Throughout the start of the movie the monsters are told again and again that touching a kid would/could kill them.

Eventually everyone finds out that isn't true, but the movie never gives a reason as to why the touching-a-kid-will-kill-you propaganda is a plot device in the first place. What gives?

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    Because the metaphor of the movie is "Fear is Power". Keep the kids afraid, keep the monsters afraid, and you gain power. The point of the movie is to show that it's all a big lie. Love, joy, respect, cooperation, etc is true power. Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 16:41
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    @AndrewLewis - that's deep, man.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 21:50
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    I dont think Monsters Inc exists outside the movie universe.
    – bobbyalex
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 4:57
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    @BobbyAlexander it currently exists in the movie universe and in the real world as expressed in the movie universe, so in theory it fits here Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 8:16
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    [A very opinionated comment]: Because the Monster universe is an inversion of our universe. Here, the every child is told that Monsters could kill them. And this fear gets imprinted to the child's mind for a long time. Similarly, every monster child is told that human children could kill them. Reading between the lines, the movie tells us how stupid it is to plant false fears in a child's mind. Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 8:41

6 Answers 6


It might have been a hoax by the CDA, but for a completely different reason--playing the long game. Keeping monsters scared of children keeps monsters from touching children, or interacting with them within arms-length.

Because here's the problem with children: they grow up into parents.

I remember being afraid of monsters as a little kid. My parents couldn't do anything to help me, either. But in the years since then, I was able to convince myself that they weren't real, just creaks, tricks of the light, and my own overactive imagination.

Imagine what would happen if I, and my whole generation, remember monsters getting up in our face at night, and us being able to see them clearly, and us knowing, without a shadow of a doubt that they were real.

When my daughter was afraid of monsters, my experience told me that they weren't real. To help her, I gave her a flashlight that turned on for a minute every time she squeezed the trigger. If I remembered that monsters were real from my childhood, I would have been sleeping on her floor every night, curled up with my Louisville Slugger. A generation of parents like that would have put Monstropolis into an energy crisis for a century, easy.

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    +1. Fantastic extrapolation in those last two sentences.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 16:58
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    This makes me wonder about the end of the movie. What're parents going to do now that their kids are routinely busting out laughing at the weird green eyeball that was in here a minute ago? What about when they grow up into adults? Commented May 1, 2015 at 16:59
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    My kid did wake up in the middle of the night, laughing at the antics he had seen on Sesame Street earlier in the day - or was it Mike?
    – Andrew
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 20:55

By keeping monsters afraid of humans, Monsters Inc. was able to exploit human children in a pretty horrible way for their own gain. It's not stated in the movies, but that seems like a strong motivation to me. Society would have a hard time basing its energy consumption on terrorizing Boo if it knew that she was an adorable little girl who was perfectly harmless. The change to laughter as a source of power would engender a corresponding change in monster society's view of human children as well, it seems.

To be clear, I am not trying to imply that Monsters Inc. kept monsters afraid of human children out of any sort of malice toward them. Instead it seemed like exceedingly grim practicality. Their society needed energy, and the discovery of Scream allowed life as they knew it to continue. Keeping the status quo was worth the injury caused to the human children, and the depiction of those children as toxic deathtraps was a way to keep monsters complacent about the fact that the children were being exploited for their gain.

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    They clearly didn't actually know laughter could be harnessed too. If they did they'd have no reason not to use it given that laughter was so much more potent and they were in the middle of an energy crisis.
    – Shisa
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 13:36
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    @Shisa I agree 100%, but they still had a motivation to make humans look evil and harmful while they had a scream-based energy economy. I don't think that they decided to keep using scream rather than laughter because they were all evil; it's as you said, they just didn't know that there was an alternative. Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 16:40
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    The reasoning for using screaming and not looking for laughter as an alternative could be postulated as another allegory. Their appearance instills a natural sense of fear from children, which elicits screams from many. They found a source of power there. It's quick, it's easy. Who cares if it's dirty as long as it works?
    – krillgar
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 17:31
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    @krillgar Spoken like a true software developer.
    – IQAndreas
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 2:20
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    @IQAndreas I was thinking more along the lines of fossil fuels vs renewable energy, but you're right. ;)
    – krillgar
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 12:10

There does not seem to be any information about the start of this myth in any official sources that I've been able to find.

Some probable reasons could be:

1. Children really are toxic - when they're sick with human diseases.

Perhaps, at some point in history, probably when measles, mumps, poxes and scarlet fevers were a serious danger, some Scarers brought diseases back from across the door. The monsters clearly have very limited understanding of humans - perhaps they 'discovered' that the 'common cause' in all those cases was that the Scarers touched kids or their things, and those flying Scarers who didn't touch anything got "poisoned" less, and came to the seemingly logical conclusion that it's children themselves that are toxic. And the myth perpetuated to the 'present' hysteria causing levels.

2. CDA perpetuates the myth to maintain the separation between the human and the monster world

The movie shows us that the monsters are not only kind of clueless when it comes to humans, despite the fact they've been in deliberate contact with that world for centuries at least, they are probably also technologically not nearly as advanced - the only way to generate energy they've been able to find in their civilization is from human kids! And then their entire economy seems based on getting that super-rare resource.

We also see what happens when a unscrupulous businessman realizes kids aren't actually toxic - he feels no qualm in kidnapping to get that rare resource.

Since the CDA seems to know more about all the stuff than other monsters in the film, it is not inconceivable that they may also be aware of the true destructive potential of humans, and the kind of wrath they could visit on the monsters if they discovered that not only were they real, they'd been kidnapping and torturing human kids.

So what's the best way to keep human-monster contact minimal? Make that contact have consequences too scary to even contemplate - note no one really seems to know how kids are toxic or dangerous, just that they are and everyone imagines their own worst scenarios - stimulated fear of the unknown at its best.

Mixing the two makes it even more probable - Maybe the myth initially spread due reason #1 centuries ago, but then CDA carefully inculcated that fear for reason #2.

The main problem I see with the often suggested fan-idea that the reason for the propaganda was so the monsters wouldn't feel bad about scaring little kids is there would be much more efficient ways to achieve that.

The rumor-mongering authorities could de-"humanize" the humans - they obviously can't even walk or talk properly and they look weird - they're just animals! Scaring them is really necessary for the growth of those interesting creatures, and the screams are actually screams of joy! Or just make the power extraction business classified so that the general public doesn't even know it comes from human kids. Or even what human kids are.

In the end of the movie, they switch to making kids laugh primarily because laughter is 10x more powerful, not because 'scaring those kids would be bad'. Even with all the experience with Boo, if SCREAM really was the only way for monsters to get energy, I can't see that entire civilization saying 'screw it, let's go back to the Stone Ages, because that's better than having to make little non-toxic kids scream a little!'

In real life we can be quite complacent about inconveniences suffered by distant others (kids or no) when it comes to getting our own creature comforts; I can't see it being significantly different for the monsters.


I don't believe that there is a canonical explanation, but the impression I received was that the Children Detection Agency promulgates the belief to help protect the source of power, the children. By forcing an entirely hands-off approach, there is no physical evidence, especially no injury, that might lead to the human world cutting off all access or launching a counter-offensive.

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    A simple explanation is usually the correct one. It will be easier to extract a scream if physical contact happens, but too many physical injuries == a (possibly over excessive) counter-response from the human world. That's quite possibly the knowledge known only to higher ups in the CDA.
    – pepoluan
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 9:27

I always thought it was simply that, the more contact humans have with monsters, the less scared of them they will be. (This is also true of monsters who are human.)


Two points which I believe are the most valid:

  1. To make sure monsters don't kidnap human children to their world and try to extract energy forcefully; works protecting both the human and monster world (from humans).

  2. So that the professionals don't 'feel bad' and don't let morals and emotions hinder their efficiency.

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    Can you offer any evidence to back this up, or are they merely your own headcanon?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 15:16
  • 2nd point: No need for evidence, if monsters find out they are scaring harmless defenseless little kids for energy, they will feel bad, hell some may even revolt. 1st point waternoose(crabman) and randall (lizard guy) were arrested for kidnapping and endangering a human childs life by trying to forcefully extract scream at the cost of its life. Missing child=investigation by the humans (hidden cameras and stuff) and eventually a war between the two worlds. Commented Mar 28, 2022 at 19:52
  • Notably, Roz doesn't mind that a child was loosed in the city, so it's pretty clear that she (as secret head of the CDA) isn't actually afraid of children as possible infectious agents.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 28, 2022 at 20:18

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