The Masculinity Detox


The Masculinity Detox


Detoxing the Movies - April 23, 2023

Detoxing the Movies: Big Hero Six

Today we are going to take a look at a different kind of movie. Rather than looking at a some hard-hitting masculine energy on film, I’d like to take a look at quiet moment within an animated film that my sons and I have seen at least a few dozen times.

This scene comes from Big Hero Six, a story about loss, revenge and forgiveness. But, also about robots and hi-tech solutions to incredibly human problems. It comes when the protagonist, literally named Hiro, gets a glimpse of what his older brother went through in order to create the life-affirming robot known as Baymax.

This scene is a montage of failure punctuated by heart-felt asides and eventual success. As you watch, listen for the purpose behind Hiro’s brother’s words and actions:

TADASHI: This is Tadashi Hamada. And this is the first test of my robotics project.
BAYMAX: Hello, I am Baymax. (LOUD SCREECHING) Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! (GASPS) The seventh test of my robotics project.
BAYMAX: Hello, I…
TADASHI: What? Ooh, what? Wait, wait, wait, stop! Stop scan! Stop…Tadashi Hamada again,and this is the 33rd test of my robotics project. (ELECTRICITY CRACKLES)(SIGHS) I’m not giving up on you. You don’t understand this yet, but people need you. So, let’s get back to work. (BEEPS) This is, uh, Tadashi Hamada, and this is the 84th test. (SIGHS DEEPLY) What do you say, big guy?
BAYMAX: Hello, I am Baymax, your personal healthcare companion.
TADASHI: It works. It works! Oh, this is amazing! You… You work! I knew it! I knew it! I knew it. I knew it. Oh, you work. I can’t believe it! I can’t… Okay. All right, big moment, here. Scan me. (WHIRRING)
BAYMAX: Your neurotransmitter levels are elevated. This indicates that you are happy.
TADASHI: I am. I really am. Oh, man. Wait till my brother sees you. You’re gonna help so many people, buddy. So many. That’s all for now. I am satisfied with my care.

Big Hero Six written by Jordan Roberts, Robert L. Baird, and Daniel Gerson

First, let’s notice the sheer amount of failure happening for Tadashi. He goes through 83 different iterations of prototyping before finding what he was looking for. While not all of that is depicted on screen, clearly that represents an immense amount of frustration and time spent in modifying and fixing things.

The failure of 83 versions is not just about the work it takes to get things to where you want them, though. It is about enjoying the failure too. He is trying to make something, something life-changing, something worth sharing with the rest of the world, and with someone he loves most. The vast majority of his time is spent in failure, in things going wrong. And while the success is incredibly satisfying at the end, it is the 83 failed tests that actually make it so.

This shows that we spend more of our time failing than we do succeeding. The mistakes and the times that our attempts lead to our electricity shorting out or to being beaten over the head with rogue arms, as Tadashi does in this scene are the bulk of how we spend our moments. And we should love it. We should love the errors and the wonky results that aren’t quite what we were hoping for. It is the stuff that makes up more of our days than anything else. And it is this large-scale uninterrupted failure and moments of learning that lets us fully realize the successes when they do happen.

Beyond the story of failure and success, there is also a story of purpose too. Tadashi is building something he believes the world needs, a health-care companion who will support a patient even if it means becoming a super hero to do so. It is this sense of purpose and the massive empathy it represents that is at the heart of Tadashi’s actions.

He isn’t making a robot for money or to win some prize. He isn’t making a robot to prove that he can or to compete with others. He is doing it because he identified a need and because he wants his brother to join him within this purpose.

Tadashi becomes happy not because he is finally “done” with his robotics project, but rather because he can now move on to the “helping people” stage of his work. He is ready to make use of the tool he was building for others. He is not interested in hiding it or hoarding this amazing resource. Rather, he wants to share it with others, as his purpose is bigger than himself.

I see in these words and actions a man who understands his value is not derived from his income or from his accolades for inventing. Rather, he sees the inherent value of caring for others. He isn’t trying to dominate through his technological prowess, he is trying to heal.

Caring for others and the total embrace of failure are two things that we can all aspire to. They do not make us weak. They are gifts that provide insight into the work that must be done. To connect, to build, and to make life better for one another. Let that be our legacy, just as it is for Tadashi to his brother.

Thank you to Big Hero Six and its directors Don Hall and Chris Williams for bringing this story to life. If you have any ideas for more movies that highlight the struggle to become The Detoxing Man, please leave a comment and let me know.