Fleeting thoughts: Bullies

c3422ad3-6ef0-4325-83c2-14d54f1b40fdMy mind’s a time machine at night. With only darkness as my company, I revisit moments of my past that I think about only when I don’t have anything else to think about.

Fourth grade. Waterbury, Connecticut. I’m back at my old school. Construction paper animal cutouts pinned to the hallway walls. Stinky multi-color cubbies. Cafeteria tables stained with grape juice spills. I’m in the bathroom, peeing, when I hear a door slam against a wall, the squelch of my usual tormentors’ Mary Janes as they find their way towards me.

The lights are off. Loney. Loney. Loney, they sing. I quietly rip off a tissue of toilet paper, wipe myself, and wait. They begin banging on my door, a steady rhythm that escalates to rabid chaotic beats. I know I am safe in the locked stall, but my mind sees a different scenario: the door falling down, me facing death while sitting on the toilet with my pants down. But, eventually, when they don’t hear me cry, the girls grow tired, and they file out, leaving me alone, breathing heavily, still in the dark.

I return to the class and sit down, my legs trembling. I sit across from the pack leader who often liked to kick me underneath our desks. I don’t look at her face, but I watch her hands, folded innocently on the desk. One hand goes up when the teacher calls on her.

I am fascinated by bullies. What leads them to hurt others. Even today, when I know how to stand up for myself, I tell myself to feel sorry for them, because it’s most likely that they act in such a way because they have witnessed it, or they have had it happen to them. Sometimes, bullies just want to fit in, too.

Then again, it would make them a better (stronger) person if they resisted such a temptation.

Back then, I couldn’t stop my bullies by myself. I was quiet and friendless, and often wanted to melt into the walls whenever I was around people. Depending on the company today, I still have the feeling. So I didn’t say anything back then, not until I was almost attacked at recess, not until my sister stepped in to confront my most-feared bully, whose name escapes me now. Next, it was the principal’s office. Then our mom had to come in. The next day, I talked to my teacher after that, just the two of us in the classroom. She knelt down beside me, asked why I didn’t come to her. As I stared at her lipstick-stained teeth, I lied and said I did. I did tell her. But she just shook her head, because she knew that all of this could have been prevented.

It sounds a bit odd, but I credit my love for books and writing to these days of torment. I turned to books to find refuge. In these books, I delved into the minds of characters good and bad. I tried to find reason in these imaginary characters. Most of all, from these times of being a victim, I understood, and still understand, that actions speak the loudest. Their impact can stay with you long after.

A different kind of princess

The world of Disney is unveiling a princess who might just be able to kick other princesses’ royal behinds.

Disney Pixar released yet another extended theatrical trailer for “Brave” yesterday. The movie will join the likes of “Toy Story,” “Up” and “Wall-E.”

Princess Merida, the protagonist of the feature film, lives in the rustic Highlands of Scotland, which is shadowed in mystery and run by tradition. Her father, King Fergus, rules the land. Princess Merida has unruly red hair that could rival the bushiness of book version Hermione Granger’s hair, a rough Scottish brogue and triplet brothers who are more than willing to participate in her fun and games.

Based on the trailer, there’s a tradition that says the princess must marry a Scottish lord. Yet Princess Merida is strong and independent and would rather “stay single and let [her] hair flow in the wind as [she rides] through the land, flying arrows into the sunset,” according to her father.

Ultimately, her staunch resistance to the court’s norms causes disappointment with her parents and talk from the kingdom’s people. Princess Merida wants her fate to change and seeks a witch who can do that for her. But this is where her plans go wrong, and she must prove her courage in righting them.

Brave diverges from the typical Disney kingdom-set feature films because of the protagonist’s free-spirited, fiery and independent and the presence of a motherly figure in the film.

Often in Disney movies with a royal theme, the (step)mother of the princess is either horribly cruel or neglectfully absent.

Look at the examples: Snow White’s mother tries to kill her with a poisoned apple. Cinderella’s stepmother treats her like a slave and prizes her dumb and dumber daughters. Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora grows up in a cottage, away from her mother for her own protection. As evident from the trailer, Merida’s mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson), tries to secure the best future for her headstrong daughter.

Well, Princess Merida makes it hard for the Queen to plan her future.

The suitors that Princess Merida must choose from are painfully unappealing. One scene has them displaying their ‘skills’ in archery. The next scene shows Princess Merida beating all three and the incredulous reaction of the crowd. That’s right, Katniss. You might have a rival in Princess Merida.

Most of the Disney princess need to be saved – from their broken homes, other nasty suitors and assassination attempts from vain and vicious queens. If it weren’t for Prince Charming, Cinderella would still be slaving for her stepmother. Without Aladdin, Princess Jasmine would have had to marry the lecherous Jafar. If Sleeping Beauty didn’t get that kiss, she’d still be in La-La land.

Princess Merida, the heroine in "Brave."

To make up for the ‘trials and tribulations’ that these princesses have to go through and also to appease the audience, moviemakers often allow the princesses to have happy endings: uncharacteristically good looking, and sensitive husbands who claim they will protect their princesses for life.

Well, this is the day and age where the U.S. Census in 2007 says the number of divorced or widowed people in America is 36 million. Men who attempt to charm women with such lies would probably earn a scoff rather than a swoon.

I’m not trying to say that romance is not a good thing, but if a kid watches one of these Disney movies religiously, he or she might have some highly unrealistic expectations for his or her own future romances. Princess Merida shows that marriage is not the first thing on her list – and that’s perfectly fine.

The adventure in the feature film also sets it apart. Arrows, horseriding, swordfighting are all expected to be part of the plot. In one scene of the trailer, Princess Merida jumps into the air, trying to escape the grasp of some terrifying creature with claws that seriously need to be clipped. But then the screen fades away, holding the audience in suspense.

“Brave” won’t be released until June 22, but for the time being, the parents will be glad to know that there’s a new female role model for their daughters at the end of the wait.