YMMV: Matilda

All adaptations

  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • While she teaches mostly Family Unfriendly Aesops (her overall message seems to be "the world is harsh for no reason; get used to it"), and as such would not be considered one by most people (either In-Universe or out) the Trunchbull may see herself this way.
    • Hints are dropped that the Trunchbull had her own tough childhood ("Glad I never was one [a child]" and "Not for long anyway; I became a woman very quickly", for example). She also clearly values physical and mental strength and resilience, as evidenced by her Olympic career, constant shows of power, and some of her dialogue. Furthermore, some of her dialogue implies that what she hates most about children and childhood is childlike innocence and naiveté.
    • It is quite possible that the Trunchbull sees herself as a survivor of a harsh world, and wishes to toughen up the children to do the same. It is even possible that she wants to save them an even harsher Break the Cutie, but severely overestimates the harshness of the outside world, and has become He Who Fights Monsters, delivering a far more harsh Break the Cutie than anything else is likely to.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Matilda is The Unfavourite, stuck in a grade beneath her intellect, and faced with a cruel headmistress. In spite of this, she's a cheerful kid who is genuinely nice to everyone. One of the subtext points of the book. Matilda was in a crappy situation, more than one actually, but remained a good person throughout. She's more than a survivor, she's come through her ordeals wiser and still human. Even when she discovers her telekinetic powers, they're used only to punish the Big Bad for good and not mistreat others as a bully. Matilda could have caused a nightmare like Carrie or, even worse, Lucy (or Lucy, for that) with those powers, and yet luckily she didn't harm anyone.
  • Complete Monster: Child-hating Headmistress Agatha Trunchbull, the ultimate Sadist Teacher. Shying away from illegal caning, she resorts to even worse measures that parents are more likely to dismiss as wild stories. Some of these measures involve throwing children vast distances, including out of high windows, and putting them in a torture chamber called "the Chokey"; all of which nearly kill the children involved. It's also hinted that she killed her brother-in-law to get his estate and that she abused his daughter.
    Trunchbull: I broke your arm once, I can do it again, Jenny.
    Ms. Honey: I'm not seven years old anymore.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop:
    • There really are stupid and terrible people in the world who hate you for no reason, and sometimes get away with horrible things. The good news is that if you're creative you can get your revenge on them, and in fact you should, as long as you remain a good person. Stated in the musical version with the song Naughty.
    • Some parents also see this in Matilda's adoption by Miss Honey. As in, Matilda allowed the first nice person she saw to adopt her. When you consider the actions of some teachers these days, some parents find the Aesop unfriendly just because the nice adult happened to be a teacher.
    • Other parents find this a Family-Unfriendly Aesop because in their minds, it completely disses the nuclear family, and makes biological families look undesirable because the Wormwoods are such neglectful idiots. A lot of Good Parents also find the overall behavior of every authority figure except Miss Honey disturbing, claiming that the story teaches children to distrust authority figures and to glamorize abuse or neglect.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-universe, the Trunchbull praises the headmaster from Nicholas Nickleby for the strict discipline he inflicts on his students.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Just because they are your family doesn't mean you have to be put up with being mistreated by them. A valuable lesson for kids and adults.
  • Values Dissonance: Agatha Trunchbull's abuse of children, even by both by 1988 note  and 1996 note  standards, wouldn't be acceptable at all and social services would've been on her case on but none of the children could find a way to report since their parents wouldn't believe them... at the time. Nowadays, parents would get suspicious and many children would have a smart-phone to record their proof. In fact, with anti-bullying laws and social media, Trunchbull would've been caught on the spot and the Wormwood family would have to deal with Social Services. It's worth noting, though, that the book is based on Roald Dahl's memories of his own boarding school, where corporal punishment (or more creative ones like eating soap flakes) could be administered for any offense as small as snoring or breaking a pen nib.
  • What an Idiot: Mr. Wormwood's approach to selling cars. He intentionally rigs the cars to break down after a few miles thinking that his customers will return to the dealership that sold them the crappy cars in the first place to throw their money away on one crappy car after another. It never occurs to him that his dealership might get a negative reputation and eventually receive no business at all because everyone knows that the cars are little more than spray-painted junk.
  • The Woobie: Miss Honey, Matilda. In the book version, the school cook as well. She's not gross like the movie version. Here, she's just a frail, old woman who disapproves of the abuse about to happen, but clearly has no choice but to play her role.

1996 film

  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Michael Wormwood in the film. We're meant to see him as an unsympathetic Jerkass since he's downright nasty to his sister and participates in his parents' dirty dealings. But, before we judge the poor kid, we ought to consider that Harry and Zinnia have probably conditioned their son to be this way, meaning there's Fridge Brilliance: Michael has figured out that by conforming to his parents' lifestyle rather than rejecting it like Matilda does, he won't be picked on. Matilda is exceptionally brave and intelligent; she can stand on her own and doesn't need her parents' approval to be fulfilled. Michael is neither brave nor intelligent enough to resist the pressure to become a mean, lazy, TV-watching Wormwood.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: At Mr. Wormwood's dealership, Harry shows Michael the tools of the trade, namely supergluing a fender on, using a two-bit drill to rewind the odometer and putting sawdust into the pipes. Matilda is disgusted with how her dad cheats and potentially endangers lives, but Michael is impressed with the drill bit.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: For those with sensitive stomachs, the scene with Bruce and the massive chocolate cake is this. So too, the scene that shows the Trunchbull at home, tucking into a huge slice of cake with just her hands and a butcher knife, then wiping her mouth with her hand. Her grunting while eating doesn't help in the slightest.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The Wormwoods are supposed to be portrayed as incompetent and neglectful parents for laughs, but leaving baby Matilda in the car when they get home can leave a sour taste in the mouths of those who remember the rash of deaths caused by parents leaving their children locked in cars in 2014.
  • Love to Hate: The Trunchbull in the movie, mainly because Pam Ferris' performance makes her entertaining despite all the atrocities she commits.
  • Sacred Cow: Fans of this movie really don't like people speaking ill of it. The Nostalgia Critic learned that the hard way.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: The film has a bunch of kids getting hammer-tossed out of windows, first-graders getting packed into a closet with rusty nails and adults downright insulting childrens' intelligence and calling them hurtful names. Then again this is Roald Dahl we're talking about. On the upside, the abuse isn't that severe and the protagonist does win in the end. On top of that, it's a family film, so the violence is mainly for the adults, no matter how cruel it may seem.

The Musical

  • Award Snub: When the 2013 Tony Awards came around the four little girls playing Matilda (Oona, Bailey, Milly, and Sophia) were snubbed from the Best Actress in a Musical award unlike their West End counterparts, who were nominated for the equivalent Olivier Award and won. The excuse was that the judges might not have had a chance to see all four girls, which is fine until you discover the three boys who played Billy Elliot were eligible and won. Instead they get Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre. And fans were NOT happy that Matilda didn't win Best Musical — it lost out to Kinky Boots.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: "Revolting Children" is a show-stopping, standout number.
  • Ear Worm: So many from the musical. "Naughty", "When I Grow Up" and "Revolting Children" in particular.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Subverted, whilst all Matilda's are reasonably praised, West End!Matilda's Sophia and Eleanor are the most popular seemingly.
  • Fandom Berserk Button: Just remember, whatever it says in the Playbill, it's "The Escapologist". NOT "The Escape Artist".
  • Friendly Fandoms: At least on Tumblr, there's a good deal of overlap between this show's fanbase and that of another West End musical based on a Roald Dahl novel: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (The shows also share a choreographer, and there have been child actors in the West End who've logged time in both.)