The Season of the Misunderstood

We truly are living in unprecedented times where so many lines are blurred. What is true? What isn’t? More so than any other time, the ability to truly think for yourself is important. And, if you take the time to truly look, you’ll find answers in the most unlikely of places.

The movie “A Bug’s Life” has come to my mind in recent weeks. The theme of the movie is an ant colony that is persecuted every year at harvest-time by a small but physically imposing group of grasshoppers. Harvesting for their own colony is a monumental effort but under threat of physical repercussion, they take on the herculean task of gathering extra food to appease the grasshoppers. 

At the end of the harvest, the ants have miraculously gathered enough food to sustain their colony, as well as the allotted amount needed to appease the marauding grasshoppers. The food for the grasshoppers is placed on a large leaf, so they can quickly grab it and fly away. Moments before the grasshoppers are due to arrive, tragedy strikes. Flik, the free-thinking and innovative aunt, who is considered a dreamer and bumbling idiot by the rest of the colony, accidentally bumps the leaf. The colony watches in despair as all their hard work spills into the moat of water that surrounds their home.

The grasshoppers arrive to find no food and the ant colony in disarray. Enraged that their demand has not been met, the grasshopper’s leader Hopper erupts into a tirade. He reminds the ants that he is really acting on their behalf by protecting them from “dangerous” insects. 

When the princess ant says that they can’t replace the lost offering, he threatens to harm her. To the entire colony’s astonishment, Flik steps out of the crowd and speaks up in her defense. Hopper erupts into a tirade at Flik’s defiance and reminds the entire colony that they are forgetting their place. He demands double the amount of food from the ants as repurcussion and vows to destroy the colony if his demands are not met when he returns.

Pandemonium breaks out in the ant colony as soon as the grasshoppers leave. Facing potential starvation and destruction, the ants feel they have no other option than to attempt to find more food to appease Hopper. Several ants meet with the Queen to strategize how they can possibly achieve the insurmountable task at hand. 

And in typical fashion, Flik bursts in uninvited with a seemingly ridiculous solution. Flik proposes to the Queen that he leave the colony in search of other larger bugs that would be willing to help their colony fight off the grasshoppers. In the midst of laughing at Flik’s idea, the colony realize that they may have found a way to keep him from ruining things again, and urge him to set off on his quest.

Flik sets off to save his colony—once and for all—from the tyrannical demands of the grasshoppers. Along the way, he meets other misfit and ostracized bugs. They find common ground in the fact that none of them fit in. With Flik’s encouragement, they form a group and head back to save the colony.

The movie pans to a scene with the grasshoppers hanging out at their secret hideout. Hopper overhears the rest of his gang saying they want to hang out at their secret hideout instead of bothering with the ants again because they have plenty of food and it’s just one ant that stood up. Hopper completely loses it, saying, “If you let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up. Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one. And if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life! It’s not about food, it’s about keeping those ants in line.” And with that, he tells the gang they’re going back right then to deal once-and-for-all with the ants.

Meanwhile, Flik has returned to the colony with his rag-tag band of friends. He formulates a plan to defeat the grasshoppers and, with the help of his friends, puts his plan into action. The grasshoppers arrive and a battle ensues. Flik’s plan appears to be working against the grasshoppers, when at the last moment their plan crumbles and all appears to be lost.

Hopper steps up to seize victory and exact revenge on the ants, starting with Flik. Flik has been brutally beaten by Hopper but before he is able to deliver his death-blow, Flik finally sees the truth and summons supernatural courage to call out Hopper’s lies by stating, “Ants don’t serve grasshoppers. It’s you who needs us! We’re a lot stronger than you say we are. And you know it. Don’t you?” And you start to see, in the eyes of the rest of the ants in the colony, the courage to stand up and fight.

As the energy starts to turn in the ant’s favor, Flik continues to stand up to Hopper saying, “Ants aren’t meant to serve grasshoppers. I’ve seen these ants do great things. And year after year, they somehow manage to pick for themselves and you. So, so, who is the weaker species?” At this point, the entire colony is enraged and moved to action. 

You see, for the first time, real fear in Hoppers eyes. He is losing his control over the ants that completely outnumber him. Hopper resorts to the tactics he has always employed to keep the ants in line—using lies to create fear and intimidation—by yelling, “You are mindless, soil shoving losers. Ideas are dangerous things. You were put on this earth to serve us.”

With new found confidence and the support of the entire colony, Flik responds,  “You’re wrong Hopper.” And then the ant colony attacks the grasshoppers. Hopper is killed, the rest of his “gang” leaves, and the ants are saved.

The once misunderstood Flik is suddenly transformed from outcast to hero. It was his pioneering spirit, ability to think differently from the crowd, and courage to stand up for what was right that saved his colony. But his actions had an even farther reaching impact on his colony by enabling his fellow ants to change their thoughts to create a better community for future generations.

Now, take a look around at the things we are facing in society today. The problems, challenges, and unique pressures at this pivotal time. Do you see the Hoppers? But more importantly, do you see the Fliks? 

Maybe you are a Flik; if so, keep shining your light for all to see. It is more important than you realize that you continue to be yourself. God created you out of season and never meant for you to blend in so that, when the time was right, you would stand out. And, He placed within you the knowledge and fortitude that is so desperately needed right now. 

Quotes from Hopper: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120623/characters/nm0000228
Quotes from Flik: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120623/characters/nm000492

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