Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Maggie McPheeters H01 Wildcard Final Blog Post: Mills in Personal Experience and Tangled
When Will My Life Begin?
Human beings are incredibly proud creatures; this means that if someone is interfering with our plans, we tend to get incredibly huffy and upset. They should’ve minded their own business, right? However, there may be some actual merit to this idea.
John Stewart Mill definitely thought so. His philosophy was that humans needed their own space to grow—if they had someone hovering over them or constantly butting in to their life, they would grow like a gnarled tree and be weak. Mill believed that it is best for you to make your own decisions, rather than have someone make them for you, because you know better than anyone else what you need. And even if you mess it up, he argues, it is better for you to have learned that life lesson yourself. I’ve found this to be prevalent especially in my own life. I grew up a very easy-going child who often took the backseat to my siblings. However, when my sister and brother finally moved out for college, I had the opportunity to create my own self. This resulted in a very confusing time. I was experimenting with my newfound freedom—I was reconsidering my faith, my political views, my personal morals; there was a lot that was under construction since my sister wasn’t trying to control who I was anymore. I found that, even though I made a lot of mistakes, I became happier. I felt like I was more of my own person, like I had my own distinct personality instead of being a shadow of others. I could finally speak my mind and stand up for myself. My mother did not take well to this, nor did my sister. My mother enforced stricter rules on me and we got in more fights. Her criticisms seemed harsher and without merit, as if she was just looking for something to find wrong with me—in my view, I was an honors student who didn’t drink, smoke, or party around. I was just a dork with a semi-serious boyfriend. My sister began following my blog and would call me about stuff she didn’t agree with. She once confronted me and said she didn’t like how I was acting, that I wasn’t turning out “how I was supposed to and how they expected”. This infuriated me because I believed that only I could decide how I was supposed to turn out. Had I known about John Stuart Mill at the time, I would have quoted it to her, not that she was going to listen. Her and my mother remained stubbornly set that I was supposed to be someone who I felt I had outgrown, someone who had been engineered to please others. Their constant disapproval and attempted intervention made me incredibly depressed. As I encountered the real world, I felt that I was woefully unprepared. I had grown up “weak” due to the over-influence of others, and the protective bubble that had I had been stuck in. Now that I am in college and have surrounded myself with friends that reflect me and appreciate me without any preconceived notions of who I used to be, I find that I am much happier. I feel supported, and I believe I have grown more in the past two years than I did in most of my adolescent life. My mother was so worried about me hurting myself that she tried to prevent me from doing anything, but all the mistakes I made I learned from. These life lessons would have evaded me had I repressed myself. This just so happens to be a lesson that is translated in my favorite movie (the movie, in fact, that made me want to be an animator), Tangled.
Tangled is the story of a young girl, Rapunzel, who is stolen away from her family by an emotionally abusive crone. The old lady, Mother Gothel, spends her time convincing Rapunzel to stay inside the tower so she can take advantage of her magical powers to keep herself young. I believe that Rapunzel would have been a firm believer in Mill’s philosophy. Once she escapes and learns of the outside world, she becomes noticeable more animated and excited. Her “mother” attempts to steal her back and force her into the tower, but Rapunzel refuses. Now that she has been exposed to the outside world, there is no way she can return to the monotonous life she lived before.
Although Mother Gothel was really hoarding her for her magic powers, she tells Rapunzel that it is because the humans outside would want to take advantage of her. In this way, Mother Gothel is interfering with Rapunzel’s life in what she believes to be her best interest. This causes Rapunzel, however, to suffer extreme mood swings when she tries to leave, as well as suffering a small existential crisis. She has made her entire life about the single goal of seeing the lanterns, and when she finally gets there, she realizes that that is all she had planned for her life and that once it’s over, she has to start all over again. In the end though, by making her own mistakes, Rapunzel finds her own way and finally finds her originally family, reclaiming her title as a beloved princess. John Stewart Mill knew what he was talking about—humans aren’t meant to be told what to do their entire life. At some point, they have to figure out their own mistakes; without that simple liberty, they become gnarled, spoiled, shallow versions of themselves who have no real understanding for consequences or the like. Of course, Mill believed that, in the case of children, this should not be taken into account because they could not yet make that decision wisely. However, when does your “adulthood” technically start? Can it be measured by years in a legal system, or perhaps it is based on events in your life that have forced you to “grow up”. These are questions that Mill did not answer; he instead leaves this up to us and our own interpretation. There is incredible merit to Mill’s philosophy and, having experienced the negative effects of forced intervention myself, I believe that Mill understands a good portion of what it feels like to be truly happy and free.