Who would have guessed a movie a boy who talks to ghosts had a deeper message within it; the cycle of violence. As Youth Program Coordinator I thought I was taking the Compass youth to lunch and movie, but as every single one of us left ParaNorman in tears I realized something greater had happened. We had projected our emotions and experiences into the story, and had blurred our realities with the animated ones on screen. The cycle of violence had become more the just an educational term, it had become relatable to our lives.
The cycle of violence was highlighted by two characters-Norman, a withdrawn boy who is continuously victimized by his family and schoolmates, and the witch a seemingly evil entity who cursed the town to damnation after she was persecuted for witchcraft. Both characters were victimized, just like so many LGBT youth because they were different. However, one was able to break the cycle and the other had become the perpetrator.
In the movie Norman is tasked with stopping the witch’s curse. He embarks on that mission with a little help from his deceased grandma who informs, “There is nothing wrong with being scared, Norman, as long as you don’t let it change who you are.” At the climax of the story, Norman discovers that the witch is just like him; she was just a little girl who was persecuted for being different, but she let her fear and anger change her.
This movie illustrates that the key ingredients needed to create violence are anger, sadness, isolation, and fear, emotions that are found in every human being, including those victimized. If those emotions are unable to be appropriately expressed, they change you. There needs to be a way for youth to express their emotions of anger, sadness, isolation, and fear in a healthy environment so that they can truly break the cycle. That is what Compass is for.
We need to be invested in our youth’s future. It is our job to take the role of Norman’s grandmother and help break the curse for the next generation. A curse of fear and anger that infects the bullies, victims, and bystanders who believe that violence against themselves or others is the only way to break the cycle of victimization. It is time for us to band together and provide our youth with a way to remove those ingredients from their lives: a way to finally break the cycle of violence. Let’s break the silence and band together to provide our youth with some one to talk to so that fear does not “change who they are”.
Amy Milin is the Youth Program Assistant at Compass Community Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org