November 20th, 2012
The kids and I went to see Wreck-It Ralph.
Great movie…much much better than I thought it would be.
And it made me cry.
I don’t want to give the whole movie away, but the premise of the story is that there’s a bad guy in a video game who’s tired of being the bad guy because…well, because no one else in the video pays him any attention. His job is to wreck stuff – sort of like what I do with my mouth? – and as a result of it, no one in the game likes him and he wants nothing more than to feel …included. Befriended.
There were some really cute parts, especially after he befriended a little girl in another video game who was also a pariah. I won’t indulge in any spoilers but suffice it to say that at the end of the movie, Wreck-It Ralph accepts that he is a bad guy for the purposes of the game, and then he looks beyond his video game and into the one of his newly made little friend, and thinks that, “if a little girl like her likes me…I can’t be so bad.”
And that’s when I really started to cry. I guess…because I’m hoping that if my children love me, there’s some hope for me too? Maybe I’m not as horrible as appearances lead people to believe?
I also recently finished reading a fictional biography of Hildegard von Bingen, more commonly known as Saint Hildegard of Bingen. A 12th-century German nun who became revered for her singular visions, she was incredibly important and well-respected even within her lifetime, and since then the Catholic Church has increasingly recognized her contributions to its understanding of God, first beatifying her, then canonizing her, and this year naming her as a Doctor of the Church.
I’m not sure what mood I was in when I picked up the work, perhaps just feeling up for a little biography, but it really moved me.
First of all, my grandmother’s name was Hildegard…so there’s that.
But…most breathtakingly familiar within the work was Hildegard’s relationship to one of her nuns, Richardis. Both having been taken into the church from a very young age, Hildegard was a mentor to Richardis, and their extreme closeness over the years was such that it seemed to go against the Benedictine rule against favoritism amongst nuns and monks. But in the book, Hildegard, from whose perspective the story is told, loves Richardis with such intense passion that her love becomes possessive. Even she, the nun, is not immune to feeling the type of love that binds with an almost consuming flame. Mind you, their love was not romantic, but Hildegard felt such an intense closeness to Richardis that when Richardis herself began to break free of the stifling constraints, Hildegard balked. When Richardis tried to leave to become an abbess elsewhere, Hildegard forbade it, wrote letters, cried, balked, stomped, tiraded, and when Richardis finally left, gave in to a grief that was so overwhelming that it consumed her for months. Only as it subsided was she able to see how it was that her intense possessiveness had actually pushed Richardis away, how all her letters of pleading, ranting and begging had actually worked against the very purpose she’d had: to keep Richardis close to heart.
And so it is, that 2 completely different media, a book and a movie, both fiction, have been somewhat eye-opening. In each of the main characters, I saw shades of myself. In Hilda, I saw a woman whose love for God was true and deep and yet unusual for its time for its focus on the feminine aspect of the divine, and yet…she was human enough to love so possessively that her love became a burden. She was hurt by Richardis’ wanting to leave and grow, and could not see her way to allowing Richardis to be the separate and distinct person of God that she wanted to be. She recognized it in the end, but by then…it was too late. Richardis was gone, and the next Hildegard heard of her was a message delivered from Richardis’ deathbed that she had loved her magistra dearly and was sorry they had parted on such strained terms.
Whether true or no, the book’s premise was that Hildegard’s early life was lacking in love, and this very well may have played into why, decades later, she tried to keep such a strong hold on the one person with whom she had developed a deeply loving relationship. For Wreck-It Ralph, the only backstory is…wanting to be loved and liked despite being a bad guy because deep down inside…he’s not REALLY a bad guy. He’s just a guy playing a role, doing a job, who’s tired of being lonely.
I think…on any given day…I’m channeling one of them, either a cartoon character from a movie or a saint from the Middle Ages who shares a name with my grandmother. And I’m trying to move away from Hildegard’s straitjacket of love and take Wreck-It Ralph’s journey of discovery, which I hope will also end in finding out that maybe…just maybe…
I’m not so bad.