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Healing Parable: “Ratatouille” movie

Remy, the gourmet chef rat in the movie “Ratatouille,” gives us a delightful parable of healing the human soul from dividedness.

Background

Imagine turning around and seeing in front of you all the dark, scary, evil, shameful things in your whole history. Time to freak out, right? That’s what I saw in a scene from “Ratatouille” when Remy the rat turns and sees hundreds of rat relatives about to ruin his career as gourmet chef in Paris.

Just before watching the movie “Ratatouille” I went to a seminar on how trauma causes people to become divided inside, especially if the pain/abuse begins early in life, when there are no words to describe what it feels like. Later as adults these people wonder, “Why can’t I remember doing that, even though everyone says I did it? How did I get to this place; I don’t remember driving here? What happens to me during the blank spots in my day that I can’t remember?” The worst nightmares are the ones where they wake up in the morning thinking, “What is this strange taste in my mouth? Why am I so tired?”

The Conflict

All of a sudden Ratatouille revealed itself as a parable about how to heal the divisions in our personalities. Remy is a rat. But he is more than a rat. He can read; he loves good food and hates the garbage rats eat; and most especially he can cook superb gourmet French dishes. By reading a cookbook telling him anyone can achieve gourmet chef status, he decides not to settle for garbage, rat poison and thievery shared with his multiplying relatives. They cannot see him in the light of his abilities, they only see him meeting their own need to detect rat poison. They want to control him by his background, his loyalty to them and their own limitations.

He hates to hear his relatives speak of his boundaries. Then a flood sweeps him and his family down the rivers and sewers to, of all places, Paris. Arrived, he stumbles upon Chef Gusteau’s famous restaurant, once belonging to the man who inspired him.

He saves the inept, bumbling Linguini, who suddenly shares Remy’s dividedness, not knowing how to judge this supposed vermin, now his cooking ally. Linguini and Remy form a successful team, with the new owner, Skinner, very anxious and skeptical. Colette becomes Linguini’s cooking mentor, then his girlfriend. When Remy is revealed for his genius, all the cooks abandon him and the restaurant. Only Linguini and Colette remain, but Remy’s family has been won over to his side, so they save the day when the crisis arrives. Crisis is the opinion of Anton Ego, newspaper restaurant critic. Skinner is out to destroy Remy and Linguini, now that he knows who his opponent really is.

The Turning Point

Remy’s enemy, Chef Skinner, lays a trap. His brother, Emile, will eat anything and falls for the bait. In the crisis of saving Emile, Remy ends up in the trap, which Skinner sticks into the lightless trunk of his car until he can harness Remy’s genius for his sly diversion of Gusteau’s fame.

Lying helpless in the trunk, he talks with the spirit of Gusteau and decides he is not bound to his history and limitations. Rather Remy decides he has a new destiny as a gourmet chef. When the choice is life or death, forward or stop, basic issues come to the front and Remy decides for the future, for his new destiny, for risk and adventure.

Eventually his family accepts his choice as his real identity and they begin to support him. Once Remy reframes his identity, “people” begin to see him as he sees himself.

Resolution

Remy cannot be a success by himself, he needs supporters and the infrastructure others have built. He has had Gusteau’s book and spirit urging him to use his abilities in the service of cookery, now he has two humans behind him, Linguini and his girlfriend, Colette, and also his family. Most unexpectedly, Anton Ego, the arch-antagonist of Gusteau, becomes his admirer and supporter. How? Instead of impressing Ego with elaborate, exotic innovations, Remy touches him deeply by preparing the simple peasant dish, ratatouille, that reminds Anton of the joy in his mother’s kitchen. As Remy reveals his greatness, not only are Linguini elevated and Colette fulfilled, but the cynical Ego becomes relaxed and warm, acknowledging his need to come down from his critic’s perch to encourage his fellow humans working hard at their destiny.

The enemy closes down Gusteau’s restaurant using the Health Department and Remy gets a completely fresh beginning, using Linguini’s resources to start a restaurant of his own, “La Ratatouille.” There he enjoys his supporters and entertains them with good food. This is Remy’s pride and joy on the way to fulfillment.

Healing for the Rest of Us

These are some parallels between Remy’s experience and a Christian experiencing healing through the Word of God, the blood of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit with support from fellow Christian believers:

  • Our Enemy, the Devil, wants us killed
  • Our relatives bring us not only biological life and whatever love they can give, they also represent the dark, rejected parts of ourselves and our background generational bondages
  • Our freedom is initiated through reading a book (the Bible) making a new life (in Jesus Christ) available to all
  • Our decision to be free and start a new life is encouraged by God’s Spirit
  • We apply our natural abilities to learn from the book and ask God for insight. Through obedience we gain new experiences.
  • As we rely on other Christians can we pursue our new opportunities
  • We are able to bring healing to the cynical people in life by connecting them to the childlike simplicity of the Gospel
  • We reach a compromise with our past: Jesus Christ gives us a fresh start; we see ourselves in a new paradigm, repenting for mistakes and restoring anything we have damaged
  • Resolution means people see us in a new paradigm as successful, worthwhile, learning and loving
  • Resolution means exercising Jesus’ authority to defeat the attacks of the Enemy: old paradigms, old memories, bad circumstances, evil oppression, etc.
  • Resolution means knowing who we are, not divided between past and future, nor between hidden and acknowledged
  • We still have a private sphere where we are known and a public sphere where we are not examined closely

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