We See You, Mama Szalinski

35 Years Ago, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Made Moms Feel Small

The kids weren’t the only ones who became almost invisible.

A scene from 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.'
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

There are a lot of things you start to worry about after becoming a parent. Is my child happy? Are they safe? Am I doing enough? The constant stream of questions and concerns never ends. But if there's one thing you can typically rely on, it's not having to worry about shrinking them down to less than an inch tall. Well, unless your name is Wayne Szalinski, that is.

I recently decided to take a little stroll down memory lane and rewatch the beloved 1989 kids' film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Having watched it many times as a kid, I was eager to immerse myself once more into this fantastical storyline where ants become pets, blades of grass turn into epic slides, and your own backyard becomes a mystical land of unknown wonders.

But while I admit that the movie was still chock full of some great entertainment, the fully grown adult version of me couldn't help but notice just how under-appreciated and undervalued the mom characters are treated throughout the film. It's not something I ever really paid attention to before — or even noticed at all. Yet, the whole mom storyline (or lack thereof) really hits different now that I'm a mom myself. And the fact of the matter is that this cinematic classic didn't just shrink some kids; it also made the family matriarchs seem small.

It’s Wayne’s World & Moms Are Just Living In It

Now, for the record, I absolutely love Rick Moranis. He is an American treasure who deserves only good things in his life. In fact, I have to give major props to the casting department for choosing him to play the role of Wayne Szalinski because he is the only guy (other than maybe Ryan Gosling) who can somehow make this character not only tolerable but also likable. Because if you were to simply describe Wayne's demeanor and actions, he wouldn't exactly come off as a great guy.

Think about it: This guy gets so wrapped up in his own work and ideas that he completely neglects everything else in his life, including his family. He's so laser-focused (pun intended) on his invention that he doesn't even seem concerned with the fact that his wife, Diane, slept at her mother's house the previous night after a fight. His son, Nick, clearly idolizes him and tries to show him something he created, but Wayne is too distracted to listen. Everything and everyone takes a backseat to his invention. That is extremely self-centered. Being passionate about your work is fine, but prioritizing it over the people you love, especially your kids, isn't a great look on anyone.

The Genius Excuse

At the start of the film, Wayne's infamous machine is capable of blowing things up, but there is no lock on the attic door or any safety precautions in place to keep his kids out of harm's way. It's due to that carelessness that the whole shrinking debacle was able to happen in the first place. Yet the main takeaway from the film is that this character is a genius and worthy of praise.

The entire ordeal gets written off as an unfortunate accident since no one (aside from Anty, RIP) ended up getting hurt. But they could have, very easily — and that's a thought no amount of genius should be able to overshadow. Which brings us to…

Diane’s Reaction

Let’s talk about how Diane reacted to the news that her husband had shrunk their children. Aside from the initial fainting spell, she didn’t actually appear to get too upset with him about it. She was definitely worried about the kids and their safety, but how she forgave Wayne so quickly felt almost more unbelievable than the whole shrinking-a-human-being aspect of it all. Perhaps she was so worried about the kids that it didn’t leave any room for anger, but I felt extremely disappointed that Diane wasn’t given a stronger story arc for this moment.

I mean, she leaves the house for not even 24 hours, and all hell breaks loose. It’s exactly how every mom feels when they try to take some time for themselves. She deserves to be furious — yet it all gets shrugged off as a classic Wayne moment. Her reaction was small, and made her feel small in the process. But you just know that something like this wouldn’t have happened on her watch.

The Fragile Male Ego

Then there’s the neighbor couple, Russell and Mae Thompson. They, too, discover that their boys have gone missing, which is obviously a very stressful situation to be in. However, Mae’s main job throughout the entire movie is pretty much trying to make her husband feel better and catering to his every need and emotion — all of which he has no problem expressing as frequently as possible. He believes that since he’s the “man” he should be the one to handle things, and then proceeds to not handle anything well. Russell even uses Mae as a scapegoat to explain to his friend why they aren’t able to go on the fishing trip. Instead of simply telling the truth that their kids are missing, he says that his wife has “plumbing issues,” putting the blame (and embarrassment) solely on her. This guy feels more like a third child for Mae to take care of than a dependable partner.

The Moms Feel Like An Afterthought

Even though they were going through a rough patch, Diane called Wayne at the beginning of the day to wish him luck at his big meeting about his invention. She too had a big day at work and ended up selling a house. Yet her success gets immediately overshadowed by either comforting Wayne when the meeting doesn’t go well or trying to locate their kids. Then there’s the fact that when Wayne finally realizes what happened to their children, he doesn’t even bother to contact her about it.

Even when he does take the time to think about Diane and talk about the problems that have been going on in their marriage, it’s filled with vague promises of trying not to get so wrapped up in his work. But acknowledging the problem isn’t the same as actively trying to fix it.

At the end of the day, Wayne may have accidentally shrunk the kids, but the men of this film made their wives feel small long before that.