A Look At How Internal Biases Control Perspectives … and a look at the other side of them.

flapper arielMy favorite childhood movie could be interpreted several ways:

  1. A petulant teenager who runs away, changes her body to conform to desirable standards for a man and then needs to be rescued by her dad and the man.
  2. A girl who doesn’t identify with the body she was born with and after some internal conflict, allows it to be modified under some shady circumstances but there are consequences that she overcomes in partnership with the man she loves and her previously disapproving father.
  3. An adventurer who is so infatuated with another society that she obsesses over it and falls in love with the first person from that society she encounters which leads to her decision to alter herself under some shady circumstances to be with him and be part of that society, the consequences of which include the shady alterer enslaving her father and going after her and her man who they partner up against and defeat.
  4. A selfish teenager leaves her family to follow ridiculous dreams of joining a society that wouldn’t accept her true self, she agrees to basically sell her soul in order to be changed and accepted, and once payment is due, her love, her father and her entire society are put in danger, but evil is eventually beaten anyway.

For those of you not familiar with this story, it’s The Little Mermaid as told by Disney.

I find that when watching most movies, people tend to let internal bias control their perspective. They see in the movie what they expected to see, whether it is positive or negative. I think that’s how two people can watch the exact same movie and have violently different reactions to the characters, and it’s not just when we watch Disney. It’s no better with the classics. Let’s use The Great Gatsby as another example. For me, it is one of the worst stories. I hated the way that Daisy was so undeserving of Gatsby and how everyone seemed to use him except Nick, the narrator. My interpretation isn’t the only one, though. Many people love that story, so many love that story that it continues to be remade into new movies. On the other hand, I look at Ariel and I see a brave and adventerous, though misguided, character where a lot of people just see an annoying damsel in distress.

Our own biases and negative expectations of the world around us can be reinforced when we don’t go back and try to find the thing we weren’t looking for the first time. Yes, I can find the damsel in distress in my favorite kid’s movie, but can you find the heroine? Every story can be turned in several directions. It’s time to start looking at media as people who just tell the story and try harder to remove our biases from their stories.

While personal bias about movies and media can be relatively mundane in themselves, they are not the only biases that we harbor. I use these examples that are less accusational because it is important to look at ourselves honestly and discover our own biases in a way that is open and meaningful.

Telling innocent men that they are rapists doesn’t help them discourage or want to work through whatever other biases or full prejudices they may harbor against women, or other communities. Likewise, calling a moderate female feminist, like myself, that we are all feminazis doesn’t make me want to listen to whatever other points you make either.

(For the record, no one has called me a feminazi yet, but I have seen it happen to others and find it worrisome)

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