Wonder Woman and Everything Everything Say Sorry Mom

I have seen both the movies Everything Everything and Wonder Woman back to back and I have never seen two movies so different and so similar back back. Everything Everything is the story of an 18 year old girl who is believed to have a serous sickness which prevents her from ever leaving her home. After meeting and falling in love with the boy next door, her small, safe world is forever changed (more spoilers as this article continues). It is a teen romance movie where the characters wear trendy clothes easily found in H&M and the soundtrack can be found in any Top 40 playlist with various up and coming pop and eclectic artists. Wonder Woman is based off of DC Comic’s female superhero, Diana, an Amazonian princess who meets a man that leads her on her own adventure (see the similarities yet?). Compared to Everything Everything, the movie Wonder Woman was an action packed movie where most of the music was mixed with roaring sound effects of explosions, bombs and gun shots. In addition, I don’t think Diana’s outfit can easily be found in your nearest mall. There are a lot of spoilers in this piece but the messages are spot on.

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Despite these movies seeming to target different audiences with different tastes, the messages and story lines almost mirror each other. Early in both movies, a handsome man comes infiltrates these women’s “safe spaces” forcing these women to accept the truth about themselves. In Everything Everything, the star’s safe space is her home. This home was a beautiful California home. The rooms were impeccably clean. The furniture and appliances were modern and state of the art. The home was specifically designed to let nothing of any risk even so much as touch the well off and sheltered girl. In one of the first scenes, the neighbor tries to give the mother a bunt cake which she rudely refuses. The daughter shouts from her room, “I’d rather try a bunt cake.” The mother replies, “It’s dry.” From my own experiences, I’ve had plenty of bunt cake conversations with my own mother, as I will assume other mothers and daughters have had. Many times, my mother looks at me like I am the most fragile thing to ever exist and make the decision to shelter me from dangers with the power of ignorance. Wonder Woman was no different. The first scenes of the movie start with Wonder Woman as a little, the only little girl in her world, her sheltered safe paradise. Like Everything Everything, Diana’s world was safe, there hasn’t been war or outside threats to this world hidden behind magic and fog for years. Like Everything Everything, Diana was seen as the most delicate and fragile thing to exist. For that, her mother, the queen, hides Diana’s true identity. As a woman, I find ignorance used as a weapon more often as I get older. There is a global fear and misunderstanding of women with knowledge not only about the world through books and education but about themselves. In both movies, the mothers keep a massive secret from their daughters that have kept them sheltered or better yet captive in these safe spaces.

I won’t delve too much into the hunky male superhero that, through fate, comes into these women’s lives. As a single woman all I can wonder is “Where the hell is mine?” But I will skip to the end. I forewarn, there are serious spoiler alerts so I would suggest saving this article once you have seen both movies or have no intention of seeing either movie. Both characters discover the strength within them once they have left their homes. It was not until the main character in Everything Everything, Madeline, returned from her life threatening adventure in Hawaii that she discovers she was never sick (I warned you reader). It was not until Diana realized that the evil she thought she was meant to defeat was actually the complex concept of human free will and inborn evil rather than some singular evil bad guy  that she discovered she was a goddess herself. Not only is she a fictional goddess but in many ways she is a feminine depiction of a God many people are familiar with. The theme of the movie is that humans, in their tendencies towards evil, don’t deserve her power and mercy yet she gives it anyway (sound familiar Christians?). Steve, played by the ‘he can get it any day’ Chris Pine, also thanks her for saving him by bringing him out of the water (sound familiar ladies). Diana’s strength is incomparable yet her mother hid it from her all her life.

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I have lived in a safe space my whole life. For years, I was a sheltered child whose media intake consisted primarily of Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. I had many toys and never worried about physical harm or hunger. I had a lovely safe space. Many women and girls like me have or had those spaces. Maybe they were not paradises, but they were the safe because they were familiar. Women are often pressured to stay within the family, not always for their own good but for the benefits of their family members. Even with good intentions, sexism often pressures women more than men to take less risks, desire less adventure, and require less self awareness of one’s own strength in order for these women to feel more obligated to watch over the family. However, no one, man or woman, can stay within their familiar zones and expect to really discover who they are and their true potential. Sometimes it takes the push of someone who is different to take us out of those comfort zones.

My final point refers to the title, the strain of growth on a mother daughter relationship. In both movies, neither women return home to their mothers who nurtured and cared for them all their lives. Back home, they did not exist. Madeline mentions in Everything Everything that only a small handful of people knew she even exists. She was her mother’s. In a similar fashion, no human knew Diana’s world existed. In her world she was simply the princess. In Everything Everything, Madeline says “You’re not alive if no one knows you exist.” In different words but with the same message Diana says to her mother before she leaves home, “Who would I be if I stayed?” As a millennial, I’ve learned a lot of the things my older relatives have taught me were wrong. That is the hardest thing to realize because you know there is usually little to no malice in what they teach you. However, you know what they say is not always what’s best for you. In similar tone with love and persistence both characters in summary say, “Sorry mom, but I have to be myself.” As Gen Y people we have to get out and discover the truth about the world around us and Gen Xers need to trust us with the truth.

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These story lines aren’t new. Disney has used these stories in movies like the animated Rapunzel or Brave. However there is something about these two movies that make the similar message different. Maybe it’s the use of actual people. Madeline, played by the girl who played Rue in Hunger Games, can be any black girl, you meet. As a black woman mentioning her race is relevant because it is nice to see people that look like me on the big screen. However, Madeline can be any girl who knew they were in a safe space but knew they didn’t belong there. Wonder Woman was edgier than the Disney princesses. At times she was stone faced and cut and dry with her responses. She did not flirt or sing around those who doubted her to make a point. She looked her doubters in the eye and said, “Watch me”.  There was something more real about these ladies discovering their physical strengths, history and sexuality.  Regardless, both movies make me proud to be a part of a generation where slowly women, people of color, people of foreign descent are in control and making a difference in the world.

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Jesse’s car

“Jesse,” Sage asks, “I didn’t know you were legit back then. I mean you got a full ride at Howard and you got money after Howard for running?” Jesse looked unimpressed. “Yea but that’s irrelevant now. I got this essay contest I’m working on. Then I got to call people about this anti drug campaign for next week. I’m working on the kids that need me today not the kid I was back then.” She remembered the old photo she found of a young Jesse surrounded by a group of men. They  were all mentors of his. Sage thought about the men in her life and wondered what her mentor photo would look like. On one side would be DeWayne and Ronald. On other her Pastor and my Uncle. Although fantasy, beside me, secretly holding my hand or his hand on her waist would be the one who had her heart. Of course Jesse himself would be in that photo as well.

In his Jesse’s trunk were other awards. one included an award from Broward County human rights in Florida dating back to the early 90s. Sage always believed he was a Jersey kid through and through. Apparently he was but at some point ended up in Florida until people from Jersey called him back in the 90s to help a city that didn’t even have a youth track team at the time. Another award was an award for Outstanding Father in 98 by some minority business women organization. “Jesse how many daughters do you have to get this from a whole organization?” Sage asked. “None. I got one son.” Jesse replied as he continued to take small sips while he digs through his car for this watch. He continued, “I just loved those girls like my own. Some of them were closer to me than they were to their own birth dads. I remember that.” He raised his head from the glove compartment and turned his head toward to me look at the award in my hand. He continued, ” You would think the warden, deacon or even the pastor I was up against would get the award over me. But nope. It was such an honor. But what is that?” On the back of the award was a stained napkin with writing on it deliberately taped to it. Sage noticed the napkin earlier but did not want to know what it was or where it came from after seeing the mysterious stains. He read the note allowed. “God, children, you all. . . Oh right! I didn’t even expect to win this award but when I did I wrote something down fast as ever before I got up to receive it.” He laughed a little and tried to tape the napkin back onto the back of the award. Sage asked, “So were these girls on your team as well?” He shook his head, “It wasn’t track related which made it better. I love track but I love being more than just track as well.” There were some other awards lying in his car including a spotlight award he said he received while at high school nationals in 2015 and a plaque with the words “It is of great honor for the Martin Luther King Parade Committee to present Jesse Jackson with the first ever African Heritage Community Service Award. June 22 2017”.

In the backseat, between the left seat and the window was a photo of what Jesse and about 10 other kids in Gladiator track sweats. The photo could be anywhere between late 90s and early 2000s. In the photo was a tall skinny runner who looked like he was in college. He looked oddly familiar. “Jesse,” Sage turned the photo towards him, “Who the tall one?” He squinted his eyes towards the photo, “Oh you see that bus across the street?” Sage stepped out of the car to look. It was a typical large bus with some words across side in bright colors that was hard to read. I took another step into the car, one knee on the back passenger seat, the other foot still on the sidewalk. “Yea.” She replied. “Well the coach for that school is the kid. Boy that kid was something. Went from selling on the street to the Olympics. One of my best stories. In fact, that group was amazing. This kid next to the tall one, she wanted to a dancer. I had to race her to get her to train on the team. My old 800 runner ass dusted her. And that one, won meet of champs indoor her freshman, sophomore and junior year. Would’ve gotten her to win her senior year but her high school coach didn’t want her training with me no more. I tell you some of these school coaches are something else man. That one went to school in college running 60 but senior she was still running 61. I had her train with me twice a week indoor to 59 and by outdoor conference she ran 55. Twice a week. And that small skinny girl. You reminded me of her when you ran in high school. Had her go from 2:30 freshman year to 2:20. By senior ear she was running 2:08 and got a full ride to Howard. That boy on the left, he was from Nigeria.” Sage looked at the short, dark skin boy sitting on the ground. Jesse continued, “He loved wearing that Gladiator rain or shine.” Sage was surprised to see he was actually talking about the light brown skin boy standing behind the boy on the ground. Some stereotypes are hard to shake. Jesse laughed, “You know he recently told me its been 17 years that he’s known me. But hey after 32 years of coaching yea I would know these kids for a long time. He was like you too. Shy thing. So shy he was scared of New York. I mean I don’t blame him. When you only know New York from what you see on TV its no wonder his parents thought he was going to get shot there. Now he lives in New York.”

Sage put the photo down and continued searching for the watch. On the floor was a Penn Relays book with a bookmark in it. Curious and nosy, Sage opened the book to the records section. Under the Olympic Development relays in 2004 were  the winners. For both men and women 4×1 and 4×4, Gladiator Track Club swept all the relays that year. Next to the book was a St. Peters’ University sweatshirt. She knew the story with St. Peter’s. Jesse only worked there for a season, maybe two. She remember the stories of how he paid his assistant out of pocket to be with the team. She remembered how they underpaid Jesse. She remembered the Facebook posts around that same time with posts about poison chemotherapy and vomiting. Despite rushing from chemo to practice and throwing up in practice, she remembered posts about the most number of boys from the school qualifying for IC4A in school history. It was honestly a shame thing didn’t work out because when he left, the team was never the same. Only a handful graduated and only two qualified for IC4A. Next to the  sweatshirt were medical papers for a removal surgery scheduled in two days. What the hell, Jesse.

Jesse.” Sage asked with more force. “Are you getting surgery in two days?” He paused and looked at me. “Yea.” She said, “Should you be here?” He shrugged, “Maybe.” She asked, “Why would you do be here?” He spoke with confidence as he handed her an empty bottle of vodka. Which was strange because everyone knew he didn’t drink. Scattered on the passenger seat were multicolored pills. He said, “Remember all those posts about just tired of being sick, tired of struggling?” Sage did. He continued, “Well, I was tired enough to want it to be over. If it wasn’t for a close friend of mine well. . . it was hard. I mean these legs were what got me to where I was and it was and still his hard to move sometimes. And I’ve seen people like me waste away and I didn’t want to be remembered that way. I already had the bottle finished done when my boy called. Told me, ‘You ain’t goin nowhere. God is not done with you. Somewhere out there is an unborn child who need your mentoring the same way you helped my son.’ He wouldn’t let me get out and that’s what I needed. A good ole tongue lashing.” Sage didn’t know how to respond. She just stared at the bottle with the remnant smell of strong alcohol slowly reaching her nose and counted the number of pills scattered on the passenger seat.

She imagined what her life would have been without Jesse in it. There’d be no UConn, no Winston. There may not have ever been a track life after Villanova. After Villanova, many people forgot about her because she wasn’t the big name she was back in New Jersey, except for Jesse. She never gave up because Jesse never gave up on her. Like all those athletes in the photo, he made her who was already good better. If someone of his status could believe in her, she had no reason not believe in herself. He invested his name on her at times, even when it cost him. She remembered the day the Villanova coach stopped working with Jesse because he helped her transfer. For moments like that, she felt motivated to represent him well.

She looked on the ground of the backseat of the car one last time. Under the St. Peter’s sweatshirt and about three or four of those pills was his watch. Funny, Sage thought, sometimes what you are looking for can be hidden under your worst experiences. “Hey, look what I found,” Sage said as she picked up the watch. She also picked up the pills around and under the sweatshirt. She glanced around the room for others but that was all. Jesse saw the pills in her hand. “Hand them over. I’m throwing them out. Baby girl, Jesse ain’t going nowhere.” She smiled and handed them too him. He picked the remaining pills in the passenger seat and wrapped them in a sheet of paper. he took the watch from Sage and the two stepped out of the car. He locked the car and walked with Sage back to the indoor track. The Boston air was cold, but Sage didn’t mind. Sometimes the small, temporary inconveniences don’t matter when you’re with the people who matter most.IN the entrance of the facility was a garbage can where he threw away the vodka bottle and balled up paper. “Aight girl,” Jesse took the watch from me. “You got anymore races?”, he asked. Sage replied, “No, I think coach a little mad at me from the open 800.” Jesse began to walk in the opposite direction once the two made it inside, “Aight well do well.” Sage began walking towards the area where the team sat. “Thanks Jesse.”

Witches Competition

I am an avid Harry Potter fan. As a boring, middle class girl with overprotective family, the idea of escaping to this magical world was wonderful. At twenty years old, I went to the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios, and I felt like my life was complete. My constant need to escape the loneliness of reality led me to often blend fiction and reality. For years as a little child I believed the cartoons on the television  were real and I only needed to find a way to access the world through the television to be with Jimmy Neutron and others.

I always wanted to be a witch. My dreams reflected that. This dream is one of the few storylines I remember. I was in my backyard in New Jersey with some girls from my high school. My house was deceptively small, and my yard was actually small. I was learning magic for the first time, trying to levitate something with my wand. Fast forward to the end of the dream, I was standing on a diving board high, at least two stories high, above this pool in this dark natatorium with dark wood paneled walls.. The pool was so blue, the water glowed. This woman reminiscent of the flamboyant host in The Hunger Games movie series explains the task. I needed to jump into this pool to prove my magical capabilities. In my attempt to jump, I end up leaping to the wooded walls and running along the walls on some Spiderman shit. On this journey I ran past some African masks hung on the walls. Then I woke up. I don’t know if I actually made it to the pool.

I was about thirteen or fourteen years old but still believed in magic. I believed in the experience of learning. I believed in taking small leaps of faith and excepting where I landed. Like my dream, like most people, magic started at home. It starts on our blocks, in our backyards, or in our basements. I loved Harry Potter because the books always started in the mundane muggle world where some random magical moment unleashes an entire magical adventure. I loved the books because there was a character for everyone. We are or have a Harry Potter, Malfoy, Hermoine, Ron and Voldemort in our lives. We definitely all have a Dumbledore, some caring wise person who is a positive influence, in our lives. Dumbledore is a family member that always throws bible verses at us in every family function. Dumbledore is the teacher who saw a special talent in us and noted it in club recommendations, encouraging comments on coursework or blatant compliments. Dumbledore is a pastor or even a friend.

Today, I believe less in magic but more in this inexplicable human capability to exceed expectations. I believe in this natural human inclination to never be stagnant, either physically, emotionally or intellectually. Think beyond your backyard and take leaps.