Matilda The Musical And Why We’re Never Growing Up

I was very lucky to be able to watch Matilda The Musical the other day. Not only did it get me in the festive mood but I also thought it was a brilliant production. Lots of dedicated kids and adults singing their hearts out and weaving a fantastic and rather timeless story. It’s based on the Roald Dahl book, which was made into an ace movie, and now it’s on in the West End. A few spoilers on the way but I am guessing you probably already know the story: Matilda, a young girl, is bullied by her horrible parents who try and stifle her blossoming genius by threatening to ban reading. Then off to school where she is bullied by the awful (but brilliant) headmistress Miss Trunchbull who has a habit of putting naughty children in Chokey – a small and spiky cage (yup, Roald Dahl was dark). However, Matilda meets Miss Honey, a passionate teacher who is very shy and timid, and very scared of Miss Trunchbull. Miss Honey spots Matilda’s genius and tries to help foster it as any good teacher should. The rest involves giant chocolate cakes, telekinesis and floating chalk. Like many stories about children this one is about growing up and there’s a great song that is all about doing just that (see video below, starts around 42 seconds in) but there’s one bit in particular that is just spot on.

The woman in the pink cardigan is Miss Honey and it’s funny that an adult should be singing about growing up. Her words are these: “When I grow up, I will be brave enough to fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night to be a grown up.” And it takes a super-genius, telekinetic girl with an immense capacity for bravery to help Miss Honey grow up and fight the creatures that have been plaguing her often lonely and frightened life. Yet, it’s us adults who have a habit of telling children to just grow up whilst simultaneously telling them that things will be better once they have grown up. But I reckon us adults have an awful lot of growing up to do as well and really we’re using ‘adulthood’ as a facade to exercise undue authority. Yes, adults can be frightened, lonely, scared, mean and nasty too but until we can be honest about our vulnerability we’ll keep on missing those chances to grow up, chances that come from all directions, including (and maybe espeically) from those younger than us. Only then can the world we promise our children really come true.

Matilda also has another great point to make, which is that to make a difference you don’t have to do huge things, the little things you’re capable of can also make a huge difference. Whether it’s offering a helping hand or a listening ear or even just a smile, the little things do add up and they do have an impact. Matilda is also big on challenging authority and fighting injustice, and thanks to her ‘little’ actions, which are huge for others, so much change happens. So yes, 2016 has been quite a year and 2017 has an awful lot of work to do but I reckon it’ll be a much better year if, like Matilda, we do the little things we can and, together, help each other grow up.

Demi Lovato 1: Patriarchy 0

“Are you ready?” asks Demi Lovato at the start of her new song, Confident. And I am, I’m ready for an ass-kicking video in which two brilliant women take on the structural oppression of the patriarchy in style. “I used to hold my freak back, Now I’m letting go, I make my own choice, Yeah I run this show.” And boy, is it one heck of a showdown…

The video starts with Lovato locked up in a high security prison. A dubious looking man in a suit arrives in a small armada of black cars – I reckon he’s FBI or government or something. He offers Lovato freedom if she takes out Michelle Rodriguez (of Resident Evil and Fast & Furious Fame). She signs the dotted line and then gets branded (as the patriarchy quite literally burns its power-to-oppress into her skin), booted and armed with big guns. A bunch of suited men escort her to Rodriguez who suddenly reveals she’s also working for dubious-suit-man. Poor Lovato, her day just went from bad to worse – first a tattoo made of fire, now she’s been double crossed, followed by an ass-whooping from Rodriguez who sure knows how to land a punch.

Lovato is scapegoated as a traitor and sent straight back to prison on a bus. A daring escape with a shotgun puts her face to face with Rodriguez again. Another showdown ensues, all the while being watched by dubious-suit-man and a bunch of grinning, male croons. But then it happens – the moment before Rodriguez whacks another punch into Lovato’s face she spots Lovato’s branding, one she has too. And they finally figure it out: women shouldn’t be pitted against one another at the whim of male oppressors, instead women can team up to tackle institutionalised discrimination and smash that glass ceiling to smithereens. Cue Rodriguez’s jeep smashing through the wall of dubious-suit-man’s hideout and the big climax. Lovato and Rodriguez win, obviously. “What’s wrong with being confident?” asks Lovato in the song and it’s clearly a rhetorical question because when Lovato gets her confident on she’s fricking awesome.