I grew up playing Sonic the Hedgehog in the 90’s. I wasn’t very good, but it was good at keeping my brother and me occupied while our parents were doing adult things like mowing the lawn and drinking coffee. When they announced a Sonic movie, I was a little skeptical because of the fond memories I had, but I shrugged it off because I didn’t care that much. I got a little more excited when I saw the redesigned trailers, so when my husband asked me to see it for our Valentine’s Day date, I said sure.
Sonic the Hedgehog officially came out in theaters on Valentine’s Day this year. It is the story of Sonic (Ben Schwartz), a supersonic blue hedgehog child from space who flees to Earth to escape a violent gang of echidnas who are after him for his power. His maternal figure, Longclaw the owl, sends him to Earth to protect him from the beings after him. We catch up to Sonic ten years later, and see that he has taken up residence in a cave outside a small Montana town and watches his favorite humans (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter). He then decides to play a game of baseball by himself, has a nervous breakdown from being lonely, and runs so fast that he causes an electrical outage in the Pacific Northwest. This catches the attention of the United States government and they send their best scientist, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), to figure out what happened. Dr. Robotnik comes after Sonic with the full force of the United States military, as well as his own inventions of deadly vehicles and drones. He realizes that Sonic is a source of unlimited energy, and tries to kill him. This leads to chase scenes through a rural highway and through San Francisco.
Dr. Robotnik’s backstory is stereotypical of a “nerdy” narrative. He’s bullied for his intelligence and takes his revenge using robots, injuring his bully so badly that the bully has to eat through a straw for a year. He’s very sensitive about this and overcompensates by being a bully himself. He abuses his assistant, he lords his intelligence over others, and takes what little power he has way too seriously. His role with the military is never made fully clear, and by the end of the movie, his existence is erased by the government.
To put it more succinctly, the 2020 film Sonic the Hedgehog is about how the United States government sends the military after an undocumented refugee who escaped gang violence in his place of origin while exploiting him for an energy source.
To quote one of my favorite Youtubers, Lindsay Ellis (seriously, check her out, she’s awesome), media about extraterrestrials generally reflect the anxieties of the culture in which the media is made. Right now the United States government is using its authority and power to go after refugees trying to find a better life here. This has led to ICE raids, children being separated from their parents, and other atrocities.
While we can’t and shouldn’t assume that any metaphor is intentional, this is what I see in Sonic the Hedgehog. I also enjoyed it so much I saw it twice.