Believe it or not, the reason why I fangirl over the Once-ler isn’t lust
April 19, 2012 1 Comment
It’s pity and…well, empathy.
Don’t get me wrong, when he puts on that suit and gets that grin I’d let him nail me six ways to sunday, but all I feel for him in any form he’s in is overwhelming empathy.
“Nothing unmanly about knitting. Nope, nothing at all.”
He says this after making his first thneed. He sits back to admire it and says this line. I can imagine him discovering books on knitting when his brothers are outside playing football and he’s hiding because he’s not as strong as they are and they gang up on him and learning how to make himself something warm because his mother doesn’t care if he has a scarf for school. I can just imagine Brett and Chett punching baby!him on the shoulders and unraveling his yawn and hiding his needles because it’s a “girl’s hobby”, and why doesn’t he man up and stop drawing and knitting and playing that stupid guitar and learn football already?
“But you always said I wouldn’t amount to anything? …I am really glad you clarified that because that actually hurt my feelings for a REALLY long time!!”
The Once-ler: “But you always said I wouldn’t amount to anything, remember?”
His Mother: “Oh, hush your mouth! I was only trying to motivate you!”
The Once-ler: “Well, I am really glad that you clarified that because that actually hurt my feelings for a really long time!”
He wasn’t joking. Sure, it was funny, but this actually happened. This wasn’t something that his mother said flippantly when he was a kid and it stuck – she always said he wouldn’t amount to anything and and that hurt him deeply. He’s forcing a smile for her, because he is hiding how much it hurt him.
“Look at this. This is amazing! …I am so proud of me.”
The Once-ler was away from his family for a long time at this point – probably weeks. It was clearly a negative environment at his home (maybe not physically abusive, but no one supported him in what he did which was emotionally traumatizing), but he had escaped it, made friends, his business was getting off the ground, his family seemed to like him and everything was going well. And now he’d designed his new factory, which he would have the collateral to built soon. He looks over his blue prints. This is the last thing he says before his mother comes into the scene:
“Look at this! This is amazing!…I am so proud of me.”
He’s not being conceited or haughty, he says it genuinely, like he’s giving himself a treat. He says it like he’s saying “I think I’ll have a piece of chocolate, because I earned it”. He had to be proud of himself. No one else was. The Once-ler had to bolster his own confidence because he was used to no one else saying they were proud of him.
And then his mother brings in a cloud of darkness.
She says to him “We have a little problem”
“Mmhm…we’re not making thneeds fast enough.”
“…well, what else can we do?”
(That is not the face of someone who is proud of himself. That is the face of a child being berated, and she hadn’t even said a vicious word to him yet. She only showed slight dissaproval.)
“Well, and this…just came to me. We could always start…chopping down the trees.”
(His uncle) “Whoo! Now you’re thinkin’! That would speed things up!”
“But – “
Once-ler’s mom again: “No buts, Oncie! You’re running a business now. You have to think of what’s best for the company! And your mama!”
“Well…I guess it couldn’t hurt to chop down a few trees…*awkward, forced, almost manic laugh*”
“You’ve made me so proud, Oncie! C’mere!”
At first he gets a look of shock as she hugs him, but once it passes, he gets a small smile on his face, and after another moment, the smile gets bigger and his eyes soften. He looks at her as if to say “This…is nice! This is it! She loves me! I did something right, and now she’s hugging me because she loves me! I made her proud…so I really am amazing, like I said!”
I love The Once-ler. I can relate to feeling like no one is proud of you and the things that you do. I can relate to them just being in the same space as you and you feel like a child in the corner again. I can relate to getting just an ounce of dissaproval and relinquishing all control just to have them say that you did good. I get that, because I do that. I want to take The Once-ler by the shoulders and lead him away – I want to sketch and jam and sing with him. I want to teach him how to crochet and he can teach me how to knit, and I’ll show him how to make pancakes with little berries in them and we can make s’mores by a camp fire and tell each other our dreams.
Mostly I want to hug him, tell him “I know that feel bro”, and maybe punch his mom in the face and tell her to go buy a goddamn ladder at the market and that she isn’t in charge of this company.
…wait, no, that’s anger.
Eh, same difference.
Originally posted here