In which I attempt to lay out my thoughts on Forky and how the character is an interesting parallel to our humanity and relationship with God.
Toy Story 4 introduces us to a number of new characters, including Forky – a creation that Woody’s new owner, Bonnie, cobbled together from bits of craft materials and a spork. Forky serves as a comedic figure with an identity crisis completely different from anything Woody or Buzz has ever experienced.
The central characters of the Toy Story movies are almost always grappling with some form of identity issues. We first meet Woody when he finds his status as favourite toy threatened by the appearance of the shiny new space toy, Buzz Lightyear. Then in Toy Story 2, Woody contemplates the possibility of life in pristine condition but without joy – forever on display but never for play. The third movie forces Woody to face the unhappy truth of a grown-up Andy who doesn’t need him anymore, and asks him to consider life with a different master.
While Buzz has fewer emotional trials than Woody does, he experiences his most dramatic change in the first Toy Story movie. Starting with a strange superiority complex (and to this day, I wonder why it is that the Buzz Lightyear toys seem to possess this unique problem of imagining that they are real right out of the box), Buzz is eventually compelled to humble himself and recognise that he isn’t a human, but a toy. Yet he also learns that to be a toy is not the end of the world – not being human doesn’t mean he’s worthless.
Now we have Forky, a toy that came to life because his maker decided he was an actual, proper toy and not just a mini craft project. Although similar to Buzz’s original delusion of not being a toy, where Buzz assumed he was real and more than a toy, Forky is convinced that he is less than a toy. It is his own unique spin on Ecclesiastes 3:20’s “all come from dust, and to dust all return” – “I come from trash, and to trash I return.”
There is a hilarious segment in Toy Story 4 where Forky makes multiple attempts to jump into any and all rubbish bins he sees, whilst Woody valiantly rescues him each time. Forky would probably argue that Woody was hindering him from achieving his goal rather than saving him from an untimely end. (Perhaps Woody’s vivid memories of the incinerator from Toy Story 3 are subconsciously reminding him of what exactly happens to trash.) This funny montage is followed by a quiet, semi-serious scene in which Woody takes a long walk with the unwilling Forky, and tries to explain what they toys mean to Bonnie. It is during this conversation that Forky begins to understand how it is that to Bonnie, he is more than just a collection of bits and bobs.
Forky is a reminder of how we can be and often are: creations of a Maker that stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that we are such, and constantly attempting to return to the “rubbish bin” instead of sticking by the one that made us and gave us purpose. “Give me my pleasures,” we say, “because that’s all there is to it in life – self-satisfaction and comfort.” It is almost as though we cannot help but place high value on the things of the world, so fallen is our human nature. We insist that we are meant to be less than what we are because it apparently suits our natural selves better, the sae way Forky prefers the rubbish bin because that was his origin, and so rubbish makes him feel more secure.
But just as Forky had Woody to grab him by his fuzzy wire-arm and try to show him his true purpose, so do we have Jesus trying to grab us by our non-fuzzy arms to show us our true purposes and turn us to our “Bonnie” – God. He, like Woody, tries time and time again to catch us before we do irreparable damage to ourselves and we should be thankful because really, sometimes we’re not much better than a silly spork with googly eyes. We are “trash”, we declare, so let us be. It is true that we are “trash”, but the “Bonnie” that created and claimed us has made us more than mere trash. Forky had a higher purpose, and so do we.