We went to see "Hairspray" after work yesterday and from the moment that amazing 17 year old actress - Nicky - took to the screen I couldn't look away. A joyous film about difference and diversity and though it never mentioned disability, it didn't matter. This was a film about the joy of living with a difference. When the original move came out the focus was on race and the fight for the end of racial segregation. While that is still a huge part of it too, the movies message on weight and looks, feels equally powerful. Tracy, the main character is a very large girl (17 is still a girl) who wants to dance on a local television show. Her mother, a woman who won't leave the house because of her weight wants to forbid her daughter to try out, "they don't hire girls who look like Tracy."
The whole theatre was rocking with the music, laughing at the lines and rooting for the main characters. There were whacks of people up on the screen that you could identify with, empathize with, and hope with. When the movie ended the audience burst into applause.
I asked Joe if we could wait through the end credits to see if Nicky (to lazy to look up her last name but it doesn't matter) did her own singing in the film. Sure enough she did. Everyone else was out of the theatre except one mom and one little girl. The little girl wouldn't leave the theatre because she stood and danced along to the end credit music. Mom just sat and watched as her little girl cut a rug.
They passed by us and we could hear the little girl talking. "She was just like me mom. Just like me." In the light I now saw her, she had Down Syndrome and she was talking rapidly. "Everybody thought she couldn't dance but she could. Just like me, everybody thinks I'm dumb, but I'm not." Then she hugged herself and screamed happily, "She was just like me!" This may have been her first experience with identifying totally with someone else's oppression and someone else's courage. She hugged herself and hugged herself.
Mom was wiping tears away from her eyes and so was I. As I rolled by I said to Mama, "Great movie, huh?"
Mom said, "I am going to treasure this moment for the rest of my life."
I glanced over at the little girl, hugging herself in excitement, thrilled at the message that she could rise above expectations, that someone else who was different - won.
I said, "I'm going to too."
And I will.
Because ... oh hell ... "She's just like me! She's just like me!"