giant, Hogarth manages to help the giant remember who he is and he becomes passive. 

“No, wait! It’s me. Hogarth, remember? It’s bad to kill. Guns kill. And you don’t have to be a gun. You are what you choose to be. You choose.”

This quote shows us how Hogarth was able to make a rational decision to stop the giant despite being afraid. He puts faith in the friendship and relationship he has with the giant and the experiences they shared to be able to stop the rampage. In this situation, if Hogarth were to let his fear get the better of him, he would have never stopped the giant and the situation would continue to get worse and more people would die. 

A real world example of where fear has had the potential to worsen a situation is during my rowing finals at Maadi Cup. Rowing up to the start line for my final race of the season, the main though running through my head was, “what if I fail?” I know from experience that the fear of failure has been detrimental to my results and experience in other races. However, knowing that I had an entire season of training behind me and I was fit and strong and that, logically, I was going to do well, I was able to overcome that fear of failure. I ended up coming in third place overall. I know that if I let my fear of failure overcome me then my result wouldn’t have been as good as it was. 

An example of where decisions made based on fear worsen a situation is at the end of the film where Kent Mansley chooses to launch the missile at the giant. During the film, we are presented with the idea that Kent Mansley is determined to hunt down and eliminate the threat of a possible alien weapon. He tries and tries again to locate the giant to no avail until the latter stages of the film. Upon finding the robot, he alerts the government and they send troops and tanks to take down the giant. This causes the giant to go into a rage. After Hogarth calms the robot and restores it to it’s passive state, Kent Mansley, still determined to destroy the robot, orders a nuclear missile launch on the giant’s position, despite it being in the midsts of hundreds of innocent people, himself included. 

“That missile is targeted to the giants current position! Where’s the giant Mansley?”

“We can duck and cover! There’s a fallout shelter right th…”
“There’s no way to survive this you idiot!”

This dialogue between Kent Mansley and the army General shows how, despite there being many logical factors that should have stopped Mansley from ordering the missile launch, he chose to do so anyway with no initial regard for the safety of himself or the people around him out of fear of the giant and it’s capabilities. This situation shows how when subject to fear, a person will look for the first way out without logically taking everything into consideration. Acting out of fear due to a fight or flight response is a common theme in human nature and Mansley launching the missile is a good example of how our human nature can be flawed. 

A real world example of flawed decision making due to fear has been shown in the past, more specifically during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster was a reactor explosion that caused the deaths of thousands of people in Russia due to radiation exposure. Despite the explosion being the main cause of death, the Russian officials in charge of the clean up operation covered it up, refusing to admit that it was of any harm to the people in Chernobyl at the time. They did this out of fear of being considered weak and incapable of managing the reactor. This continued exposure lead to the deaths of many more people. This is a good example of how acting out of fear and not reason and logic can have major consequences and, in some cases, can be life threatening. 

Acting out of fear is in our human nature. We are programmed to take the easiest route out in any given situation, however, a lack of logic and reasoning in these situations can prove to be detrimental in many ways, as shown in many historical examples. I think that understanding how acting out of fear isn’t always good is key for us to progress and make better decisions surrounding our future, our people and our planet.

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