Beasts of the Southern Wild: Parable Meets Reality

Paul Harvey

Your must-read for Wednesday: Mike Pasquier's piece on the film "Beasts of the Southern Wild," just up at Religion Dispatches. Here's a case where the right subject has met the right author. A brief excerpt:

But Beasts of the Southern Wild is not a scientific study of the problems facing coastal Louisiana. Nor is it a documentary meant to portray environmental injustices and the plight of drowning villages—at least not overtly. Rather, according to Zeitlin:
[Beasts is] about the emotional facts. What is the feeling of going through this loss of a place or of a parent or of a culture? How does that feel, and how do you respond emotionally to survive that?
In an interview in The Atlantic, Zeitlin addresses these questions by imagining the Bathtub as “a society where all the things that divide people have been removed. So there’s no religion, no politics, no money, no one sees race, there’s no rich and poor because there is no currency” (a vision for which some critics have blasted him). Zeitlin then blankets enormous moral and existential dilemmas over the Bathtub and its inhabitants. . . .
Zeitlin is no scholar of religion, but he is an artist and a storyteller who finds beauty and meaning in suffering and disaster. He is not so much a folklorist (unlike his parents, who actually are) as he is a creator of folklore, which, by his definition, seems akin to making religion and encouraging religious experience. 
But Mike warns of the possible problems of parables detached from grim environmental realities:
My fear, however, is that those who watch Beasts of the Southern Wild will get lost in the wonder and magic and spirit of the Bathtub; that they will rest in the film’s beauty instead of being jolted by the reality that, as Hushpuppy says, “Sometimes you can break something so bad, that it can’t get put back together.”
Isle de Jean Charles—the isolated island hamlet that inspired Zeitlin in the first place—is the Bathtub, and so are the communities of Lafitte, Estelle, Paradis, Des Allemands, Golden Meadow, Cocodrie, Dulac, and Leeville. Based on land loss projections and in spite ofLouisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, these and other places in coastal Louisiana might not exist in 100 years. It is a fact, it is too late, and it is a disaster.F
For more on the film, check out this great interview with the "stars" of the film, including Quvenzhané Wallis. Speaking of interviews, the link takes to you the young Ms. Wallis telling off the always-awful Jay Leno.
Mike Pasquier: future governor of Louisiana?! We can only hope.   


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