The Willoughbys Promotional Image

‘The Willoughbys’ and Confronting Child Abuse

A few days ago, I was scrolling through Netflix – as one does with their free time – and I stumbled upon a new movie: The Willoughbys. I had never heard of the movie before, so I watched it. It’s an amazing and hilarious movie, with whimsical animation and beautiful music. But there’s a deeper message, one about child abuse.

The Willoughby's by Lois Lowry
Image via Amazon

The Willoughbys (2020) is the animated revival of Lois Lowry’s book of the same name. It follows the four young Willoughby children (Tim, Jane, and a set of twins that are both named Barnaby) who are being both neglected and abused by their parents. The children are routinely starved and ignored by Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby, who are far too in love with one another to pay attention to their children.



So why is a story about child abuse so important? For starters, it provides validation. Children with abusive parents have a lot of conflicting emotions about their abusers, and this story (in both book and animated form) validates those feelings, even the bad ones. Lowry presents a piece where it is only sensible that these children want to get rid of their parents and live a happy life. She shows us that abusive parents can drive children to a place where, as one GoodReads user stated, “[k]ids who cheer on the deaths of their parental units.”


The Willoughbys Netflix Promotion
Image via Netflix

The Willoughbys also provides the world with another form of child abuse. Most media, whether it be books, movies, or shows, depict child abuse as purely physical; only parents who beat their kids are monsters. However, Lowry’s piece, as well as the movie, portrays neglect and abandonment as real forms of abuse. Even though Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby never lay a hand on their children, we still see them as evil, heartless, and monstrous. Lowry teaches us to see neglectful parents as such.



Altogether, Lowry’s story presents the world with important information in an easily digestible way. It educates adults and children on the nuances of child abuse, but it also promotes the image adopted families and found families. It’s cute and fun, but it’s important.

Feature Image via Honk News

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