Water on Film: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
*Please do not download or copy this artwork without direct permission from the artist
Film Analyses by Jane Spartan and Robert Spartan
Film Analysis #2 by Robert Spartan
The fictional film Beasts of the Southern Wild, written by Benh Zeitland, was about a little girl named Hushpuppy who was being raised by her father, Wink, in a coastal region of New Orleans known as the “Bath tub”. There is a close knit community of extremely poor people that live in this region and are willing to stay no matter what is thrown their way. Some of the neighbors are bar owners and another is a teacher, Mrs. B., who teaches the poor kids of the “Bath tub”. Wink is trying to teach his daughter how to survive when he is gone because he is battling not only alcoholism but what seems to be a fatal heart condition.
A storm hits the coastline and completely floods the “Bath tub” and in the morning Hushpuppy and Wink set off in their boat, the back of a pickup, to find the other residents who weathered the storm. Once everyone is together they celebrate being able to stick out the storm with drinking and eating food that is provided to them by the water. The adults of the group decide to blow up the levee that is keeping the water on their land. After the land is drained, the US government tries to come and take the residents of the region away and relocate them. But while they are being cared for at a medical facility they all escape to go back home. Hushpuppy uses this as an opportunity to try and go find her mother who she has never met, but decides she can’t stay because the “Bath tub” is her home. The movie ends with Hushpuppy fulfilling her dads dying wish of sending him into the water and lighting the boat on fire.
This film is not based off one historical event and it is a very fictional representation of many things portrayed within it, however, the film is based off of a specific area of Louisiana that will undergo similar disasters if things don’t change. The “Bath tub” region is an actual place on the coast which is in danger of being swallowed by the ocean. There are many reasons that this land is being lost and the one highlighted most in the film is climate change and global warming. Oil and gas companies also cut channels into the land that furthers the advancement of saltwater to areas it shouldn’t be. This results in the killing of almost everything living in the water. The advancement of oil and gas companies is not something that is highlighted in the film but the director chose to show the devastation that the saltwater can have on the land in terms of killing all plant and animal life.
The biggest water theme represented in this film is fear. In the movie, Hushpuppy envisions these huge prehistoric beasts being released from glaciers. The glaciers are melting because of climate change and the change is releasing these monsters that are wreaking havoc on everything that Hushpuppy cares for, her village and her family. To Hushpuppy these animals represent the unstoppable force of water that will destroy everything. To compare this to the real world, climate change is real and the way in which people will be most affected is their water. However, no one knows to what extent water will destroy land or other things important to civilization. In both the movie and real life the water, in the form of beasts, represents the fear of the unknown of what will happen if climate change or global warming is not addressed.
The second water theme that is represented in the film is land rights and wealth. The people living in the “Bath tub” did not have money and that didn’t make it easy for them to stay in their home. If they had wealth they could have been more persuasive, just like in the real world, that they had a right to that land. Land rights are not an easy topic when it comes to people living in poverty and that is depicted very well in this film.
Overall, this film was made up story and definitely made for an audience to enjoy more so than question what was actually happening. But when you looked beneath the story line there were actual real life issues about water and land that were being addressed. The director probably had the intention of making a huge impact, and he did win a lot of awards, but it could have been more effective if some of the story line were different. The biggest takeaway when you look beneath the surface is that people in poverty are often times neglected in terms of what they think is right and what people think they should just suck up to. It also opens your eyes to climate change that is affecting the water supply of the whole world even if you aren’t being directly affected, yet.