I’ve just spent way too much of my evening watching documentaries on the ABC. I feel…horrified. Like I was an innocent until now.
I have just realised documentaries are a smoke screen – the dry, scientific “we don’t have a bias these are just the facts” style conceals their true function. Documentaries are the freakshows of the modern day. They’re where we go to marvel at the extremities of the human.
And if you’re looking for deeply passionate, emotionally conflicted characters, it’s an eye opener.
A short asian man considers having his leg bones drilled, broken and screwed back together to add a couple of inches to his height. When he concluded his interview, and he said that the dream of changing his height was over but the dream of being strong and resilient and successful had just begun, I wanted to cheer.
A middle-aged white teacher goes into a racial experiment and comes out saying “I had nothing to learn going in – my opinions didn’t change at all. I am passionate about these things already.” In the tea break she’s telling another woman about the black, white and half-caste children she teaches. “One girl,” she says, “stunning girl – she fell down and grazed her cheek in the playground, and I have to admit I was a bit surprised that the skin was pink underneath. I suppose I thought it would be black.”
And then – hear my heart break – the mothers who enter their daughters in beauty pageants. Who fill their daughters’ mouths with words and claim, with all the goodwill in the world, that God has gifted their daughters with a beautiful face and modelling talent so it would be wasteful not to pursue this. Without a word for their child’s inner qualities, or any sense that they are enough just as they are – that they are learning and growing and will become things you couldn’t even dream of yet. All this in the child’s hearing, mind you.
And you watch the child disappear right before their parents’ adoring gaze, because they simply aren’t being seen at all.
Then you scrape the surface of the parents’ stories…
And you realise how little you really know about people, and what drives them, and what they’re capable of. And what they inflict on each other, in the name of love.
And then you realise it’s time for bed.