Beasts of the Southern Wild

The entire universe depended on everything fitting together just right… 

I’ve finally found it.

Every year, there’s one film that just defies logic and expectations, and it uses that defiant stance to fold our own thoughts back into surprise as it tells us a brand new story.   Last year’s was The Artist, and now Beasts of the Southern Wild has taken up the strange and otherwordly mantle.   True, those two films are just about as different as could be – but there’s something glimmering below the surface.  There are new stories to tell still… And it’s so wonderfully hopeful.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez by way of Maurice Sendak

Quvenzhané Wallis plays Hushpuppy – the six year old I want to be when I grow up.  In the middle of failing levees and a father who’s alternately loving and distant – Hushpuppy takes in the world with her wide eyes and fights to make sense of it.   She’s innocent without being naive.  You can only learn so much about the world in six years, after all.  And she fills in the gaps of her knowledge with these strangely poetic retellings of the world around her.

Like Emma Donoghue’s Room – some of the things Hushpuppy sees are horrific in their own right, but she’s been so protected from the outside world that she has no idea they’re horrible.  Does that make any sense?  And since we’re seeing the world through Hushpuppy’s eyes, we don’t even see all the horrors as they really are.  

Instead, we see them as gigantic primitive monsters melted free from their southern icebergs. Death incarnate, come for its own.

But she is not afraid. 

When I was little, I was so terrified of my own shadow that it’s amazing I even went to school.  I lived in a world of stringent right and wrong and I was expected to know the difference in any situation, even if I’d never been there before.   I was afraid of getting detention for something I didn’t even know was wrong.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I would have faced my fears at six or eight years old rather than twenty-five.  

I wish I could have rounded them all up and faced them down.  You do not belong here, anymore.  You do not have power here.  I’ve stripped you of your ability to crush my life, to destroy the lives of the ones I love.  Leave.  

Leave and never return.  

There’s something to be said for the power of a six year old.  They may not fully understand the world, but maybe they understand it in a more holistic way than we ever will.  There is good and evil in the world.  And at least for the moment, we can’t escape it. We can only choose what to do – fight?  Or run away?

Today is not forever, you see. One day we’re actually going to face down the evil that surrounds us.  Because good and evil are not opposites. That puts them on a level playing field, as though the question really is whether or not evil can overcome us all.  Good is not the absence of evil.

Good, and everything that comes along with it, is more vibrant and alive than evil can ever be.  Good is a warrior, a vanquisher, walking in to the very darkest places of our communities, the very darkest parts of our souls, knowing the war is already won.

Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning… 

And someone with the heart of a child will lead us all.

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