Anl. Swiss Army Man and its Themes

I knew I would love Swiss Army Man from the moment I saw the trailer. Granted, I adore Radcliffe and Dano, but I also loved the tone of the story in previews. What I didn’t expect was a movie  that was so moving and heartbreaking.

Freedom and Innocence

Essentially, the film communicates plenty of messages regarding freedom, as symbolized by farts. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes, we need simple ways to convey deep messages.

The way Manny is unrestrained and open is admirable. It’s what literally gets him places. While I partly consider Hank is projecting a bit onto Manny, I do think that his friend reflects his conflicts regarding freedom of expression.

Openness is reiterated throughout the story as Hank teaches Manny about various aspects of life: relationships, emotions, sexuality, pleasure, and self awareness.

Sexuality

Speaking of which, I loved how sex was explored in this movie. It was not a shameful, gross, or primal thing. I am torn regarding how Manny’s penis was used as a compass, because it can be foreshadowing for  Hank’s attachment to Sarah.

On the other hand, the relationship between sexuality and Hank’s stalking relates to innocence because I don’t find Hank and Manny creepy as people. They don’t fetish-ize Sarah or women in general. They don’t turn Sarah into a fantasy. It’s more of a coping mechanism for both of them.

Friendship and Acceptance

Through Manny’s questions, Hank is able to unfold different issues he has. For instance, he talks about his mother’s death and his inability to do things that pleasure him (through the masturbation and sex symbolism).

Hank tries to teach Manny about what is acceptable and what is not as Manny posits that perhaps it’s okay to feel caged by these expectations.

Montages depict their developing friendship, particularly when they reenact the bus scenario.

Not so Much

However, what it boils down to is that while we may think of these things, they can be punishable by society. It pains me to see that ending, but I didn’t expect Manny to survive in a world where his farts wouldn’t be accepted and, by extension, his innocence wouldn’t be accepted.

The closer Manny and Hank get, the closer to civilization they find themselves.

Ultimately, it is a fun and thought-provoking story that I am glad to have on DVD to rewatch and analyze.

Your Turn

What is the latest most challenging story you have been exposed to? How did you come to terms with it? Please share in the comments!

 

For More:

 

–“Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe” 

Set in 1960, the film opens with the death of Ellie's mother as she prepares
There are things in my life that were constant. One of them was a fascination
If you ever want to experience a love story, a beautiful one at that, read

Disc.: Disability and Representation

Before getting sick, I didn’t think much about disability. I assumed that all disabled people are easy to spot. I also thought they didn’t want attention; they have been disabled all their lives (this is very embarrassing. Keep reading).

Oh, the embarrassment of seeing a seizure for the first time and just standing there helpless and confused. Also: yes, the irony of me getting a seizure disorder later on, that hasn’t escaped me.

What Changed?

I got sick. At first, I was angry because I thought I was too smart to get sick in the head. Depression, anxiety, and psychotic episodes all within 5 years into my twenties.

Even then, years later, I started understanding the complexities of disability and its representations in media and literature. I realized that not every disabled person knows what they need. And, even if they do, there’s a tremendous pressure to act “normal.”

Representation

For whatever reason, the media reduces people to simple “visible” disabilities. “Oh, look, he needs a wheelchair. He’s got a ramp. Problem solved!” There is zero representation of people with disabilities as central characters. One enraging example is Quinn in Glee, who was paralyzed momentarily for texting and driving. It’s like disability is the worst thing that could happen to a person.

Another example is in Me Before You, where Will wants to kill himself for being disabled. I just want to see movies about disabled people living and functioning on their own terms.

Flaws in the Representation

There are so many flaws in how the media approaches us as a group of people.  For instance, why are we presented as these wholesome characters? Or, by the same token, we are vilified? Disability doesn’t make you inherently evil or wholesome. There’re shades of grey here, not just black or white.

It’s not a cause for personal development. We have other things in our lives besides our disabilities. There are disabled athletes, parents, speakers, entrepreneurs.

This reminds me of another point: not everyone has an accident that makes them disabled. It’s not a punishment from God for sinning or something. Sometimes, your body does weird things. It’s sometime genetics or circumstance.

Also: can we not assume that disabled people are infants? This goes back to the wholesome image idea. There are lots of high-functioning disabled people who can handle taking care of their own for the most part. Some disabled people can’t do that, but this doesn’t disqualify them as adults or humans overall. People act a certain way because there’s a logical explanation. I truly believe that. Don’t dismiss it as “craziness.”

Overall, we need more complexity in how disability is represented. Disabled folks aren’t disabled bodies only. Moreover, being disabled doesn’t make someone any less interesting or worthy of success, respect, or representation.

Why Representation Matters

Look, it matters. When I got sick initially, I thought I was going to get sent to a psych ward forever because that’s all the media had taught me. I thought of the mad woman in Jane Eyre. I thought of Lenny in Of Mice and Men. I thought of how much I’d stand out and how everyone would be ashamed of me for the rest of my life.  I thought of how I could be like David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Ned Vizzini, who couldn’t live a long happy life because of their mental illnesses.

In other words, I grew up thinking that I’d have to die, because I wasn’t “normal.” Normal people get regular jobs, move out, get married, have children.

I thought of how there’d be no story to tell about me, no legacy, because no one writes stories, good, exciting, and worthwhile stories about anyone with a disability. If/when they do, it’s all about their disability, and how they “conquer” it.

The truth is, you don’t need to defeat the disability. That’s like fighting your own skin and trying to get new skin instead. No, man, no. Don’t do that. And don’t expect anyone to change themselves, fake their life to fit into a box of able-ism.

For More:

–“Disability Critical Analysis”

–“Dis-Course: Disability Representation in the Media (Part 1)” 

Okay, so I tried writing this post a few times. Lots of deleting took place.
This is the PITS. I have been having a rough time for at least three
                When I had initially read Paper Towns, I was