Post #3: Narrative Analysis of Coraline (2009)

Coraline (2009) is a film that might be more intelligent than it is supposed to be for its intended audience. It’s rated PG, but still has scenes that could be considered “unsuitable” for children under 8 years old. It explores many thrilling topics such as kidnap, evil magic, and even murder.

Rhetorical Situation
Coraline and her family move from Michigan to Oregon. As her parents struggle to complete their gardening catalog, Coraline is often left alone because they put their work above her. Their new home, Pink Palace Apartments, has a dark history – the kids who lived there before them all mysteriously disappeared. Because of this, Coraline’s family is the first one with a kid in 50 years to live there. Coraline’s neighbor and only friend, Wybie, gives her a doll that eerily looks exactly like her. Little do they both know, the doll is a tool from another dimension used to lure Coraline to it.

The other dimension is the same as the one she lives in, with a twist – she is paid attention to, fed, and loved. However, Coraline learns to discover that love comes with a cost. Her “other mother” is actually a Beldam that is trying to keep her soul in order to live.

This movie’s advertised audience is children, but it’s been argued since its release 11 years ago that it should be intended for more mature audiences due to the visuals and the concepts.

Narrative Analysis
The narrative perspective is a method for examining ideological arguments conveyed through storytelling (Sellnow 53). Essentially, it is used to find the moral of a story. I believe this analysis fits this movie the best because there are many underlying themes and ideas to this story. The main one being, always be grateful for what you have, as you never know when it can be taken from you. This is important for the storyline because the whole reason Coraline gets herself in the mess with the Beldam is because she isn’t grateful for the life she has – while it isn’t entirely her fault, she’s young and naive, and her “Other Mother” takes advantage of that.

Coraline is a story that ties many concepts together in a short amount of time – however, the storyline is still very coherent as it all comes together in different pieces throughout the movie. Each time you watch it, you notice more and more references to something else in the movie that you didn’t notice the first time. Given that this is a fantasy/thriller movie, looking at the structural coherence of the film is the most sensible. The story obviously doesn’t seem plausible since it’s a work of fiction, but it definitely makes sense within the realm of which it is written. The movie wouldn’t be what it is without the characters, who continually grow in the film to be more independent and willing to fight. The movie starts with Coraline’s family moving in. Then, as she goes to bed that day, she discovers the “Other world” that’s been waiting for her. She sees that her neighbors are also in this world, but they are more dynamic characters in the “other world” than they are in hers. She then starts to realize that the world she prefers is not all its cracked up to be, and needs to escape. By then, it’s too late, so she has to find a way to get out of the Beldam’s grasp and back into her world where she can live with her family peacefully.

The characters are especially important to analyze here because there are two of almost every character except Coraline. In the “real world” that Coraline actually lives in, all of the characters are static and don’t have much of a personality. Some key characters in the film are:

  • Mel and Charlie Jones (Coraline’s parents)
  • Mr. Bobinsky, Miss Forcible and Miss Spink (Her neighbors)
  • Wybie Lovat and his grandmother (The apartment owners who allow the Jones family to stay there)

These characters in the other world are the exact kind of people that Coraline wants them to be – they interact with her, they keep her entertained, and they give her love. None of these things are happening for her in her reality.

Implications of the text
I think it’s really interesting to look at the possible implications of Coraline considering it’s a kids movie that isn’t really categorized as such. I do think that for its time, it’s a really important film about independence and creativity. Even though I believe the true moral of the story is “be grateful for what you have”, I think it also highlights the importance of safety, and relatively touches on the topic of “stranger danger”. While Coraline thought she knew her Other Mother and Other Father, she didn’t; and the Beldam used that to her advantage. This movie is a good lesson for children on gratefulness as well as safety, while also showing that fear can be one’s highest motivator.