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The Roar That Clicks

Random Musings of A Naive Idealist

Surprise: I’m Not Really 16!

3.45 p.m., 17 December, 2000.

At the time of writing this, I am 41 minutes, 2 hours, 4 days, 3 weeks, 8 months and 16 years old. That is what simple arithmetic dictates, but it isn’t how old I feel.

There are certain expectations of teenagers: behaviourally, emotionally, even down to the way we dress. There are some set stereotypes, and some limits as to how much you can defy those notions. What if you go too far? What if you step onto uncharted territory and you have no idea what that means? What then?

Scratching your head? Starting to wonder? Yeah, that confusion is perennial for me. My personal brand of existential crisis relates to my mental age. Ta-da! (It’s a bit sad, yeah, I know.)

I have never fit in. I don’t make friends easily. I am (incredibly, enormously and perpetually) awkward. I write that off as misanthropy but deep down (there isn’t much depth to me, this is a dramatic use of the word) I know that it’s me cursing myself for not sharing in their interests, it is a way for me to shield myself from an even more severe form of low self-esteem (*cue uncomfortable laughter*). As a 6-year-old, I’d feel too old so I’d tell myself, “wait for them to grow up a little,” but now that I’m 16, I’m still not quite comfortable with people my age. A majority of two decades of not finding the right people has made me unnecessarily shy and weird and just plain awful in social situations. (As I’m writing this right now, I’m sighing with brimming awkwardness because baring my soul isn’t as easy as I anticipated.) Not living up to those aforementioned standards has really made me question myself … but what if it isn’t really me that’s to blame?

I mentioned the word ‘stereotype’, right? Where did I pick that up from? My parents, my friends, school? Sure, but where did they pick it up from? Every line leads us right back to the media. These ideals, the word of God – let me tell you – aren’t actually words of God. They had once been goofy ideas that were probably introduced by some white guy sitting behind a typewriter. Or maybe not… my brain isn’t the most reliable source of information, but let’s let that one slide for now. My point is that it was, once upon a time, a story, a creative effort that probably pleased a large audience and was thus accepted. And it’s still pestering us; it’s still pestering me. My problem has never been how I am (yes, there are annoying sides to me but if we don’t ignore those right now, we’ll be here for several 1000 more words), it’s how I fit in to the world around me. Said world is manmade. I have an issue with these manmade, everlasting constructs.

According to Todorov, once a conflict has been recognised, the process towards a resolution begins. What is my resolution? Acceptance of the fact that some stupid idea has made me feel terrible for my whole life up to this point? No. Borrowing some optimism from my sparse source of it, I would like to bring about a revolution! Well, at least ignite the embers, if nothing more. So, go forth, reader. Go ahead with this newfound awareness of how hard some people might have it, and if you feel like someone needs to hear this, speak up.

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Healing

“Alone. Misunderstood. Forgotten.”

Etched across the mortar
each stroke bolder than that act of vandalism
the artist screams out her frustration
to the world, in hushed scratches of glass and brick.

With a fortitude that exudes monument
and a piece of a window that bleeds commitment,
the artist’s tools paint the newly erected wall
in a deep hue of melancholy.

All the while a girl of four watches,
watches quite quizzically
how a woman expresses her frustration,
watches until the last piece of white has been chipped off the wall.

A mind filled with naivety,
with hands gloved by innocence,
steps of such purpose are unexpected,
especially from such a young one.

Each breath echoing with a newfound magnitude,
the little girl, with no trepidation,
waves her tiny fingers once;
catches the attention of the broken artist and calls her closer.

Their eyes meet.
One pair is shimmering with a lifetime of hope,
the other shattered by the weight of disappointment.
The girl’s unhesitant hand touches the artist’s heart, they share a smile …

and all those words of power that hollowed out the wall now truly seem empty themselves.

A Cinematic ‘Wonder’

I never thought I would write a film review on this page, but here I am doing just that! Why? Well, because inspiration strikes when inspiration strikes, and today, it hasn’t just struck me, it has ‘lassoed’ me into an experience of epic proportions!

Do I sound too hyperbolic? Too excited? If so, stop reading because my exuberant disposition will only get stronger as the you read on (if you do).

*SPOILER ALERT* (I’m giving you a way off this site, take it, and don’t blame me later!)

The film, directed by Patty Jenkins, was everything a movie can be! Yes, there were some shortcomings, from tiny ones like how the lasso appeared after Ares had destroyed it to how predictable the ending was, but let’s celebrate this film instead of nitpicking every tiny detail.

First and definitely foremost, we need to talk about that walk across No Man’s Land. Showing Wonder Woman shielding herself from every flying bullet, that scene is possibly one of the most emotional sequences I have watched. For some strange reason, it just moved me to the point of tears. Perhaps, it was the synergy of sound and colour and expression that just intertwined so naturally. The use of close-up shots and wide shots in that scene connote to how personal each bullet was for Diana, the use of slow motion to create an effect of understanding one’s own power, the music which just made the scene work, and Gal Gadot’s acting that perfectly captured what the, unfortunately fictitious, superhero would have felt painted a picture of empowerment. Or, maybe, it spoke to me as a woman. It showed me the unflinching side each woman has, and the way that scene just exuded absolute resolution, was unexpectedly rousing.

But, what stronger emotion is there than love? It is such an important aspect of any origin story as it drives a hero … but I think it also played a very different role in this movie. With the theme of war, the juxtaposing presentation of love was connotative of the prevalence of an inherent predisposition towards hate, at that time. I say this because of how quickly both protagonists fell in love. Yes, it could be critiqued as being slightly forced into the short time the movie had, but what if it means something else? The characters fall in love within days of meeting each other and perhaps this duration highlights the fierce need for an intense emotion that elicits positivity. The war has drained so much of them, that they need something to replenish their barren souls. Then, the heartbreak. Oh, what a sorrowful and intense scene that was. From Diana’s realisation of Steve’s whereabouts to Steve’s hysteria, it was beautifully choreographed. Showing the rawness and the uncontrolled explosion of emotion, Diana’s final retaliation to Ares was possibly indicative of the conviction with which she held onto love. Why this is important is because of how it emphasises this idea of needing love to sustain oneself; even the loss of such a fresh love inflicted a deep, lasting wound, making the possession of love seem that much more cherished, and the situation that much more extreme.

Now, let’s discuss the woman who embodied the eponymous character. Gal Gadot presented this goddess amongst humans with every bit of grace, sincerity, and fortitude as her character was supposed to have. Showing both sides of the idealistic Diana Prince, Gadot was able to bring out a fragility unexpected from one who wields such power. Through her reactions to shattered fate and a crushed heart, Gadot was able to bring to life a sense of dire desperation and utter brokenness, giving this very quixotic superhero a much needed vulnerability. The naivety of the character, and Diana’s inability to understand human darkness, perhaps, awoke the child in me – the one unaware of hate, the one that questions the very fundamentals of war, the inquisitive moralist. The simplicity of the dialogue was a true testament to the writers as often dialogue is unnecessarily lengthy and overly nuanced; the use of an uncluttered lexis was able to truly suggest how elementary this refusal of brutality is! Being able to highlight such a message using a superhero movie is truly a commendable feat for a director to achieve.

Talking about directors, then, PATTY JENKINS. First giving the world the masterpiece that is ‘Monster’, she really has delivered once more. Creating one of the most successful superhero films, she has broken the glass ceiling. Booming box office numbers, rightfully-obtained praises from critics, an enormous fan base, this movie has got it all and the backstage leading lady is the one to credit. Having been given a blockbuster like this to direct, Jenkins showed the world that a female director is more than capable of handling this genre and challenged every skeptic’s views towards a woman’s role in the directorial chair. In fact, seeing as this film fared far better than the disastrous ‘Batman vs. Superman’, maybe its time for Hollywood to take note and start recognising the talent they are so idiotically ignoring. This is what makes this movie even more important to me. I have had an aspiration of becoming a director for a while now and have been discouraged by the rarity of a female name in the opening credits. This has affected my parents’ perception of my success in this field and will probably have an effect on my upcoming decisions regarding eduction. However, this film has done it! I have never been more sure of or motivated towards my ambition, because if this is what the film industry can produce, I want to be the someone producing it. I want to make magic. No, it is not going to be easy, and yes, I might fail, but that’s okay. I’ll be resilient, I’ll be strong, I’ll embrace rejection, I just won’t tolerate not trying.

So, thank you, ‘Wonder Woman’, for the 137 minute-long film and lifelong impact.”

My FutureScope Talk on genre conventions in movies

The Ends Known To Us: why we stick to conventional storylines

 

The Delusive Pursuit

Darkness.

His silent footsteps beckoned as the pavement called for life. In the alley where terrors had once raged, where the fearful were kept off the streets, his spirit rejoiced for he had found isolation. The wind whispered in his ears, welcomed him home and swept past his forlorn figure, breathing back his broken pieces into his bones. Cloaked in colours of the night, he graced the streets of New City with his pained presence. His personal hopelessness ignited the roads with new purpose – his purpose.

In the dead of night when screams no longer echoed, the pungency of decay suffocated all those who dared to tread on those tortured tracks; yet he remained stoic. He walked and cast his mind back to a time when his home had felt alive, when the bustle of city life could not be contained by the sun’s disappearance, when his steps carried him to someone, not away from heartbreak. “How did we ignore our city’s fragility?” wondered he as he glanced over the crumbling buildings.

Suddenly, he saw her! She stood as she used to, with a smile that shone through his sorrows and he ran. Ran with purpose, by choice, and as he moved to touch her, he failed. The psychedelics had kicked in.

A month ago, due to a bombing, New City had broken, never to rebuild itself again. The night he’d heard about this, smithereens of his shattered soul expelled his anguish as tears. He had lost everything, everyone. The pain seemed to keep him awake and led his lifeless self to a land where he would imagine the ruins and the remains. There seemed to be a nightly attack on his conscience but unlike his city, he didn’t break just once. Lost and alone, he found peace in a tiny bottle which opened him up to nostalgia and temporarily transfigured his guilt into reminiscence. His salvation was in his mind, locked away until he popped the key into his mouth.

Tonight was different. Tonight he envisioned only one thing: her. Back in his city, his trance took the shape of his love and he followed her. As she skipped along the distorted streets, his feet – gullible like his heart – moved to her pace until his eyes rested upon their home. It stood tall with no cracks and she frolicked up the steps. With her warm hands, she opened up the house and inside he saw his son. He smiled. His family, alive again, called for his company. He climbed the staircase; he was so close to completing his journey to them. One step, second step, final step …

But no. The key’s effect faded and the door slammed shut!

Behind The Tainted Lens

Since the start of mass media broadcasting, women have been portrayed as either a manly humanoid devoid of her roaring and delicate femininty or as a flirtatious bimbo.

Men have butchered our whole gender by representing us as simple, uncomplicated characters. Perhaps, because their unsophisticated minds can’t fathom the complexity we wield or, maybe, they do recognise it and are so afraid of our power that they feel like, from a young age, girls must be kept unaware of that unlocked potential. Either way, I have a problem with it and you better believe that I’m going to do something about it.

Yes, we are attractive — but not only in the depthless physical way the media portrays us to be. In fact, we’re hardly ever one-dimensional enough for those stereotypical depictions to be justified by valid examples.

There are two major stock representations of women in the media. As I said before, there is the non-sexualised, intellectual who doesn’t seem to have any qualities apart from being shrewd, smart and great at what she does, and because these characteristics are commonly perceived as “manly” qualities, she is given stereotypically male attributes as well. For example, she will be made to seem emotionless, physically, she may opt for “manly” fashion choices such as pants and have a pixie cut. Though a woman is being represented as capable, she is also being stripped of her femininity and in doing so, the media is saying that you can’t really be a woman and have these skills. Now, the other major character is the characterless flirt. She wears the shortest of dresses and the highest of heals and there really isn’t much else to say about her. She fits the average man’s fantasy: she has sex appeal and she does not have any aspects about her that might cause him to feel emasculated. I’m not saying that these are the only two representations of women – of course they aren’t – they are just the two predominant ones.

These representations skewer the way young girls see themselves. They start feeling like they have to fit either archetype and therefore weave their personalities and interests around either of the two representations. Have you ever wondered how hundreds of millions of girls can have the same favourite colour? It’s because that’s what they’ve learnt to love. The media doesn’t allow us to form our own interests because we are always governed by some or the other ideal we see broadcasted. Perhaps, this is because if we model ourselves after someone else, we can feel better about the constant judgement we face by society.

“Snap!” goes the camera and a picture of the two models is documented. Talking about self-image and how it forms, let’s explore the fashion and modelling industry. The perfect body the media subtly pushes us (women) to aspire to isn’t really perfect. While the muscular male model stands strong and tall and healthy, the “glamorous” female model is probably living on a meagre diet and cigarettes to nourish the body companies want to showcase. The sheer difference between the health issues associated with either model is shocking! While both are susceptible to the vices common in the industry, the female model is much more prone to hormonal issues and infertility, eating disorders and addiction. Despite her efforts to look like the best version of herself, photos taken for modelling campaigns are always photoshopped to further distance the idea of a woman’s body from the beautiful reality of it. The size zero culture brings about a lot of issues in society regarding female mental health. While both male and female teenagers deal with body-image problems, girls are far more likely to develop body dysmorphia — an anxiety disorder where a person sees imaginary physical abnormalities on their bodies — anorexia or bulimia. These are all psychological disorders which severely diminish the quality of life of sufferers. The sex appeal aspect of the modelling industry is geared towards men’s idea of the ‘perfect woman’ and when broadcasted as a mass media text, it has extreme implications and impacts on self-esteem. We are all looking to better ourselves to fit with popular ideals and ideals of beauty are not an exception. When girls try and fail to model the unrealistic beauty standards designed by the media, these psychological problems arise.

Such tampering with the concept of beauty is not just dangerous but also degrading to the women who are featured in the press.

Pop culture is another cesspool of disgusting portraits of women. The most prominent example that comes to mind are hip-hop music videos. These videos often feature a group of women who seem to have nothing better to do than dance, drink and try to seduce the male rapper who’s always the only person to ever have their face focused on. The camera tends to focus primarily on the women’s “racks” or “butts”. The absence of a shot of their faces screams that they are just objects waiting for men to use and discard: no face, no emotions, just a body to satisfy a man. No wonder sexual harassment and rape are so widespread right now! If boys learn from the current culture to only see a woman as his play-toy, he will never be a man who knows how to respect a woman and her rights.

This feeds into the unspoken rule of the business world: a woman must be attractive to be successful. Leadership positions in major companies are still filled by men, the same men who watch(ed) these videos and the same men who lack the ability to be reverent towards a woman’s skills. Men have been taught by the media that surface beauty is a mark of quality and substance and therefore they have become conditioned to only associate a made-up face, slender body and expensive clothes with success or talent. And that affects us. We have to now mould ourselves to fit this dominant ideology, and we do. Even though our personalities shout for us to differ, we silence our inner voices and paint out faces with the single shade of style … and we walk in the shoes of a fantasy.

–––

P.S. Dear reader, if you are a man and feel like this disgusting thinking pattern — that I claim all men follow — is being generalised and you, as an individual, are not being represented fairly, I say, “Feel my pain.”

If Only It Existed

A palace of eternal learning,
In a world of my own;
Perched atop the clouds,
Painted passionately with ink and digits of black.

Where fear of not knowing govern my actions,
Thus I am patriotic to the pursuit of the know,
Where right and wrong are a line apart:
A line of logic, precisely marked.

Residents of here are me and my thoughts:
Thoughts I spend my days etching on the walls.
With every impact of my desperate hammer,
The chisel mines unlit caves of the undiscovered.

For someday I shall marvel at the glory of what I have learnt
And embody it as a flame:
A flame that exudes the warmth of awareness,
And disperses light onto regions of ignorance.

Till then I shall spend my nights, dreaming of the quest for more; A and till then
I shall spend my days, planning those quests to come.

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