Pinocchio: a fine little boy

There are not many films that make me emotional, but I confess that I sobbed like a lovesick clown the first time I saw Pinocchio. That little puppet-boy was so terribly touching in his innocent desire to be a human child. Although he is led astray by unsavoury characters – and finds himself in unspeakably hot water for his sins – he learns from his mistakes to return to the blissful pursuits of a normal little boy.

Well, actually, he may not have been normal in all respects. We live in a cynical age, and on leaving the cinema I heard some ill-mannered children singing alternative lyrics to the most charming song in the film:

I’ve got no dick
To call my own
To play with when I’m all alone
I’m made of wood
So I don’t pee
There is no dick on me

Their observations may have been anatomically correct, but it’s absolutely not the sort of thing one wants to hear after watching a timeless classic of animated film. Had my wits been sharper, I would have pointed out that a boy with a nose like Pinocchio had no need of a dick. To get an erection simply by telling a fib may be inconvenient for a young human male, but it would save him a small fortune in Viagra tablets in his later years.

The one character in the film that is difficult for a gorilla to take seriously is the chirpy little cricket who acts as the boy’s conscience. I’ve seen millions of insects in my time and never once did it occur to me to ask for their advice on any ethical question. Frankly, they are continually scuttling from one place to another and never seem to pause for reflection, let alone apply their minds to the weightier moral issues of the day. Had Pinocchio been an infant gorilla, that cricket would have lasted about ten seconds before finishing up as a light snack, and no amount of warbling about “giving a little whistle” would have saved him.

Delightful though the story of Pinocchio is, it does raise a serious question. Does the fantasy of creating a child through magic suggest that humans have some deep dissatisfaction with the fruit of their own seed? I sense that many human parents expect their children to appreciate them as their benefactors. If so, they expect too much. No infant will ever accept that it is indebted to anyone for the pure fact of its existence, or even for the sustenance it requires in its early years. A mother may describe the trials of her labour in excruciating detail to her child, but the most likely response she will get is a rather bored resentment. The child, after all, did not ask to be born.

So if you want to be liked by your kids, you’re just going to have to work at your relationships as you might with other humans. Offer them impartial advice, tell them good jokes and take them to the circus. That seemed to work pretty well for most of the humans I knew. And if you are lucky enough to get a magical little boy like Pinocchio, don’t show him any less consideration just because he’s grateful you’ve removed his strings. People who trifle with the feelings of such a pure-hearted cherub are liable to wind up with a big hairy gorilla sitting on their faces.

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