After seeing the previews for “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” I knew I had to see the movie. Sure, the soundtrack, the images and the story attracted me. But, admittedly, my primary reason for going was to watch the actress who played the little girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis). Like many authors, I often imagine the actors who in my wildest dreams, will play my characters. Ms. Wallis is Jubie Lee Franklin personified.
But beyond seeing the actress, there were two serendipitous moments in the movie. First, it may help for me to give a brief synopsis of the movie:
Hushpuppy is a six-year old girl who lives with her father in a poor Delta community. She is a motherless child, and because of the method in which the movie was filmed, I was never sure if her mother died or left her. It is in the point of view of Hushpuppy, even narrated by her in parts. So, throughout the movie, the lines of fantasy and reality are blurred.
Hushpuppy is afraid of a hurricane and the damage and disruption it causes their lives. But most of all, she is afraid of her father’s illness and impending death. This fear is brought to life by huge, warthog-like creatures that appear throughout the movie, as if hunting for the little girl.
At first, the living conditions–drinking, poverty, lack of education and poor parenting–were off-putting and difficult to watch. So much so that at one point, I asked myself why I came to see the movie. But when I realized the sense of community, of everyone pulling together after the disaster and the “village” philosophy of caring for a child, I considered that “our way,” or perhaps more appropriately, “my way” of living, may not be the only “right” way.
If we believe there’s a better way, do we have the right to force change?
Admittedly, I haven’t answered that question to myself yet. But I thought it was interesting to consider.
SPOILER ALERT! At the end of the movie, three of the giant creatures have finally tracked Hushpuppy down. When she feels them breathing down her neck, she turns to face them and sees that they are not as frightening as she’d once believed. But it was what she said to the beasts–her fears–that became an “aha” moment for me.
Lately, I have become particularly aware of certain things I have been afraid of for many years, perhaps for most of my life. Conquering these fears has been a work-in-progress for me.
When I heard little Hushpuppy’s words to the beasts, I saw a way of turning those fears around:
“You’re my friend, kind of.”
I couldn’t help smiling when I thought, “That’s just the kind of thing Jubie would say.”
The following excerpt takes place as Sachi and Jubie are planning a surprise Thanksgiving gathering that will bring their families together for the first time.
“Sweet potato pie?” Sachi asked Jubie. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“Tastes like pumpkin. ‘Spect you’ll like it, ‘specially the way Auntie Bess adds extra nutmeg. Know what else?” Excitement sparkled from Jubie’s eyes. “I’m gonna ask her to bring you some of her special-recipe pickled okra. Betcha never had that neither.”
Sachi crinkled her nose. “Pickled okra? What in the world is pickled okra? It doesn’t sound very tasty, but I guess I’ll give it a try. Hey! Bet you’ve never had rice for Thanksgiving. That will be my contribution—I’ll make a pot of rice. Deal?”
Jubie held her hand out to shake on it. “Deal.”
The sun began to set, and a cold wind rattled red and gold leaves that still clung to their branches. Some whirled down to rest with those scattered on the ground.
Sachi stood and shut her eyes. She began to twirl, round and round. Round and round. Remembering.
Papa, see? I dance like the leaves.
As long as her eyes remained closed, she could almost make herself believe Papa was alive right next to her, watching and smiling.
“It’s kinda like snow falling, ain’t it?” Jubie asked, twirling beside her.
Jubie’s words broke the spell.
When Sachi opened her eyes, Papa disappeared. She collapsed to the ground and stared up at the falling leaves. “Snow? I wouldn’t know. I’ve only seen pictures.”
Jubie stopped spinning, too, and sat beside her, breathless. “Huh? You ain’t never seen snow? I thought ever body seen snow.”
“Nope. It doesn’t snow where I lived in California.”
“You in for a treat then. Nothing prettier than a blanket of fresh snow. Why, it might even dress up that ugly, old camp you live in.”