Loyal, Brave, True
Some of the words used to describe this year’s remake of the Chinese legendary warrior movie were “boring, over-hyped, overrated, awkward, unconvincing and cringe-worthy”. Now, the dictionary version of cringe is to bend one’s head and body in fear or apprehension or in a servile manner. To cringe, in the way they mean, is to dislike something so much that your body curls itself away from said thing. That someone took their time to use this word, would mean they physically hated Niki Caro’s remake so badly that their bodies, independent from their brains, decided to get away from it, which is much if to say unbelievable. Yes, it was not as good as the ’98 version, but most live action remakes [in this case the lack of Mushu] rarely measure up.
Mulan is a 16-year-old girl who tries to hide in a world of men while her chi reigns supreme above all the male species she encounters. She lives by three pillars; loyal, brave and true. Maria said she was brave to open her heart, loyal to all who she gave it to and true to herself. I could not help but liken her to the legendary warrior.
When Maria joined high school, she was 13 years old and younger than most of the students in her class. She was in fact, one of the youngest people in the school. Her physique did not help either, since puberty was just hitting her which meant she was still small on most parts. But she was smart, and even though boys rarely liked smart girls, she did not seem to mind [gerrit?].
She knew from a young age that she was not normal. Granted, no one ever feels normal to my knowledge, but she actually knew she wasn’t. She didn’t like the same things as her friends. First off, she calls them childhood acquaintances, since she feels like she never made any real connections with the so-called friends from younger ages.
“Going to high school meant I had a clean slate. I was not going to hide,” she tells me. She however found herself at a disadvantage. A small smart girl. Boys had nothing to say to her as young since she was still as flat chested as they come and did not like the same things as them anyway. She loved books, a little quiet and a whole lot of nature. Girls in her class liked boys, which meant they too liked loud and dirt and balls (watching for the girls and playing for the other gender) and holding hands. She rarely made any friends, which meant her time was spent alone.
“I started using the library at around week 3 when I realized everything was not as I had hoped. I was doomed to a life of solitude and I was just making my peace with that when Jack appeared to me,” she tells me.
Meeting Jack came as a surprise to both of them. Jack was everything she wanted. Read books, loved the quiet and enjoyed looking at trees and rolling in the grass. Jack was perfect. Jack had a gap in the teeth and always kept the shirt tucked. Neat was her second language. They got along quite well and were soon spending lots of time together.
Basically, this story is going as you expect stories to go. But I am not seated here in the cold with no coffee in my hand to write an ordinary story. Jack had a secret. They shared this secret, Jack and Maria. “It was like we both knew this thing weighed between both of us even before we first spoke. Even before I laid eyes on Jack, I knew it, and Jack knew. It connected us, that we kept this one thing to ourselves, and because we never spoke of it, it was almost sacred.” I like secrets. They give me an edge over the rest of the population. I have one rule on them; don’t tell, because they lose this power immediately you share them. You no longer have the one thing that only you knew. A secret shared is not worth two in the bush. It is worth nothing. Today’s little nugget of wisdom? Keep your secrets, kids. Unless you are telling me of course (wink).
Touch was her favorite sense. When Jack would lean over her shoulder in the library, reading a favorite passage. Passages she can recite by heart to date. When Jack’s little finger would graze hers unintentionally as they were both engrossed in a classic Austen. When Jack read to her, it was like touching her very soul. “We didn’t know it was happening, while being aware of everything in each single moment.” They were doomed to be in love with each other’s souls.
The moment that broke the pot happened on a Thursday afternoon. Thursdays were class library days for form ones. What Jack was doing in the library that day can be found in a rat’s arse. They did not share a table. “It was becoming too obvious that we were into each other, so we decided some distance in public would help put some suspicions to death,” she tells me. [It sounds eerily similar to some high society Jane Austen plot if you ask me]
Maria stood to find a book. Jack stood too, probably out of reflex, and followed. “I pulled the book I needed from the shelf and there she was, looking at me. ‘Stay there. Be quiet’ she told me. I didn’t move. She came to the row I was on, turned me by my shoulders and placed her lips on mine. If there was a time to say I genuinely froze, it was then. Until I kissed her back.”
She cannot tell how long the stood there, lip-locked with a forgotten encyclopedia between them in her hands. “I only remember the gasps. I can still hear them today,” she says.
In their temporary escape from reality, a classmate had come in search of the same book that was miserably failing to act as a barrier and had quickly called for other spectators.
“The next thing I remember was being pushed into the bookcase and Jack fleeing from me. I also remember feeling cold. Not from the weather, but from dread. It was the end of something that had barely began.”
If this was a perfect story, we would say Maria got the conversation she needed. The conversation that cleared things up. That had Jack tell her why she did what she did, or at least had her apologize for letting the whole school believe that she pushed herself up on Jack and forced the kiss. It would have had Jack explain why she lied to their parents when they were called to the school to explain the “demonic behavior” as the discipline mistress had it so well put. Maybe, all the nineteen times that Maria tried to get Jack alone to talk about it would have given her an answer instead of jeers and insults and accusations of stalking, writing “secret love letters” (that she still does not understand where they came from) and branding of filthy, filthy names. Names that she asked me not to repeat because she can barely stomach the thought of them, leave alone seeing them associated with her one more time.
“I have always liked girls. I grew up crushing on Melissa Joan Hart on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and the Spice Girls. So I kinda knew I was of the community, I just never expected my first chance at opening the blood pumper would be so chaotic and full of all it had. I wish it was different, but it also made me braver. It forced me to learn that nothing can come at me and defeat me. So, in a way, Jack gave me bravery without knowing it. I also knew that hiding helped nothing, I mean, you can stay in if you aren’t ready, but immediately you feel ready, all you need to do is be true to yourself and everything else will fall into place.”
She says she knows it is difficult. That knowing what you want and actually going for it are two separate things that can seem worlds apart, but they aren’t. She describes truth and loyalty as neighbors who don’t know each other until one steps out and decides to meet the other. “Once they meet, all you need is the bravery to face anything and all things that come at you.”
Mulan is her favorite movie. The animation, not the Niki Caro version. “Mulan is in a world that she needs to come out on top of. If she fails, everything goes to shits. If one of the boys finds out she is a she, I mean, look at what happened to me. So she holds her secret until she is at the precipice, just waiting to tip over, to turn herself in. She waits until they know how loyal she is to the cause, how brave she has been through the bathroom trips and sleeping in a dorm-like situation with filthy, crude men, to show them her true self. And she does it like a freaking boss. I think we can all learn something from her,” she says.
I think we can learn something from both of them.
[I’m keeping my promises now. Cool, huh?]