Despicable Me 2 – An Apologetic for Traditional Marriage

Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen the movie, you may not want to read this yet…

I just got through taking my entire family to see Despicable Me Part 2. It was hilarious, engaging, visually stunning, and the best artistic argument for traditional marriage I’ve seen in a while.

As you probably know, the movie features an over-sized, angry-sounding, Eastern European-esque ex-villain named Gru, who had adopted three girls in the first Despicable Me and has now grown into the quintessential father. He’s a single man who does everything you’d hope a father would: barbecuing at his youngest daughter’s birthday party, dressing like a princess just to make her smile, and becoming charmingly exasperated at his older daughter’s romantic inclinations toward a boy she meets at the mall.

But what the movie makes clear, however intentionally or not, is that there is something glaringly missing in this family: a mother. The youngest of the girls, Agnes, demonstrates this as she practices a poem about mothers in front of Gru to be performed at her school’s Mother’s Day celebration. She is insecure about reciting this poem because she doesn’t have a mother, which makes her sad. Gru tries to console her by saying she can celebrate Veteran’s Day without having served in combat, but that of course doesn’t seem to help.

The movie’s lack-of-mother theme doesn’t stop there, however, and continues to become the sub-plot of the movie. The girls continue to tease and goad their new father on the fact that he needs to go on a date, and even attempt to sign him up for an online dating site without his knowledge.

All of this plays through the plot so normally, naturally, and endearingly, that it’s easy to miss the point: these girls desperately want a family. They want a father and a mother, and they aren’t going to be content until they succeed.

The movie progresses with Gru’s partner in undercover crime-fighting, Lucy, becoming more attracted to him, and he likewise to her. And as all great stories end, the bad guy is captured, the world is saved, and, wait for it… the two protagonists get married. Yep, you heard right. No cohabitation, no “friends with benefits,” and no funky “open relationship” stuff. Just a good old-fashioned heterosexual marriage, like something out of Little House on the Prarie. No kidding!

The wedding scene is hilarious, in fact, with the little yellow minions playing their part as wedding singers, dancers, and spectators and the like, and yet it is completely profound. As soon as the couple kisses, little Agnes’ eyes widen in wonder and she grabs everyone’s attention and, this time, joyfully recites her little poem about mothers again. Why? Because now that Gru has married this woman, she has finally has one. It is as if they save the final victory for last: the victory of a family, one with both a mother and a father.

I wondered as the credits rolled if it would be possible for the movie to have ended any other way. For example, what if Lucy had just moved in with Gru and the girls, as the “live in girlfriend.” Would the girls have been equally as ecstatic? Would Agnes have considered Lucy her mother? Probably not. In fact, had the movie played out that way, it would have come off undoubtedly awkward to the average viewer. We would all sense that something wasn’t quite right – that the story was left unfinished. No wedding. No celebration. No commitment. Just uncertainty.

In addition to that, what if Gru had chosen a same-sex partner with which to fall in love? That is what same-sex marriage advocates want, isn’t it? More stories that contain incidental homosexual relationships, not merely those that feature them, so that at some point same-sex relationships will be indistinguishable from heterosexual ones.

But let’s say Gru had been gay and married a man at the end, rather than a woman. Would Agnes’ eyes still have widened in wonder at the reality of having a mother? Would she have recited her poem that speaks longingly of a mother’s love? Of course not. In fact, what good would another man in her life have been? In fact, had the movie portrayed the girls as being just as excited about Gru getting a “husband” as they would a wife, the audience wouldn’t have bought it. What child doesn’t want a mother? And for that matter, what child wants two fathers?

What lends to the success of Despicable Me is the way that Gru’s character can be so decidedly male, with all the quirks and qualities therein, and yet simultaneously be captivated by and vulnerable to three helpless little girls. It only adds to the completion of the story that he should fall in love with a woman, and subsequently give to his children what they each long for: a father and a mother, in a committed marriage relationship.

As I walked out of this movie I breathed a sigh of relief. Even in these culturally tumultuous times, real truth and real beauty are inescapable to the human conscience. We know it; it is self-evident to us. Certainly there will be attempts to “re-educate” the population about what should be, but that which is really true and really beautiful will eventually win the day.

It’s a good thing when Hollywood makes movies like this. The point certainly wasn’t to be a subliminal apologetic for traditional marriage, but it sure did the job as far as I’m concerned. You should see this movie, because even though it’s an animated, fictitious ninety-eight minutes of children’s entertainment, its core message is inescapably true.