“You should be questioning everything right now… What’s it all really for?”[Not so] long ago, there was a girl who loved a good story. She dreamed of one day having adventures worthy of a fantasy movie or a novel. Perhaps she would be discovered as the lost princess of a faraway kingdom or she would stumble upon a hatching dragon that would grow up to fly her over beautiful cities. Unfortunately, years went by without a letter from Hogwarts or a Greek godparent reveal. Real life was not a fantasy, but that didn’t mean she was done embracing her stories for all they had to teach her.
- Nick Bruno and Troy Quane from ”Nimona”
Hi, I’m Joy. Welcome to my column, where we will dive into pieces of media, old and new, to draw out their underlying lessons. In the digital age, we are constantly bombarded with different messages. In every piece of media you consume — from TikToks to movies, tweets to novels and viral sounds to albums — someone is trying to tell you something. In this column, I want to deep dive into what those messages could be.
On that note, for this first article, I direct your attention to Netflix’s ”Nimona,” a movie that illustrates the importance of being critical of the media you consume and being willing to broaden your own perspective.
The animated adventure-comedy follows the shapeshifting titular character Nimona and a disgraced knight Ballister. The unlikely pair collaborate to clear Ballister’s name after he is framed for the queen’s murder. The movie touches on many themes, including the dangers of systemic hate. However, I want to focus on how it portrays perspectives, both unchanging and evolving.
[Forewarning: While I successfully avoid major spoilers in this article, I will be discussing character developments and perspectives, so proceed with caution.]
The movie takes place in a walled-off kingdom, where young knights are trained by the Institution to protect the realm from legendary monsters beyond the wall. Children grow up “believing they could be a hero if they put their sword through the heart of anything different.” However, Nimona, a shapeshifter, is different. Ballister, the first knight without noble blood, is different. Their very existence challenges the kingdom’s teachings. So how does society react to them?
When your beliefs are challenged, either by contradicting evidence or by finding flawed reasoning, you encounter two options. You can reject the challenge altogether or you can lean into it and affirm where you stand.
The easy option is to simply reject the challenge. In action, this looks like ignoring — or even destroying — problematic evidence. Some might perceive this option as operating on faith, others might deem it as being willfully ignorant.
Alternatively, leaning in requires humility. Perhaps the challenge is falsely construed or it supplements the already-held belief. In this event, your belief is all the stronger for examining it critically. However, if the challenging evidence is strong and genuinely doesn’t align with the established perspective, one must accept being wrong and be willing to grow.
In ”Nimona,” the rejection response is visible in the director’s attitude towards those who are different and the lengths she will go to eliminate challenges to her perspective. In the kingdom, her job is to lead the Institution and “protect [the kingdom’s] way of life.” She encourages those around her to not question what has kept them safe for centuries. She maintains blind faith in the system and aims to destroy anything and anyone that threatens it.
We see the second lean-in response in Ballister’s arc. When he learns of Nimona’s abilities, his first instinct is to deem her a monster. As a citizen of the Kingdom and a trained knight, he only knows to recognize Nimona as something different and inhuman, but she didn’t fit into the mold that he had been taught. She wasn’t a senseless, evil being; she was his friend. So, he leans in and accepts her existence as a third option. She’s not human. She’s not a monster. She’s Nimona, for whatever that means.
Ballister’s development also shows us that leaning in can take time. As the movie unfolds, there are various instances where Ballister’s belief in the Institute’s teachings is challenged. He isn’t always immediately ready to re-examine his beliefs — which would be unreasonable — but he also doesn’t destroy the evidence. He remains open as he gathers more information. With time, he lets his perspective shift based on what he’s learned through various experiences and not based on the teachings of any single source.
Today, it’s easy to dismiss challenging opinions and live in a bubble of ideas that only support your own worldview. In a kingdom of free-flowing ideas, don’t be a willfully ignorant, destructive director. Be a mindful, ever-evolving Ballister. Or, challenge what I’ve shared today and create your own third category — be a Nimona of your own design. Let this article remind you that it is okay to challenge your perspective and the information provided to you. Be mindful of the media you consume and critical of the sources that influence you. Through it all, embrace growth.
Joy Agwu is a senior at Pasquerilla West, originally from Bowie, Maryland. She is pursuing a degree in Philosophy with a minor in Constitutional Studies. In her free time, she finds great pleasure in consuming media and reflecting on the deeper meanings behind the content she encounters. Whether you have recommendations for TV shows, movies, podcasts or any other form of media, or if would like to further discuss an idea presented in a column, feel free to reach out to her on Instagram @JoyfulJoyousss.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.