You think Lilo and Stitch is basically about surfing and aliens and Ohana. You’re mostly right. But buried in the movie’s subtext is a dark allegory to a deadly reality, and when you see the meaning you’ve been missing, you’ll never watch the movie the same way.
Was that intro blurb clicksy enough? I hope so. Let’s quit teasing and just put the thing out there, yes? Yes.
Lilo and Stitch is a movie about the plight of the American military wife.
I swear I’m not insane. Think about it for a second.
The movie starts with an international tribunal taking an unethical scientist to task for his crimes against…alienanity? Nature. Let’s just say nature. He has been experimenting with the building blocks of life itself to create a conqueror of civilizations. A killing machine. A super soldier. A super soldier with no real home and an identity suppressed beneath layers of intentional conditioning.
Are you seeing this?
Stitch breaks out of captivity and lands on an island with no major cities. There’s just no way for him to reconcile his combative instincts with life in this paradise (which happens to be the home of a major U.S. naval base). He is taken in by a girl and a young woman who spend most of the movie struggling to understand why this beloved addition to their family seems hell-bent on isolating himself and hurting those who try to get close.
Stitch cannot provide for his broken family, because he himself is broken, divorced from normalcy by virtue of his twisted lineage. Only his mad-scientist creator celebrates him for who he is, but when Stitch gets out of control, out comes the assassin’s laser gun. He’s not the product of an intentional dehumani… dealienization. He’s just a bad apple who needs to be dealt with. This dude is Lyndie England with a couple extra arms.
And so Nani must provide. But she is burdened by this interloper posing as a pet. As Stitch subverts her ideals of family-ness, she is buffeted from job to job, straining to make things work while the echoes of militarization threaten to unmake all her efforts.
The conflicts are finally resolved when the threat posed by a foreign enemy brings out the hero in Stitch. Notice how the big mean sharkface is portrayed as an antagonist, even though he’s just a policeman trying to enforce his homeland’s laws? Operation Iraqi Freedom much?
Anyway, Stitch cute-and-fluffies his way out if a sticky situation, and returns Lilo to solid ground. But he’s still a wanted fugitive. Until a former CIA agent and current employee of a social service agency intervenes.
Ving Rhames represents a dwindling safety net for veterans returning from active duty. You will never read that sentence again anywhere.
We’re left with a family video reel that celebrates Stitch’s completed assimilation into polite society. He has not been left behind. Or forgotten. If only that were true for so many real vets.
Also. You know why that Ohana definition sounded so familiar when you first heard it? “Nobody gets left behind” is a gender neutral remix of “Never leave a man behind,” which is part of the Soldier’s Creed.
Stitch might not have been as hunky as Van Damme’s Universal Soldier. But he was more universal.
Intergalactic, even. I’m here all week, folks.