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The 2009 novel, ‘Jasper Jones’ has uncanny similarities to the short film ‘Be My Brother’ on the concept of belonging. Belonging is considered a fundamental human need and a source of survival, safety, protection, and happiness. However, a negative sense of belonging: found among the displaced, marginalized, and uncared for can lead to many social and personal problems that can be almost insurmountable for the individual. Stereotyping and assumptions also weigh into the complexity of belonging with the combination of morality and ethics.
The novel ‘Jasper Jones’ by Craig Silvey delves into the concept of morality and ethics when dealing with the consequences of conformity in ethnic minorities. Jasper Jones is introduced as a scapegoat within the first chapter of the book with the quote; “He’s a thief, a thug, a truant.” “They’ve been waylaid by the devil.” The alliteration of the first quote focuses the readers’ attention on a particular section of the text, in this case, the presumptions of Jasper’s nature and personality. The latter quote accumulates to the racist ideologies instilled in the townspeople; as Jasper is of Aboriginal descent it can be inferred that the connotation of the devil has much to do with his skin tone. As the book is set in a fictional 1960’s rural conservative town, it allows for racial prejudice to seep through the local characters and provides the complexity of belonging and its negative effects. Often subjected to police brutality: Jasper quotes “Bloody hell. Listen, Charlie, we can’t tell anyone. No way. Especially the police. Because they are gonna say it was me. Straight up. Understand?” The conjunction of truncated sentences, tone, and slang form an effect that creates a fearful reality for many ethnic minorities. Jeffrey Lu, Charlie’s best friend also encounters racist prejudice by Warwick Trent and the other boys on the cricket team. One of the most confronting moments in the book is when his mum is scalded by hot tea by a racist woman. “She slapped her cup up, right into her chest and her chin. But Sue Findlay hadn’t finished; she screeched the most horrible words, the nastiest things imaginable.” To amplify the feeling of frustration of the character, the author includes auditory elements to the text to create the effect of onomatopoeia. Hyperbole and visual Imagery is used to make the atmosphere more tangible for the reader. As per the fictional setting in the ’60s, many townspeople justify racism against the Vietnamese through the Vietnam War. Charlie Bucktin, the narrator, confronts problems that have confounded much wiser, older people. It’s a fact that humans care more about people they know than they do about strangers, but it is an evolutionary necessity. His new maturity after the incident seems to consist in recognizing the moral problem against minorities.
The 2009 short film, ‘Be my Brother’ by Genevieve Clay-Smith explores the impact of stereotyping and assumptions on people with disabilities and their families. The film introduces Richard as an entertaining, lovable, and intriguing character with Down Syndrome who pushes to shatter the notion of ‘being disabled’. Long shots are used to establish the obvious distance and alienation between Richard and his brother. This point is later emphasized with the symbolic use of the dictaphone, which is used by Richard to solely interact with himself due to the loneliness encountered with the isolation of his brother. The isolation and alienation are caused by society’s viewpoint and perception on disabled people: common stereotypes such as the inability to get a job and the inability to have social intellect also come into question later on in the film; Much like the alienation acquired by Jasper Jones. Rather than it being exclusion based on ethnicity in ‘Jasper Jones’, This short film has much to do with present-day ableist behaviors. Another symbolic uses in the film are the use of color in clothing; Amanda wears sleek black and grey clothing, which represents her social standing, class, elegance, and wealth. This clashes with Richard’s simple and dull browns thus creating contrasting characters which find common ground. Similarly, this technique of contrast is also used in ‘Jasper Jones’, the effeminate Charlie, and the very masculine and ‘roguish’ Jasper: the use of the cigarette is used to highlight the distinction of the energies. The combination of camera angles and symbolism creates a very confrontational outlook on how society has internalized behaviors which we use as lenses on those differences.
In summary, Belonging is a complex concept with ties to morality, ethics, assumptions, stereotypes, and prejudice. Both ‘Jasper Jones’ and ‘Be my brother’ explore the complexity through the vessel of contemporary texts (a novel and short film, respectively).
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