We All Think We’re Dumbo

“I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo: a Disney movie about a puny, weird-looking circus elephant that everyone made fun of. As the story unfolded, I realized to my amazement that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, the ones who despised and tormented the weak and the ugly, were rooting against Dumbo’s tormentors. Over and over they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to the bullies. But they’re you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn’t know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.”

-Elif Batuman, The Idiot

 

I remember reading this passage on social media. It struck me as to how true it is. We all think we’re the hero and those who have wronged us the bullies. I can’t say I don’t find myself doing this because I’m sure most of us do, at least once in our life.

Why is it that we do not see others as Dumbo? Or why is it that we are far more sympathetic to characters on screen than in real life? I think it’s because when we watch a film, we are granted access to that persons story, their thoughts and feelings. And when we’re granted such a large part of that, it makes it easier to feel empathy because the character will have experienced something we have ourselves. Whereas, in real life we are not always granted such a huge access to others minds and feelings, sometimes not even our own friends let alone strangers. Neither do we always have the time because like it or not we are living our own life first and foremost and not other people’s lives. It takes a lot of time, effort, energy and strength to invest in others and find out how they’re doing or what they’ve experienced from childhood to now. I think if we could do this and be more open about our own selves, then we’d be able to see others as Dumbo too and not just our own self.

P.s. I need to get a copy of this book someday.

 

Sophia Ismaa

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