ty little

anonymous asked:

I always thought it was extremely powerful that ATLA decided to portray a younger female (Azula) abusing an older boy (Zuko) and not have it be played for laughs. It’s portrayed to be just as horrific as it would be if it were the other way around. And I loved how Zuko was never mocked for being frightened of and traumatized by his little sister. Because boys—just like girls—can be victims, and girls—just like boys—can be abusers, and I love how this show decided to show that

There is so much that is wonderful and almost unheard of in Azula’s storyline. She is as you say a younger girl abusing her older brother. We don’t see a lot of acknowledged sibling abuse, much less sibling abuse of an older brother by a younger sister. We also almost never see acknowledged abuse within a friend group. When we see abuse in fiction, it tends to look pretty much the same, a husband abusing a wife, a parent abusing their child. When we see do see other kinds of abuse, it’s almost never acknowleged as abuse, or as really harmful by the narrative. Azula is a complete departure from this. She, a fourteen year old girl, is always acknowledged by the narrative as a credible abuser, who is capable of real harm, and Zuko, Mai, and Ty Lee are never shown as weak or somehow at fault for being her victims. They are allowed to be scared of her, to be traumatized and hurt by her, and when they do get away from her, this is shown as an act that takes real strength and bravery.

Fiction is a mirror of real life and when you never see your own experiences reflected in that mirror, it’s difficult to name them and see them for what they are. I remember when I was in high school, I told one of my teachers that my relationship with my abuser was like an abusive marriage. At the time, she was still stalking me, and I had only just moved to a new state and my nerves were raw, and the fear I had lived with for four years was refusing to go away. But though I could say that my experience was like being in an abusive marriage even then, it took me several more years to be able to name what had happened to me as actual abuse, not just like abuse. And it took me even longer to stop feeling like a fake victim because my abuser was younger than I was and another girl. If I had seen Avatar: the Last Airbender earlier, that process might have been much easier.

A white guy’s thoughts on “Get Out” and racism

This weekend, I went to see a horror movie. It got stuck in my head, and now I can’t stop thinking about it—but not for any of the reasons you might think.

The movie was Jordan Peele’s new hit Get Out, which has gotten rave reviews from critics—an incredible 99% on Rotten Tomatoes—and has a lot of people talking about its themes.

First of all, I should tell you that I hate horror movies. As a general rule, I stay far, far away from them, but after everything I’d read, I felt like this was an important film for me to see. This trailer might give you some inkling as to why:

Creepy, huh? You might know writer/director Jordan Peele as part of the comedy duo Key & Peele, known for smartly tackling societal issues through sketch comedy. Get Out is a horror movie, but it’s also a film about race in America, and it’s impressively multilayered.

I left the theater feeling deeply disturbed but glad this movie was made. I can’t say any more without revealing spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and you don’t want to have the plot spoiled for you, stop reading now and come back later.

Seriously, this is your last chance before I give away what happens.

Okay, you were warned. Here we go.

Our protagonist is Chris Washington, a young black man who has been dating Rose Armitage, a young white woman, for the last four months. She wants him to meet her family, but he’s hesitant. She acknowledges that her dad can be a little awkward on the subject of race, but assures Chris that he means well.

After unnerving encounters with a deer (echoes of The Invitation) and a racist cop, Chris and Rose arrive at the Armitages’ estate. On the surface, the Armitages are very friendly, but the conversation (brilliantly scripted by Peele) includes a lot of the little, everyday, get-under-your-skin moments of racism that people of color have to contend with: Rose’s dad going on about how he voted for Obama, for instance, and asking how long “this thang” has been going on. Chris laughs it off to be polite, though he clearly feels uncomfortable.

There’s a fantastic moment here, by the way, when Rose’s dad offhandedly mentions that they had to close off the basement because of “black mold.” In the midst of the racially charged atmosphere of the conversation, it’s nearly impossible not to take this as a racial remark, and Chris certainly notices, but what could he possibly say about it? Black mold is a real thing; his girlfriend would surely think he was crazy and oversensitive if he said it sounded racist. Chris never reacts to the remark, but that one tiny moment is a reminder to the audience of a real problem people of color often face, when racism can’t be called out without being accused of “playing the race card” or seeing things that aren’t there. (Incidentally, it turns out that the basement is actually used for molding of a different sort.)

There are other reasons for Chris to be unsettled: The only other black people on the estate are two servants, Georgina and Walter (Rose’s dad says he knows how bad it looks, but that it’s not what it seems), and something is clearly “off” about them. Later, more white people show up—and one more black character, and he, too, feels “off.”

By the end of the film, we learn the horrible secret: Rose’s family is kidnapping and luring black people to their estate, where they’re being hypnotized and psychologically trapped inside themselves—Rose’s mom calls it “the sunken place”—so that old or disabled white people’s consciousnesses can be transplanted into their bodies. The white people are then able to move about, controlling their new black bodies, with the black person’s consciousness along for the ride as a mere “passenger.” In a shocking twist, it turns out that even apparently-sweet Rose is in on the plot, and Chris must fight her and the rest of her family to escape.

This isn’t a “white people are evil” film, although it may sound that way at first, but it is a film about racism. I know many of my friends of color will connect with this movie in a way I can’t, so I won’t try to say what I think they’ll get out of it. I do want to say how I connected with it, though, because I think what Jordan Peele has done here is really important for white audiences. 

If you look beyond the surface horror-movie plot, this film actually gives white people a tiny peek at the reality of racism—not the epithet-shouting neo-Nazi kind of racism that white people normally imagine when we hear “racism,” but the “Oh it’s so nice to meet you; I voted for Obama” kind of racism, the subtle othering that expects people of color to smile and get along and adopt white culture as their own whenever they’re around white people.

So many of the moments in Get Out are clearly intended to work on multiple levels. When Chris confronts Georgina about something being wrong and she smiles and says, “No, no no no no no,” with tears streaming down her cheeks, the symbolism is blatant. How often do people of color have to ignore the subtle indignities they face and hide their true emotions in order to avoid coming across as, for example, “the angry black woman/man”? How many times do they find themselves in social situations—even with their closest white friends!—where people make little comments tying them to an “exotic,” supposedly monolithic culture, where they have to respond with a smile and a laugh instead of telling people how stupid and offensive they’re being? 

I can’t tell you the number of these stories I’ve heard from my friends, and I’m quite sure that the stories I’ve heard are only a tiny fraction of the stories that could be told. So there’s something in that moment that speaks volumes about the experiences of people of color in America.

The same is true for so many other moments. The black characters Chris meets at the Armitages’ have all symbolically given up their identities and conformed to white culture; when Chris meets one character, he turns out to be going under a new name, with new clothes and new mannerisms; when Chris offers him a fist bump, he tries to shake Chris’s fist. Again, within the story, there’s an explanation for all this, but every moment here is also about assimilation and culture differences. 

For me as a white audience member, all of these moments did something remarkable: They showed me my own culture—a culture I’m often blissfully unaware of because it’s all around me—as something alien. They reminded me that I, too, have a culture, and that expecting everyone else to assimilate to my culture is just as much an erasing of their identities as it would be to expect me to assimilate to someone else’s culture.

And that’s a big part of what Get Out is about—the erasing of identities, and the power of racism to destroy people. I think it’s really significant that racism is portrayed here very differently from how it’s normally portrayed in movies written by white people. In most Hollywood movies, you know a character is racist because they shout racial epithets or make blatant statements about a certain race’s inferiority. That allows white audiences to say, “I would never do/say that, so I’m not racist!” We really don’t want to think we are.

But notice something important about Get Out’s treatment of racism: This is a film about the literal enslavement of black people—racism doesn’t get more extreme than that—and yet Peele doesn’t go for the obvious by having the white characters admit that they think black people are inferior; instead, they subjugate and dehumanize people by claiming to admire things about them. They turn them into fashion accessories. 

When Chris asks why only black people are being targeted for this procedure, the response is telling: It’s not (supposedly) because the white characters think African Americans are bad, but rather, because they like certain things about them and they want “a change” for themselves. They want to become black—it’s trendy, we’re told!—but without having had any of the actual life experiences or history of African Americans. White people need to see this: to experience the ways in which Chris is othered by people who tell him all the things they like about him—isn’t he strong? Look at those muscles! Does he play golf like Tiger Woods? And he must be well-endowed and have such sexual prowess, right, Rose?

The white people in the audience need to be reminded that just because you’re saying positive things about someone doesn’t mean you’re not being racist, that turning someone into an exotic “other” may not be the same as shouting an epithet, but it’s still taking away someone’s identity and treating them as a commodity.

The film is filled with these kinds of moments. When we realize that Rose’s white grandmother has inhabited the body of Georgina, the fact that she keeps touching her own hair and admiring herself in the mirror takes on a whole new level of significance. (White people, please don’t ask to touch your black friends’ hair.) When Chris connects with a dying deer on the side of the road and later sees a deer head mounted on the wall at the Armitages’ estate, the symbolism is hard to miss. Black people are being turned into trophies in this house. And, oh yeah, they’re being literally auctioned off—as they were in real life in the not-too-distant past.

One day, I’d like to see the film again to pick up on all the ways things read differently the second time through. I noticed several things in retrospect that gain new significance once you know the ending, and I’m sure there’s a lot I didn’t notice. For example, Rose’s dad says he hired Walter and Georgina to care for his parents, and when his parents died, “I couldn’t bear to let them go.” The first time you see the film, it sounds like the “them” is Walter and Georgina. But in retrospect, it’s clear the “them” he couldn’t bear to let go was his parents, so he sacrificed Walter and Georgina for them. Which, again, is an example of how the supposed care of the white characters for the black characters (his care for Walter and Georgina, Rose’s care for Chris) is really all about caring for themselves and treating the black characters as completely interchangeable objects.

The message of the film isn’t simply that the black characters are “good” and the white characters are “bad.” There are presumably—hopefully—many good white people in the world of this film, and many others who wouldn’t do what the Armitages are doing but also probably wouldn’t believe Chris or make the effort to stop it. Peele’s mother and wife are both white, so he’s clearly not trying to paint all white people as villains. 

But I admit, as a white guy, I really, really wanted Rose to be good. I’ve been the white person in an interracial relationship introducing my black boyfriend to my family. I’ve been that. So I related to Rose, and I really wanted to believe that she was well-intentioned and just oblivious; even though she misses the mark on several occasions, there are times that she seems like she gets it and she really does listen to Chris. When a cop asks to see Chris’s ID early in the film even though he wasn’t driving, Rose stands up against the obvious racism, showing us all what it looks like for white people to do the right thing. “That was hot,” Chris says to her later, and I thought, yeah, that’s who I want to be.

So I have to admit, it was really upsetting to me to see Rose, the only good white character left in the film, turn out to be evil. But I realized that part of that is that I really wanted her to represent me, and that’s really the point. Just think how often horror films have only one black character who dies early on, and how many films of all genres have no significant black characters for audience members to look up to or identify with. I think it’s really important for white audiences to experience that.

As I’ve reflected on the film, it seems to me like there are three kinds of popular movies about people of color. There are those that feature POC characters that are essentially indistinguishable from the white characters—as if they just decided to cast Morgan Freeman instead of Tom Hanks without giving any thought to the character’s race. Then there are the movies that deal with racism, but in a way that allows white people to feel good about ourselves, because we’re not like the characters in the film. (This is especially true for movies about racism in the past; some of them are very important films, like Hidden Figures, which I loved, but we need to be aware that it’s still easy for white America to treat it as a feel-good film and think that we’re off the hook because we no longer have separate restrooms.) And finally, there are movies that focus more directly on the lives of people of color but tend to draw largely audiences of color; not many white people go see them, because we think they’re not “for us” (even though we assume films about white people are for everyone).

Get Out isn’t any of those. It’s drawing a broad audience but it’s not afraid to make white people uncomfortable. And if you can give me, a white guy, a chance to have even a momentary fraction of an experience of the real-life, modern-day, casual racism facing people of color in America, I think that’s a very good thing.

Ty Lee and Mai: The Beach, Emotional Honesty, Vulnerability, and Deception in the face of Abuse

The Avatar: the Last Airbender Book Three episode, “The Beach” is fascinating on a number of levels for what it tells us about Zuko, Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, as well as their relationships to each other, and what’s most interesting of all is that this episode exposes truths about these characters by having two of them lie.

After the four Fire Nation teens leave the beach party, they find themselves together on the beach.  Zuko, who has recently broken up with Mai, and publicly insulted her for her lack of willingness to show emotion, insults and mocks Ty Lee.  Mai snaps at Zuko to leave Ty Lee alone, and in response, Zuko further insults Ty Lee and calls her a circus freak.

Ty Lee responds with anger, telling them about her childhood, lost and ignored among a group of identical sisters, and shouts that “circus freak” is a complement.  Mai posits that Ty Lee has so many boyfriends because she didn’t get enough attention growing up, and Ty Lee rounds on her, cuttingly telling her that even though she was an only child until her parents had Tom Tom, but even so, her aura is a dingy gray, an asking her what her excuse is.

After some back and forth with and Zuko, in which he accuses her of being apathetic and unwilling to stand up for herself when insulted, Mai says that she’s sorry she can’t be as high strung and crazy as the rest of them, an says she won’t give a teary confession about her sad childhood, which wasn’t so bad really, as long as she “behaved, and sat still,and didn’t speak unless spoken to.” Azula tells her she had a controlling mother and shut down because of it.

The scene continues with Zuko confronting the fact that his anger is self directed, and Azula quietly insisting that she doesn’t care that her mother thought she was a monster, but the part of this conversation I want to focus on are Mai and Ty Lee’s confessions.  It’s deep stuff, giving us all kinds of great insights into why Mai and Ty Lee are the way they are.

Except none of it is true.

Well, not quite.  Ty Lee probably did feel squashed and ignored in her family, treated as if she had no real individual identity, and I have already written about how neglectful Mai’s parents are shown to be of Tom Tom and how that meshes with Mai’s statements in “The Beach” [Link] [Link].  But as I also recently wrote about, we are actually shown in other episodes that the origin of Mai and Ty Lee’s outer shells is the abuse Azula puts them through [Link].

So what do we learn here about Mai and Ty Lee?  Quite a bit.  The first thing we learn is that Mai and Ty Lee are willing and able, and probably actually fairly practiced at, pretending vulnerability for Azula’s benefit without actually giving it.  This shows that both girls know that they can’t just wall themselves off, Azula will try to pry them open.  She wants their vulnerability.  It allows her to control them, and she only feels safe when she feels she knows all of their secrets and can control them absolutely.  In fact, the situations Mai and Ty Lee describe with her family probably was part of what drew Azula to them.  Their desperate need for attention gave her a way in.

But both girls also know that they absolutely cannot under any circumstances actually be emotionally honest with Azula and show her their real vulnerabilities or she will use them against them, so shows of vulnerability.  It’s also probable neither girl could accuse Azula directly without risking her wrath.

The other thing it tells us is that neither girl called the other one on what they were doing.  They both must have known what the other was doing, and they each tacitly agreed to keep the other’s secret from Azula.  Even when both girls were insulting each other and redirecting attention, especially Azula’s attention, away from themselves and onto each other, they kept up each other’s pretense and protected each other’s real vulnerabilities.  This, combined with the covert looks they share throughout the series behind Azula’s back helps show the strength of their bond, in spite of Azula’s corrosive influence, and her demonstrated willingness to use the girls to hurt each other.  This puts into beautiful context Ty Lee’s willingness to stand up to Azula for Mai at the Boiling Rock.

This conversation sets up the Boiling Rock in another important way.  It shows that Mai and Ty Lee have secrets they keep from Azula and her control over them is less total than she thinks it is.  It is the same skill at hiding their true thoughts and feelings that they display here and also the same courage and sense of self that allows them to lie to their abuser that will eventually enable them to stand up to that same abuser.

The last thing we learn is that Azula’s other victim, Zuko, isn’t in on their secret.  He plainly has no idea what’s going on underneath their act, and his display of emotional vulnerability was absolutely genuine.  This makes him dangerous to both girls, because he could share anything they say to him with his sister without realizing he shouldn’t.  Yet after this, Mai makes an effort to be more demonstrative with Zuko, which is a gesture of profound trust and true vulnerability.


Awkward Anime Episode 6.2 : Wolf Children - The fading innocence of Ame

Mamoru Hosoda’s 2012 creation has perfected something many modern directors try and fail at: Character Development. Engaging an audience to the point where they feel like they are in the mind of a character; frustration is felt when a mistake is made, satisfaction once the desired direction is taken. In Wolf Children, two of the characters have defined traits, following the path that they paved for themselves as children, yet on the outside, a young child watches and doesn’t speak. The audience is silent when he is. What is he thinking? Why is he doing this? Who do you want to be? That character always stands out to my mind with intrigue, frustration and acceptance filling my head throughout the film. Ame, the child who took it upon himself to grow up without letting anyone know.

Ame the child is easy to define, just like the rest of us, a shy, curious boy afraid of what is out there. Hosoda throughout his major works enjoys producing characters with defined personalities, where the start point creates a straight line to the end point. Before 2012 though, he had never focused on siblings before. The animator turned director decided upon the start of production that a brother and sister would be used. Yuki, the scrappy child turned mature strong teenage girl… And Ame, the erm… Interesting one.

Frustration is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Ame, is that fair of me though? I think the reason so many of us feel frustrated when he creates worrisome times for his Mother is due to one simple fact: We grow with Hana as time passes.

The movie is featured on the strength and persistence of young Hana, setting an image for her kids where they can be wild and free but also at the same time live diligently as humans. Now this raises the question, was Hana right in doing this? Giving the children a small amount of freedom every now and again, where the first view that both Yuki and Ame’s eyes lay on as they walk out the house could plant that seed of freedom in their minds?

Hana from the first moment she gave birth to her children, wanted to give a life of freedom where they can let their wild sides out without judgment and as time passes she would understand whatever path they would take. But as we all know, motherly love is nothing short of unbelievably hard to let go and we see that bond between Ame and his parent become more and more difficult to keep glued together.

“the strongest bond on earth is that between a mother and children”

Ame’s transformation from a shy, attentive young boy to a curious silent wolf happened rather quickly in my opinion, but as I rewatch the movie it’s clear to me that his maturity is justified. It all came down to that one scene. The 10-15 minutes where the whole family finally felt what true freedom feels like. “I wasn’t scared. I felt like I could do anything”

“After that moment, Ame seemed like a totally different person”

Snow covers the vast fields and mountains surrounding their home. The door slides open to the family of three gawking in amazement. Here is the first time I see Ame, the Ame that he never showed us. Hosoda wanted to create a character who isn’t defined which is something that is difficult to perfect. Yuki, as she sees the white canvas, her character shines. She jumps out and just frolics in the snow to her delight.

Ame on the other hand… We see a young boy trudging along trying his utmost best to not trip and fall. The young boy is still yet to show his wild side, the freedom that we all as viewers know he craves, shown from the curiosity he has with the prejudice against wolves. He falls. Then something truly remarkable happened. His mother jumped in and hugged both of her children, and then we hear laughter. Ame, the shy little boy is laughing his heart out. What changed in those few seconds from trudging to laughing uncontrollably? I cannot look past Hana. It’s almost as if the mother gave him her approval, as if to say “It’s okay, it’ll be okay” the same words that we hear countless times up to this point. He needed his mum’s guarantee that it is safe to come out and play.

1. The wolves come out to play. Ame and Yuki are let loose, and for the first time in this movie, we see the timid Ame wild and free.

2. Ame and Yuki run down the snow covered fields in parallel fashion, as Hana tumbles down with a smile in her face. This right here, is my favourite scene in the entire film. Ame and Yuki, taking different paths but ultimately ending up in the same place, crossing each other, meeting in the middle. Hana chasing after Ame and Yuki, tumbles, rolls down…but with smiles and laughter. The biggest grins I have seen on her face. Ame is free. Yuki is free. She is grateful and proud that her children are able to let go of the world and be themselves.

3. Ame’s eyes cross a kingfisher bird, and then and there we see a quick movement. Leaping and catching the prey in his mouth, witnessing this weak timid toddler be so vicious in movement, biting down looking for the kill. Though, just as in the snow, he trips and falls. He calls for his mother as he is taken down the stream by the water in what seems like his final moments.

Ame: “Rain” born on a rainy day, and leaves his mother on a rainy day at the conclusion of the animated feature. Crying constantly as child who would always be cradling his mum asking for care. Silent, viewing life from a distance as a young teen where he stands and listens. The sounds of the forest. The wild life. No smile. Just a touch of acceptance is felt by Ame, the Wolf. Hana, is proud and realises his Son’s place in the world is where he wants it to be, not hers. She gave them the taste of freedom while trying her best to direct her children to a peaceful, human life. There is no right and wrong here. There is only life. Complications arise, and when they cannot be repaired, he has to leave. The howl at the end, we all know what he meant by that. Howling for his mother. The howl that reiterated the same words he heard his entire childhood:“It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay”

Check out previous Eps:

Ep6.1 - Wolf Children Poster

Ep5 - My Neighbor Totoro

Ep4 - Summer Wars

Ep 3 - Spirited Away

Ep2 - Koe no Katachi

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