Additional Thoughts: The Iron Giant

7 May

Here is the original write-up that I did of the Iron Giant a few years ago.

Brought to you in Fan-TAST-A-Vision!

Last night I watched it again and had a few additional thoughts that I wanted to get down.

1. The Post-War Setting

Hogarth’s father has been killed in action, that much we can get from subtle hints through the movie:

  • Hogarth’s Mom is having financial difficulties and works as a waitress, renting out the room in their large house.
  • There’s a photo of a man climbing into a vehicle cockpit on Hogarth’s bedside table
  • One of the pictures that Mansley develops from Hogarth’s camera is of both Hogarth and his mom, begging the question, who took the picture? I’m guessing his Dad, before he went away
  • Annie calls Dean “sweetie” at the movie’s end and has clearly developed a relationship with him, indicating Hogarth’s dad is permanently out of the picture (unless Annie is rocking some seriously progressive relationship dynamics).

But there was something I noticed about twenty minutes in. I had absorbed it but never really thought about the other people in the town – it’s almost all women, kids, and older men. And I realized that it’s because all the younger men were called up for service in the war. And more than likely, didn’t come back. If that’s something intentional on the part of the filmmakers, then BRA-VO. That is a beautifully subtle reality of post-war life.

If this is accurate, then it also adds another layer of subtlety to Dean and Mansley’s characters – Dean might be a conscientious objector; the way the other men in the diner sort of dismiss him could just be because of his beatnik stylings, but it could also  be that he’s thought of as a “draft dodger.” And Mansley was left behind because he’s just plain incompetent.

2. Hogarth’s Reaction to Death 



Hogarth is a sensitive, intelligent, and creative boy. He saves the Giant when the latter is endangered at the power station. When the Giant destroys the traintracks, he is horrified at what could happen. When he and the Giant encounter the deer and the hunters, he gently tries to describe what happened to the deer, and is incensed when the Giant tries to pick the body up.

Additionally, he has a serious talk with the Giant about souls and what happens when you die. He quotes his mother’s belief in souls, and I imagined his mother having this discussion with him after his father passed away. It’s a terrible thing, to bury a loved one, and he doesn’t want anyone to experience what he went through, especially not at his expense.

3. Hogarth As Father Figure

Hogarth finds this creature, takes him in, and extends hospitality to him. He helps him find food, and a safe place to stay. He becomes the Giant’s protector, in a lovely role reversal. It’s not every ‘boy’s movie’ where the main character is a protector or nurturer. At very few times during the movie is Hogarth in danger – it’s the Giant who is in the most danger. At the end, Hogarth again saves the Giant by arguing with the General that he is not dangerous, although Mansley borks that plan by grabbing the telecom and commanding the Nautilus to fire its atomic weapon. The boy and Giant are literally following the roles of Jonathan Kent and Superman, and just as in that story, the child (Giant) matures and assumes the role of protector.

I think one of the most poignant scenes of this movie is the moment we finally get to see humanity from the Giant’s perspective: after Hogarth tells him that the bomb will kill everyone, he looks down at all the little people scattered on the ground before him, and at the shops and buildings no bigger than snackboxes. With a few strides of his legs he would be free of the blast radius, or he could simply fly away. It’s just a little place on a world he isn’t from, and he doesn’t have to be a part of its problems at all.

The Giant is destroyed in his role as protector, but as we see at the end of the film, he isn’t really gone. He’ll be back, and OMG I get emotional just WRITING about it. And Hogarth has a father figure again, both in Dean, and in the Giant, who’ll be returning soon.

4. Giant as Russia

Obviously, the film’s big themes are the Atomic Age and beginning of the Cold War. Dean literally tells the General that the Giant “will not attack unless he’s attacked first,” which was the entire situation of the Cold War. There’s even a joke about the Giant not wanting to be Atomo, the atomic robot villain.

Additionally, the fear and hatred whipped up in the townspeople by Mansley is also ephemeral once they realize the Giant poses no threat, and is even as invested in peace as they are. And, just as in nuclear holocaust, when you’re about to die the lines between hero and villain kind of fall away, since there’s no time left for such distinctions.

So those are the thoughts I thunk while watching it again last night. I do love a good, layered film that makes you think, and that you can see differently if you go back to it.

I hope you’re having a great day! If you haven’t checked this movie out, you might. It’s not on Instant at the moment but it’s widely available elsewhere.

Just, you know, maybe bring some tissues!


7 Responses to “Additional Thoughts: The Iron Giant”

  1. chilangogeek July 16, 2016 at 11:50 pm #

    Hi, im agree with all that you wrote, but i think everything happens in post-war, the sputnik was launched in 1957, closer to the cold war age.
    Great essay!!!

    • jennnanigans July 17, 2016 at 8:06 am #

      Whoops! Looks like I forgot to do my homework on the war’s end! Thank you, good catch!
      And thank you for the comment! It is most appreciated! 😀

    • jennnanigans July 17, 2016 at 8:09 am #

      Updated to reflect the post-war setting. Thanks again!

  2. Carlos Diaz July 17, 2016 at 11:02 am #

    Dean was probably Hogarth’s age at the advent of the war. I loved this movie; it was criminally underrated at the time. I’m glad it’s being recognized as a classic nowadays. I still tear up when the Giant closes his eyes and says “Superman” right before taking the nuke to the face.

    • jennnanigans July 17, 2016 at 7:21 pm #

      Oh, I was talking about the Korean war. I think Dean was probably late twenties, early thirties. 😀

  3. Herbal Sylph August 23, 2017 at 8:02 pm #

    What if the Iron Giant represented Hogarth’s healing of his father passing. After all, iron giant was an iron man, a flying solider like his father in a sense.

    “You stay, I go. No following” as in a sense, its time to let go. And then, a new chapter begins with dean….

    Could Hogarth been healing his relationship with his father through Iron Giant or was Iron Giant a symbol of his father?

    • jennnanigans August 26, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

      Oh absolutely, and good point about the giant being a flying soldier like Hogarth’s father.
      Thanks so much for the comment!

... but what do YOU think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Struggle

YouTube Channel

science fiction movies, reviewed and dissected ruthlessly. full autopsy.

One Working Mommy

Follow me for reflections on motherhood through the eyes of one working mommy.

J. A. Allen

Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins


Intelligent Black Thought.

Writing Is Hard Work

Musings of a hard working writer.

Janet Carr @

This Bug's Life

I create worlds. John E. Brito's Blog

Behind the scenes of John E. Brito's animated and live action (short) films & comics

Josep Goded

Seeking Truth

Stuff White People Like

This blog is devoted to stuff that white people like

Dark Matters

For Well-Rounded Blerds and POC Nerds

Examining the Odd

literature, visual art, music and film

My Year Cooking with Chris Kimball

Recipes from Cook's Illustated, Cook's Country and America's Test Kitchen

The Entertainment Patrol (and general musings)

My musings about everything from entertainment to life!

Writer's Haven

Words from heart

Lovecraft eZine

Weird Fiction, Cosmic horror, and the Cthulhu Mythos


Musings, Short stories, Inspiration.


Howling For Justice!

Fix your hearts or die.

Food, drinks, style, and humor


The Hive

Carmilita's Handmade Jewelry

handmade bead jewelry

Mark My World

Hacking life while enjoying everything in between

Really Awful Movies

Horror Movies, Science Fiction, Exploitation, Action, Genre Films.


Poetry, free verse, haiku, senryu, photography, books, art, philosophy , nature.


Your Source for Honest Commentary and Reviews

Rob Powell Writes

Let's see where this goes, starting with some short stories and flash fiction.

Opinionated Woman

Opinionated women of the world, unite!


New Perspective on Life

What's Your Chic?

Your Chic. Your Style.

Meditating Millennial

A Millennial's Journey Into Meditation and Mindfulness


Leave a little sparkle wherever you go!

word and silence

poetry & prose by Tim Miller

Blog of the Dragon

Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire news, theories, and other nerdy goodness


"Find what you love and let it kill you." – Charles Bukowski

About life, the universe and everything


Erotica City of London Russia Confessions

The Gymternet

The ultimate gymnastics news. For the ultimate gym nerd.

%d bloggers like this: