There are some common threads emerging in how audiences are responding to and interpreting Beasts of the Southern Wild, but it also seems to hit everyone a little bit differently.
We’ve begun compiling reactions and analysis from thinkers, bloggers, academics, and regular folks and some of what we’ve come across is featured below. We invite you to read, reflect, and join in the discussion! Please let us know by adding a comment if there’s a reference or a thought you’d like to throw into the ring. We’ll keep adding to this post as our collection grows.
Hushpuppy is small, but she has agency and power. Beasts of the Southern Wild presents a new hero of the monomyth, one that we’re not used to seeing in Southern literature — a girl of color who grows into a mighty (and mighty small) creature, despite the challenges of natural disasters, familial tragedy and mythical beasts. The scale of her story is epic, and epicly Southern, an attempt to keep the rest of the world from advancing on a place she loves and destroying it.
“For the poor student or the minority student living in a police state, we ignore the signs of PTSD that are obvious and present, for that would require us speaking out against a system that has sustained our employ. These kids are our “beasts” of the educational wild. But it is not our job to tame them, because they do not need to be tamed. They require love and understanding. They don’t need us to explain their existence in ways that are palatable, when their personal daily experiences are unpalatable. They need to be heard in way they speak- without translation for our comfort.”
– Read Worokya Duncan’s article “Beasts of the Educational Wild” here.
“In fact, that’s the message that all the stalwarts in The Bathtub—the black ones and the white ones—want to convey, that not only do all of us have an assigned place in the universe but that the way we were made is the way we’re supposed to be. In this cosmology, levees are unnatural. Flood protection leads to alienation. We may obtain some temporary safety when we wall ourselves off from nature’s ebb and flow, but it costs us our connection to the planet. And losing that connection is worse than any storm.”
— Jarvis DeBerry’s piece, An Unexpected, Enduring Lesson From ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, published in Color Lines.
The American Bible Society responded with a study guide to prompt discussion about our place in the universe and our intention in life. It’s available for download here.
[There is a] national and international fascination with Louisiana’s disaster streak. Had 1,836 people (1,577 in Louisiana) not died during Hurricane Katrina and had the population of New Orleans not decreased by almost 30 percent (a majority African American), there would be no Beasts of the Southern Wild. Also, by coincidence, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil blowout occurred on the first day of shooting the film in April of 2010… Beasts depicts coastal Louisiana’s environmental and cultural endangerment in ways that transcend scientific studies and government policies, while at the same time reaching national and international audiences…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.”