Southern Wild

Louisiana rings with magic. The heaviness of the air, the sticky heat, the bizarre…well, everything.

I don’t mean this paternalistically, as a member of the outside, and I don’t mean to deny valid social critiques of the region. I mean it honestly, truly and deeply. There is magic in the South for me.

I know I’m desperately behind the curve, but I just saw Beasts of the Southern Wild this week.


There’s a lot to critique about some of the imagery, the story, and the struggle the movie represents, but I’m drawn to the mythic. As one scholar put it, it is the first wrenching, real, epic myth of climate change.

The movie is a gritty, expansive, gloriously visceral adventure tale of one young girl versus a world that is falling apart around her. Despite its very real roots in the bayou communities of Terrebonne Parish, levee politics and Hurricane Katrina, I did not connect as much to that aspect.

I connected to the magic.

I felt, for the first time in recent memory, what it was like to be a child. To feel that the world was only yours, and your quests were of ultimate importance.

The crude rafts harkened back to ones I fashioned on Johnson Creek out of abandoned barn doors, rope, and collected sticks.

Hushpuppy, the six-year-old heroine, walking alone through the woods pumped adrenaline into my heart with each squish of her rain boots. The thrill and terror of solo exploration, without the oversight of a parent.

The real encounters with death and life, the intimate need to touch each animal’s heartbeat, to take in the grotesque, not looking away because the world hasn’t yet taught you that you should.

The shining, the mucky, the glorious mess of it all.

This tale, created diligently, lovingly and painstakingly by friends, family and a community, captures a spark of creative, life-loving, struggling, desperate beauty that I have only ever found when living in New Orleans.

Even more, a myth points toward a greater truth. Wisdom that is difficult and hard-won.

Perhaps, if we treat our horrible, painful, amazing, awe-ful world with such brave, childlike joy, perhaps we can find our way back to balance.


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