I am typically loath to make generalizations, but I am gonna open this post with one, heedless of the consequences: I think we all have a specific form of narrative that speaks to us. It’s not necessarily our favourite, but for whatever reason, we connect to it on a deeper level than we do other kinds of stories. Many of my friends, for example, tell me that found family narratives hold special significance for them, that even mediocre stories have the power to profoundly affect them if a found-family scenario is involved.
I think the stories in which a person finds meaning can say a lot about that person. About their hopes, their fears, their experiences. Again, this is not about favourite tropes; it’s about the ones that reach into your chest and give your heart a twist–for good or ill, regardless of the story’s quality or the circumstances in which the thematic element comes up.
The category of stories that do this to me is simultaneously simple and complex: tales of self-actualization affect me like nothing else. Stories where someone has to overcome opposition–internal or societal–in order to simply be who they are. Musicals, books, movies, anything where this is the core theme is gonna hit me hard.
It’s, obviously, a huge category, which predictably means I spend a lot of time emotionally compromised by the media I consume. I’m willing to wager I’m not the only one either, as this struggle, the fight to be who you are regardless of forces telling you you shouldn’t, is one that members of oppressed communities know well.
These stories, regardless of their trappings, are for me about accepting myself as queer, a journey that eight years in is still unfinished. They are about understanding and finding the confidence to express my gender. About being Native, despite growing up with my white family. About being proud to be disabled, to be a caregiver, to be me. About being proud to be, to exist in the world and to take up space.
Whether it’s Billy Elliott learning to dance or Matilda realizing her family doesn’t define her path, whether it’s the titular character of Sunday in the Park with George struggling to reconnect with art or Charlie Price of Kinky Boots realizing that making shoes is what he wants to do…
All of these characters come to a place where, regardless of their self-doubt, regardless of the censure of peers or scorn of family, they simply are. They are themselves without apology or subdual, without uncertainty or second guesses.
I’d like to get to that point one day. I feel like I’m moving that way, on good days, and these stories make me feel like I can do it, like this journey is worthwhile.
And that is why if you need me you’ll find me crying about musicals.