Last week I started my critique of Mater of the Cars movies, and how I find his character a rather poor example of his type, the well-intentioned bumbler. I think a much better example of the lovable goofball would be Buzz Lightyear. In the first Toy Story movie, Woody's angst at being "replaced" as Andy's favorite toy is compounded by the fact that Buzz thinks he's a real-life Space Ranger, and is oblivious to the fact that he comes from a toy factory. Yet just as Woody learns to accept Buzz as a fellow toy whose owner loves him, Buzz himself also changes; he learns the truth about himself, and adjusts his priorities accordingly. In Toy Story, it's not just the straight man who winds up a different person, the bumbler does as well. Another good example of a decent bumbler is Linguini of Ratatouille. Linguini is a klutz who can do very little without Remy the rat helping him out. Though he doesn't get "better", the film does not seek to justify his weaknesses. The worst example I've ever seen of a comic bumbler is Eliot the deer from Open Seasons. Eliot repeatedly gets Boog the bear into trouble through his self-centered actions, and really does nothing to redeem himself until the end of the film, where he is perfectly placed to save Boog from a hunter. I would've liked to see Eliot a bit more reformed and apologetic well before that moment. Likewise, I would've liked to see Mater make more of an effott to do something that did not come easy for him by the time Cars 2 hit it's climax.
As I stated before, it bugs me when characters like Mater have their films seek to justify their weaknesses, rather than showing them overcome their weaknesses. In fact I've come to regard the moral "just be yourself" as a dangerous half-truth that can do more harm than good to those who struggle to fit in. Those of us with learning disabilities and such do not always have the luxury of doing what comes naturally, because what comes naturally to us is all too often counterproductive to our efforts in our work and social lives. I would also argue that everyone has weaknesses which can hold them back in life, and that in order to be, not just ourselves, but our best selves, we have to work on those weaknesses. Those who are poor at math still need to learn enough of it to get by. Those who are poor at reading still need to learn enough of it to get by. Likewise, those who are poor at social skills still need to learn enough to maintain positive relationships, while those who function poorly alone still need to learn to function by themselves at least to a certain degree.