It’s been another one of those fortnights here at FW. We’ve all had many ideas for many things, but interestingly not one of us had an idea for a GUST. Something that is very odd, because we all adore writing for a GUST article. Anyway, the Ed eventually turned to me and said: “Z, you know your review this issue? Make it a GUST.” The Ed can be very straight-forward like that when it suits them. Anyway, I put my thinking cap on and tried to decide what would make a good article for a GUST. Then my eyes drifted first to the bookshelves, and then to the DVD shelves. It didn’t take long for an answer to come to me. This issue? This issue we’re looking at Matilda.
Matilda, originally written by Roald Dahl, is one of those stories that managed to seep into our collective consciousness. Which a lot of Roald Dahl stories do; at least his ones that were aimed primarily at a younger age group. It tells the story of an extraordinary little girl, who loves reading best of all the things in the world, and is ignored and despised by her parents, who would much rather she watched more television. (Yeah, Dahl had a thing against television, and it shows up in a lot of his works.) When she finally gets to go to school – something that she had been really looking forward to – Matilda encounters the horrible Miss Trunchbull, an overgrown bully who likes nothing better than to pick on the children at her school. Soon enough, Matilda develops powers that allow her to move things with her mind, and then it’s time to take her revenge.
And that’s a very quick, glossing over all the important little details, view of the book, movie, and now, stage musical with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. Check out some of the public performances on youtube; the musical is getting great reviews. Of course, most people will probably be familiar with the movie that came out in the 90s, starring Danny DeVito, Pam Ferris, and Mara Wilson in the titular role. Despite the changes that came in the movie, like making everyone except Miss Trunchbull American, the movie is actually fairly faithful to the overall plot of the book, which is a bit of a change from some of the Dahl adaptations. (The Witches, I’m looking at you here, much as I enjoy you.) Check it out if you haven’t seen it, and watch it again if you have. It’s worth the re-watch.
So what is it about Matilda that makes it accessible for people of all ages? Apart from a really good story with a protagonist that you can’t help but like and sympathise with, that is. Well, those are really good reasons already, so do you need others? Yes? Okay then. Personally, I like Matilda because it shows something that I was never able to manage in my time at school: the victim managing to overcome the bully. It glories in things that can make you feel isolated – like finding a home in fictional worlds that just come off the page when you read them – and it celebrates any type of intelligence in a person. (Random side note; judging by interactions with younger peoples, intelligence only really starts to be mocked when you get to a high school level. For really young ones? It’s something amazing.) More to be amazed about is that Matilda’s powers are not some sign that she’s a Chosen One. In the world that Dahl has created, it’s just something that is. Amazing, yes, but just is.
Then, I hear you ask, why should a grown up go back and check this out? Well, again, I really have to give props to what is a darling of a story, even if the worldwide is very black and white. For children, we can allow this, but there are subtle shades of grey in the way that Matilda seeks her revenge on people. I mean, it’s more harmless pranking, but when you consider that usually it is expected for the victim to grin and bear it, to see them decide to take things into their own hands, and help out others the best that they can against the same bully is really something that warms the heart.
So, please, go and check out Matilda again. It may be strictly black and white, and some of the characters may be extreme in their characterisation, but there’s a lovely atmosphere to it, and one that you can’t help but enjoy.
Z McAspurren (“When I grow up, I will be big enough to fight the monsters that you need to fight beneath your bed each night to be a grown up”)