Big Hero 6 is one of my favorite movies in recent years. I mean, what’s not to love? Boy geniuses, kick ass female characters who can be cute AND smart, sarcastic AND caring. And of course, who could leave out the figurehead of the Big Hero 6 team, the non-threatening and huggable Baymax! The other day, someone asked me who my favorite character was on the movie, and I had to think about it for a few. Let’s face it, it’s one of the few Disney movies where there isn’t a character who drives me insane. I love all of them. I thought about how smart the characters were, how resourceful they were, how they all stuck together as a team (even when one abandoned the rest of them to have a…er, moment, shall we say?). But…well, I'm sure people who know me can guess who my favorite character is. For the first time I asked myself, why?
I instantly felt a kinship with Fred from the moment he arrived in costume on screen. School mascot by day, by night…he’s also school mascot. When Hiro asks him what he’s studying at school, he shamelessly says, “I'm not a student. But I am a MAJOR science enthusiast.” This, to me, is significant.
How many of us are science geniuses? Sure, we geniuses exist, but hey, even those who ARE geniuses often don’t get to work in labs creating frickin’ lasers or huggable health care companions. The characters on Big Hero 6 are awesome and have awesome abilities. But most people in the world either don’t have the brains, the resources, or the unique combination of both that is required to be like most of the kids on Big Hero 6. Fred, however, provides us with a hero who your average Joe could look at and say, “Dude, I’m just like him!”
Fred’s a fan, not just of science, but of geek culture in general. I think this gives him a fresh perspective on things, and could lead us to ask the question: Would the Big Hero 6 have been possible without him? Yes, Hiro had the idea to make Baymax a fighting robot, but Fred had the vision and the belief that normal people could become superheroes. While the others were telling Hiro that the problem was too big, Fred already knew what they had to do. Fred’s fire-breathing suit may not have been labeled as “science,” but it sure as heck came in handy when it was time to save the day.
Fred’s ideas, which the others kind of laughed at and deemed, “not science,” are the things that make it possible for innovations to take place. Research shows that highly intelligent people, the child geniuses, actually do very little to further science with new ideas and inventions. They tend to stick to the program, conform with rules, and are actually trained both directly and indirectly to avoid original thought.
In his new book Originals, bestselling author and influential management thinker Adam Grant elaborates on this idea: “Child prodigies are hindered by achievement motivation. The drive to succeed is responsible for many of the world’s accomplishments. When we’re determined to excel, we have the fuel to worker harder, longer, and smarter. But as cultures rack up a significant number of achievements, originality is increasingly left to a specialized few.”
In other words, prodigies are encouraged and programmed to succeed, not take risks with original ideas and risk failure. The geniuses who HAVE made a difference in the world very often had to be prodded by others to take action to make their dreams come to life, rather than charging forward with confidence to take action themselves. I think that’s kind of sad. No one should fear failure so much that they are afraid to pursue their dreams.
When people are released from the label of “intelligent” or “genius” they are freed to explore new concepts in whatever ways they want. Instead of watching a television show and criticizing what isn’t really feasible, they watch it and see possibilities. Who cares if it isn’t possible…yet?
Not only is Fred smart and creative, he also has a big heart, which seals the deal for me. He’s the first one up for a hug, he’s happy-go-lucky, and can see the bright side even when in the face of real danger. He doesn’t have much of a filter (I would know NOTHING about that…), and therefore treats his friends to golden moments like this:
All the kids on Big Hero 6 are innovative AND intelligent. But having Fred in the mix, someone who is clearly smart but has chosen a separate path from academics, really makes this awesome movie something for everyone. We all don’t have to be scientists and geniuses to make a difference.
Even the dorkiest fanboy can save the day.
About Melanie R. Meadors:
A writer of speculative fiction and lover of geeky things, Melanie R. Meadors lives in a one hundred-year-old house in central Massachusetts full of quirks and surprises. She's been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion.
Melanie studied Physics and Astronomy at Northern Arizona University, and uses her education to a surprising degree in her writing. Her short fiction has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. She is a freelance publicist, publicity coordinator for Ragnarok Publications, and the Marketing and Publicity Specialist at Mechanical Muse. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as her website.