Fiction vs. Reality: What if 'Big' Happened in Real Life?

Fiction vs. Reality: What if 'Big' Happened in Real Life?

Jan 25, 2012

Transcript of session notes from psychiatrist Dr. Michael Firestone:

“March 19, 1993, 9:07 A.M.

Just met with client Joshua Baskin, male, Caucasian, age 17.  Exhibits symptoms of mild to moderate depression.  Suffers from delusions of grandeur.  Subject insists that he was an executive of the now-defunct MacMillan toy company and lived in Manhattan.  Claims he out-earned and out-smarted his own parents during a six-week period in 1988 at the age of twelve.  Feels he has peaked and now suffers from anhedonia and nihilism.  Subject now has trouble respecting authority, especially gym teachers.

Subject also suffers from sexual dysfunction, calling girls his own age ‘prude’ and ‘inexperienced.’ This is most likely the result of a molestation that occurred during early childhood, probably during his kidnapping.  Subject insists the perpetrator, 34-year old ‘Susan,’ a co-worker at the ‘toy company,’ was a girlfriend and not a sexual predator.  To protect her, he even claims to have kidnapped himself.    

I recommend that Joshua Baskin be placed in the care of the state where he will undergo the kind of psychiatric evaluation befitting his severe mental illness.”

Transcript of session notes from psychiatrist Dr. Ethan Corava:

“January 23, 2012, 5:38 P.M.

Finished appointment with Joseph Piccirillo, male, Caucasian, age 33.  Mr. Piccirillo expressed terror after seeing a movie theater pre-show advertisement featuring a cartoon soda on a date with a cartoon bag of popcorn.  He reported many sleepless nights during which he pondered what their children would look like.

Mr. Piccirillo then directed his attention to the Penny Marshall film Big. Mr. Piccirillo provided a plot synopsis. He said that the movie follows a kid (Josh) whose wish to be “big” is granted by a gypsy (in machine form) and who then turns, overnight, into Punchline’s Tom Hanks.  According to Joe, Hanks, endowed with Josh’s 12 year-old mind, navigates through personal and professional struggles and manages to accomplish more than most of us will ever dream. Along the way, he is courted by a pedophile (Elizabeth Perkins) and loses himself in adult life. 

Mr. Piccirillo asserts that he has hung out with 12 year olds.  ‘They can’t do anything except cry when I push them into traffic, but the movie would have us believe differently,’ he says.  'Ostensibly, the movie champions our unearthing the child within us (and possible sleeping with it), but I think it’s really a parable about modern man’s demise at the hands of a ruthless woman.’

He says he plans to throw Big into his Fiction vs. Reality machine to see what would happen if this film played out in real life.  Then, he removed his pants.”

Scenario # 1

What Happens: After spoiled brat Josh Baskin is deemed ineligible to partake in a carnival ride, he sulks in a corner despite being made fun of by no one. 

Hollywood Version: When a white, privileged 12-year old is prevented from having something, the audience feels immediate empathy for him.  Despondent, Josh makes a wish on an unplugged (and therefore magical) machine to be “big.” His wish is granted. 

Reality: “What?!” replies Hector Martinez, the carnival maintenance man, “I, too, made a wish on the Zoltar machine that I would somehow find a way to pay for my daughter’s heart transplant.  My daughter didn’t make it, but I’m glad the gods saw to it that Mr. Baskin got to fulfill his lifelong dream of riding a Ferris wheel!”

Scenario # 2

What Happens: “Adult Josh” checks into a fleabag motel. 

Hollywood Version: After waking up in the body of an adult, dodging his knife-wielding mother, telling his parents that “Young Josh” has been kidnapped, and hearing gunshots from the bed of a fleabag motel, Josh remains unmoved; however, it is the voice of a Turkish man loudly fielding a phone call in the adjacent room that undoes him and leads to an endless crying jag.

Reality:  Same.  Hollywood gets it right.  Turkish men on the phone are terrifying.


Scenario # 3

What Happens: “Adult Josh” applies for a job.

Hollywood Version: Josh arrives at the interview with his 13 year-old best friend in tow. During the meeting, he provides a bogus social security number, lies about his work experience and misrepresents his educational background to the interviewer; however, he gets the job because the interviewer apparently grows tired of asking questions.

Reality: According to Franklyn Shieder, Human Resources Director, Goldman Sacks, “First of all, we have multiple interview sessions, not just one.  Secondly, we have software programs designed specifically to prevent this sort of fraud.  When filling out the application, the prospective employee must agree to a thorough background check, which would include our looking into his employment history and educational background. Thirdly, his false social security number would betray him. We only hire those people permitted to work in the U.S.  Regardless of what the interviewer communicated, we would not extend an offer to Mr. Baskin.”

Scenario # 4

What Happens: “Adult Josh” excels at his job as a data entry clerk.

Hollywood Version: “Adult Josh” is respected and promoted. His excellent performance at work dispels two long-standing American myths: 1) American jobs require skilled workers 2) child labor laws are necessary.

Reality:  “This film has confirmed what I’ve long known,” asserts congressman Ed Lamont. “I’ve already drafted legislation that would send 12 year-olds into the workforce.  This would allow adults the free time to focus on opening their own small businesses and hiring other 12 year-olds.  Upton Sinclair had it wrong. This film is the bedrock of the new Republican party.”

Scenario # 5

What Happens: Old Man MacMillan runs into “Adult Josh” at the toy store.

Hollywood Version: Good news.  Old Man MacMillan finds Josh on the floor of his store and happily announces, “You can’t find this on a marketing report!” Later, the two adults monopolize a “walking piano” and force customers to endure renditions of Chopsticks and Heart and Soul.  Unfortunately, they don’t perform any hits from the Goo Goo Dolls. Still, the audience… loves it!

Reality: According to Lester Moon, vice president of BCBB Advertising, “Our marketing reports provide our higher level managers with the tools needed to make projections for each fiscal year.  They are the result of tireless efforts of our analysts.  Mr. MacMillan is quite correct – you won’t find images of 30-year old man ‘playing dead’ on a store floor in our marketing reports; and, frankly, that will be the key to our success.”

Scenario # 6

What Happens: After landing a job and a great NYC apartment, Josh takes a few minutes to check in on his folks, you know, those people who are worried about their “kidnapped” son.

Hollywood Version: Hesitant to return to an old life filled with disappointment in the form of an inability to ride Ferris Wheels, Josh stalls by telling his mom that “Young Josh” is kidnapped but he’s having a “good time.” To seal the deal, he sings private (and meaningful) songs to her while she cries.  The audience… laughs!

Reality # 1: According to psychiatrist Oscar Lowes, “Josh has sociopathic tendencies.  To tell your own mother that you’ve been kidnapped and then to sing at her while she cries hysterically and to remain stoic is deeply disturbing. Ironically, it’s Josh who is emotionally kidnapping his parents. I would recommend anti-schizophrenia medication for Josh and counseling for his poor parents.”  

Reality # 2: According to Howard Shockhorn, Camden Police Chief, “It’s standard procedure during a kidnapping for an officer to be present in the home at all times. And the phone would be tapped.  While Mr. Baskin was in the middle of the second verse of Memories, we would have located and arrested him.  Kidnapping (especially oneself) carries with it $50,000 fine and a mandatory minimum of 3 years of jail time. For his next wish, I would recommend Mr. Baskin ask not to be prison-raped.”


Scenario # 7

What Happens:  Josh’s youthful exuberance and lack of social grace once again prove invaluable at the MacMillan Toy Company.

Hollywood Version: In a high-level meeting, “Adult Josh” (while wrestling with a giant toy skyscraper) alerts the staff that playing with a building is “not fun.” Shockwaves are sent across the conference room (and the globe).  After pausing and replaying the scene four times (and throwing away my own collection of toy buildings), I confirm that Old Man MacMillan actually says, “He’s right!  A building is inert!”  Inert, Dear Reader.  I start wonder if the rest of the MacMillan executives are simply adult bodies inhabited with the minds of high-functioning raccoons.

Reality: The executives, afraid to change course after spending untold millions and man-hours on the project, fire “Adult Josh” for his insubordination and his inability to be a “team player.” “Adult Josh” learns that life is not fair and bureaucracy triumphs over truth.  Dejected, he commits suicide by jumping out of the MacMillan skyscraper while holding the very toy skyscraper that led to his firing.  Old Man Macmillan and pallbearers perform NIN's "Hurt" on the "walking piano" during the funeral procession.

Scenario # 8

What Happens:  Susan, a manipulative executive who uses her sexuality to leapfrog up the corporate ladder, targets “Adult Josh.”

Hollywood Version: Josh is immune to Susan’s coy sexual advances and professional ego-stroking techniques (“I loved your idea on the Squeezy toy line!” or “You’re so different!” or “How do you do it?”); so, she just has sex with him… even after seeing his apartment, which consists of giant inflatable dinosaurs, bunk beds, and Pepsi machines.  Even though she actively cheats on her live-in boyfriend, the audience is… enchanted!  The sappy music swells. Haven’t you ever been dating the wrong person when the right 12 year-old walks into your life, they ask as I hurl books (and babies) across the room.

Reality:  According to federal judge Steve Lawson, “Statutory rape is (mostly) not funny nor is it romantic.  The boy is 12.  She would serve a minimum of 45 years.  This is the most disturbing part of the film, which I think is really the chilling story of a pedophile’s comeuppance. God help us all.”  

Scenario # 9

What Happens:  Before Susan and “Adult Josh” abandon the meeting in pursuit of the Zoltar machine, they pitch a choose-your-own-adventure comic book that has a projected retail cost of $17.99. Somewhere off camera, Josh’s parents’ marriage falls apart.

Hollywood Version: The executives are elated to remain in a conference room without a finished presentation. They accept the duo’s cost proposal.

Reality: According to Martin Matuh, computer programmer, “No way.  With the technology of the time and its capabilities, the chip would not be able to generate enough stories within a reasonable amount of time to make it feasible.  The actual retail cost should be about $159.99, which is out of reach for any child who is not currently inhabiting the body of an executive at a toy company.  I think the problem can all be traced back to Old Man MacMillan’s distrust and misuse of those marketing reports.”


Scenario # 10

What Happens: After making a new wish, Josh (finally) dumps his sexual abuser, returns home, and returns to his normal size.

Hollywood Version: The audience, feeling a mixture of nostalgia and sadness, tears up.  They feel empathy for Susan and hope for Josh.

Reality: According to clinical psychologist Miles Mazur. “This is a parable about the destruction of a good man by a woman: Hanks' confidence and happiness earn him work, wealth, and respect. Then, that lady gets her claws into him and to continue feeling like a Man, he 'grows up' and attends boring dinner parties, drinks coffee, drops his friends, and tries to earn even more money to provide for his girlfriend. His triumphant and acceptable return to childhood is wish fulfillment for every guy saddled with a wife and kids who is branded "immature" for not wanting to spend weekends at boring dinner parties or make money for designer couches. This movie is subversive and edifying. Plus, there's Robert Loggia.”

Final Thoughts: Movies about time travel and body-switching tap into a universal desire within each of us.  I’ve read that human beings are the only animals aware of their place in time (that we know of), and yet, we always seem to want to be somewhere else. 

The reality is a relationship between a 12 year-old and a 34 year-old is not romantic, marketing reports serve a great function in Fortune 500 companies, and adulthood is not a game that can simply be won with innocence and openness; it’s a war in which we all fight to the death.  And lose.

Transcript of session notes from psychiatrist Dr. Ethan Corava:

“January 24, 2012, 8:24 A.M:

 “It might be time to send Mr. Piccirillo to a team of specialists.”

Categories: Features, Geek
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