By Madeline Perez
I have never hidden my disdain for the fourth Toy Story movie. Across previous articles and social interactions—even the passing thought of TS4 sends me into a rabid hysteria, wide-eyed and foaming, in which I tear apart the nearest small child or bunny rabbit. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone, as I’ve been told others have also criticized the movie—but in my ongoing effort to stay pure and original, I have sworn not to engage with the discourse until AFTER I have contributed.
My first criticism is that TS4 directly negates the values of the first three movies. Messages of unlikely friendship, resilience, and mutual support all get defenestrated and replaced with one, terminal value… moving on. And I know what you’re thinking: being able to recognize when and how to move forward are important skills. However, this message is already healthily explored in the second and third movies, with Jessie moving on from her painful past, and the toys moving on from their codependent relationship with Andy. In the fourth, this concept is unhealthily instituted in ways meant to be more reflective of the current societal status quo, but I’ll save that for later.
TS4 has one traumatic, glaring tumor that comes in the form of an unlikely utensil. Forky, a spork with googly eyes and red pipe cleaner arms, is a new character brought to life by Bonnie’s (the girl who owns the toys) own love and imagination. Thrilling, truly. Why am I alive? Good question Forky—why are you alive? Forky might as well be a knife, because he tears a massive hole into the world building of the past 3 movies through one threatening implication: the thing that brings toys to life is the purpose of being played with by a human. Therefore, any object meant to be played with becomes alive. If you think it needs eyes and arms or whatever the shit, let me direct you to that thick etch-a-sketch in the first movie. This explains why boxed toys are alive in previous movies, despite never being played with (which is also horrifying—imagine spending eternity alone in a box and you can’t even die). This has terrible consequences: children can thrust sentience over any object they intend to play with. And not just any sentience, an existential, painful, “I shouldn’t be here” sentience on non-toy objects. I’d argue that the main cast are pretty much immortal unless they are utterly destroyed due to their identity as certified toys, created with the intention of serving a child, but this cannot be the same for non-toy objects played with since—once they are discarded—their “purpose” as a toy is pretty much nil. This also raises the question, can adults create sentience in the same way, and where do “adult toys” (haha joke about them also being named buzz and woody) fit into the equation?
Now for those societal implications I mentioned earlier. At the end of TS4, Woody leaves behind all of his friends in hopes of rekindling a romance with Bo Peep and her sheep. Freaky. I read this as a direct reference to how people are expected to deprioritize their friends as they get older in order to put everything into a romantic relationship, in which they go out on their own and procreate or some shit. TS4 sends the message that it’s part of “growing up” to leave behind your friends so you can rely on one person for all your socializing needs for the rest of your life. Here’s the flaw in that if you haven’t noticed: no one person can healthily fulfill all social needs of another. It’s an understatement to say that I don’t subscribe to this brand of thinking. Not only are these impossibly high expectations, people need a broader support system—and God forbid something happens to that one person, you are socially left with nothing and it hits 100 times as hard. And what ever happened to “you got a friend in me?” More like “you got a friend in me until someone who gives great head comes into my life. Then you’ll never see me again.”
My last criticism of TS4 is that it is literally the worst movie ever. I can’t think of any movie I hate more—which is probably because if you hate a movie you tend to stop watching. No. I saw this shit in theaters. I’ve never been so close to walking out of a movie, not to mention committing an act of domestic terrorism. To make matters worse, this was the last thing I saw before COVID hit, so my memory of “the movies,” something that brought me joy and wonder as a youth, was marred for literal years with no hope of reconciliation. All in all, I’m planning to pull an Eternal Sunshine and obliterate my hippocampus just to free myself from the chains of this movie’s memory. Toy Story 4? More like… Toy Story Bore… Yeah, I said it.