Between Skateboards, Studio Ghibli and Decolonization

I woke up this morning thinking that today is a good day to contribute my two cents to decolonization by writing my first post for this blog, which includes some thoughts about the subject, as well as a reflection on my own positionality.


I’m going to drop the ball upfront. Because as much as I’m ashamed to admit it, I don’t recall ever having talked about decolonization prior to a fairly recent conversation I had with my friend, Carly. I grew up in a small harbor town in northern Germany, at the southern edge of Scandinavia, and while I may have learned to calculate fancy math and speak Shakespearian from a young age, decolonization didn’t seem to be a topic considered worth teaching. Encouraging young kids - or honestly, people of any age - to rethink the world we were raised into and question the concepts presented to us as ‘the default’ isn’t particularly a hallmark of the Western education system in general I believe. Since learning about the subject, a huge part for me was to understand that the world, my world, is a concept that I was discouraged to ever reconsider, as it was built on foundations of the patriarchy, white supremacy, classism and heteronormativity, to name a few. I see decolonization as a commitment to reprogramming the lens we were raised to view the world through, and subsequently pull the things we were taught not to question into question. So I needed to start asking myself, who created this system, and who is it designed to benefit? How do I fit into this concept, and how can I use my privileges to be a better ally to the marginalized communities that I’m not a part of?


That being said, to both introduce and position myself, I’m a 23 year old international student based in Amsterdam. I identify as queer, even though I increasingly reject the idea of labeling myself, and I’m a white able-bodied ciswoman. I pursue a Masters degree in Film Studies, which is a fancy way of saying that I am a nerd who aspires to become a professional nerd, and I work in a vibey independent cult cinema. If you assume now that I would be that one overly enthusiastic person who will talk to you about that one mind-blowing movie and all its hidden messages for hours on end, you are correct. As for my future ambitions, I generally like to take it easy and just be as present as I can, but living in a van with a ridiculous amount of plants, a wife and two cats sounds great to me.


Decolonization is relevant in a bunch of different areas, and one that I don’t shut up about is cinema, particularly film theory. Fortunately, my studies allow me to merge my interests in sociology and the human psyche with my favorite thing in the world, movies. It’s also a great way to procrastinate finding a job in the arts, which is a sub-bar experience in a capitalistic world. For now though, I aim to properly understand the nuances, layers and implicit meanings that have been embedded in every movie you’ve ever seen; from legendary globally praised classics to Twilight. Especially the importance of accurate and responsible representation in film is a subject that is close to my heart. Why do I think this is relevant? Consider the tons of people who will loudly proclaim they’re “not a political person”, yet I’m pretty sure they watch movies. Likely, these will also be the folks who will assume that people with clinical mental illnesses are violent and bizarre (good job, Split) and gay men generally act like James Cordon’s character in The Prom, not aware how they’re subconsciously internalizing the filmmaker’s own bias and lack of awareness.


Besides film, on a more personal note, the last few years have largely been about questioning for me. Taking a deep look at the ways in which I may or may not fit into this concept, and understanding how the many different intersections that compromise my identity have shaped my whole life. And ultimately, I came back with the conclusion that it’s okay. It’s okay that I want to work some artsy job that makes me excited to get up in the morning, rather than pursue a well-regarded businessy career. It’s okay that I feel like a girly girl yet dress like a teenage boy or time-travelling grandpa, and it’s okay that I like the color pink equally as much as my skateboard. It’s also okay that most of the time, I enjoy hanging out with Studio Ghibli characters more than with people, and it’s okay that I low-key feel like a teenager trapped in a grown up woman’s body, overwhelmingly lost in a fast-paced adulty world where everybody is taught to compete and out-perform each other. But I’m figuring it all out and that’s okay. Nowadays, I like to channel these ‘it’s okay’ moments into spoken word poetry which I’m keen - and totally anxious - to share on this blog. But it’s okay to have an irrational fear of failure too, because that’s how we learn and reflect and decolonize after all.


Things I would love to write about mainly include the importance of on-screen representation, but also dealing with compulsory heterosexuality, the dangers of the Western education system, PMDD awareness, toxic beauty standards and how maladaptive daydreaming keeps my inner child alive. I hope that on this blog, we can create a safe space where we can continue to share experiences, connect and spark a conversation about decolonization. Above all however, I want to continue to listen, and this is what I commit to doing.


Thank you so much for reading, and you look beautiful today :) Or handsome, whatever you prefer.


Maddi





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