Growing up in the 1990s, I had the tendency to seek out movies that I knew would be way too dark for my squeamish mind to handle. Though The Dark Crystal and The Black Cauldron caused me many a sleepless night, Jumanji never had that effect on me. It's only now as an adult that I'm looking at the Robin Williams classic in an entirely new way and once again ending up with that childlike interest.
Thanks to this one seriously intriguing theory from Redditor neurorex, one of my go-to nostalgia cures has suddenly become an unexpected political commentary. Much like another fan theory posted earlier this week and the jungle that inspired it, Jumanji goes way deeper than any of us noticed as kids.
We all know that when Alan Parrish escapes from the jungle, he comes back a changed man
But there's an even deeper message hidden in that treacherous jungle.
The theory proposes that the entire movie is an allegory for a soldier returning home after the Vietnam War
At first glance, it may sound like a even a grim kid's movie couldn't possibly conceal such a heavy idea, but hear me out. Thanks to neurorex, there's a surprising amount of evidence to back this up.
Based on some of his comments, Alan could be suffering from 'Post traumatic stress disorder'
Like soldiers suffering from PTSD, Alan has a tremendously difficult time readjusting to his daily life back at home. He's adjusted to a life of survival, and the suburban comforts have suddenly become terrifying. As he himself comments about the Jumanji jungle:
I grew up in this. It's out there that scares me.
His whole speech to Peter could easily double as someone speaking about the horrors of war
When I re-watched Jumanji, this was one of those moments that made me realize just how intense it gets, and now I see why. It's not a huge stretch to see the parallels to young soldiers struggling to adjust to war and the realization that nothing can prepare someone for those nightmarish realities.
Even the way Alan entered the jungle shows a clear connection to the draft
Just as young American men were given lottery numbers to be drawn at random before getting conscripted into active services, Alan was sent to the jungle due to a random roll of the dice. That one arbitrary decision sent immediately sent his life into chaos, literally ripping him away from those he loved.
The dice might even represent the constant threat of the unknown that every soldier faces
In fact, this terror extends even beyond the individual solider. Their families are also faced with the unknown as the fate of their loved ones are totally out of their control. Jumanji proves that with just one unlucky roll, everything could come tumbling down, and the only thing those left behind can do is lean on each other for support.
Along with the references to the warlike jungle, the movie's geographic nods also hold some clues
Though the Gulf War was a bit more timely with the 1995 release of Jumanji, there are a couple hints that point back to Vietnam. For example, Judy says that Alan was in Indonesia, a country in Southeast Asia that was colonized by the French after WWII and called Indochina. And guess what country was within its borders? You guessed it: Vietnam.
In the end, Alan dodged a bullet by surviving the horrors of the jungle
But it's adjusting to life back home that became his hardest challenge. At the very least, there are major overtones that link Jumanji to coping with PTSD, but based on this theory, this reading could just inform the entire movie.
Whether you believe this theory or not, you've gotta admit that Jumanji is a whole lot deeper than any of us remember. Now the question is: Will the remake that's coming in 2016 do the same?