We’ve all read stories about changelings, how they’re replacements for the true human children who will ultimately come back to their victimized families. No one wants the changeling; when it’s not a piece of wood, it’s a demonic creature that must be driven out with a hot poker or tossed onto a roaring fire. Brutal stuff, but that’s how the story goes.
Everyone wants the child that knows how to be human: what to say, what to do, how to be.
But what happens when you’re the changeling? Or to put it another way, child of two worlds, ill-suited to either, where do you belong?
How do you feed that part of yourself deep inside, the one that’s always hungry?
Rothbauer’s findings suggest that teens seem to be acquiring their reading material by “accident,” simply picking up whatever happens to be handy at home. Many of them live in communities that do not prioritize literacy, reading, and education. The offerings in the school and public libraries are slim and unappealing, making teens feel that they have no one who can help them seek out material that they might find appealing and useful. In fact, many of the teens who enjoy reading keep this habit private, afraid of the social repercussions of being identified as a reader.
America’s currency is viewed as a place to honor people of historic political influence. To suggest that black women are part of that club by putting Tubman’s face on the $20 simply would cover up our nation’s reality of historic and lingering disenfranchisement. Of the 104 women in the House of Representatives, only 18 are black, and only one black woman has sat in the U.S. Senate since the nation was founded. Of the 78 women in executive statewide offices, just one is a black woman. There’s no doubt that black women have a political representation problem in America. But putting the face of an admired black American heroine on currency won’t fix it – it will only mask it.
The kind of hate that seems too big and billowing to be directed at just one woman, the kind that seems like a person or an entire society is vomiting out all its misogyny onto one convenient scapegoat.
To be honest, I can’t think of another Avenger whose story Natasha could have swapped with who wouldn’t, in some way, raise questions of whether the story was influenced by gender stereotypes. If she had Tony’s story, she’d be the one who messed up and wouldn’t listen, who created the need for a rescue. If she had Cap’s story, she’d be the one who tries to keep everyone from being vulgar – the behavior cop. If she had the Hulk’s story, she’d be the one whose superpower is being carried away by her uncontrollable emotions. If she had Thor’s story, she’d be the one who doesn’t have very much to do and is omitted from a large stretch of the movie. If she had Hawkeye’s story, she’d be the one who just wanted to go home and be with the kids.
Oprah recognizes the pervasiveness of anxiety and alienation in our society. But instead of examining the economic or political basis of these feelings, she advises us to turn our gaze inward and reconfigure ourselves to become more adaptable to the vagaries and stresses of the neoliberal moment.
Oprah is appealing precisely because her stories hide the role of political, economic, and social structures. In doing so, they make the American Dream seem attainable. If we just fix ourselves, we can achieve our goals. For some people, the American dream is attainable, but to understand the chances for everyone, we need to look dispassionately at the factors that shape success.