This dream was structured like Ursula Under, where each vignette follows a different person in a single family tree. The last vignette is what I remember best. A young boy was dealing with bullies in elementary school. He did what his forebears had done before him—stood up to them, turning what began, to me the viewer, as a reenactment or a story told with tonka trucks, into an actual mowing over of these boys with a bulldozer he stole the keys for in a construction area behind the school. He didn’t mean for it to be so final; he may have just meant to scare them, but now they were dead and he knew what huge trouble he was in so he grabbed supplies and ran, knowing the school authorities would come after him. It ended with the boy cowering in the shallow water under a boardwalk that led through ruins his own ancestors had fought for, as the grim-faced athletic coach who found the dead bullies stalked down the boardwalk, looking for him. Someone—some kind of narrator, a leprechaun or other magical creature with a brogue—said to a other creature of the same sort that wasn’t that the way of it—what would have in the past been celebrated as heroism, a ridding the village of a scourge, is now something awful and scary and disturbing, and it sets us on edge. “A hero in his own time,” they kept repeating, and that phrase was in my head when I woke. (The understanding in the dream being that this boy was in the wrong time.) The boy’s ancestors HAD saved their villages from bullies (Romans?) and various evils, and had been celebrated for it. But a ten year old boy running over schoolyard bullies with a bulldozer? It wasn’t okay anymore, and the realization of this, the change of the times and the end of that kind of “heroism,” weighed heavily on the boy, like the stone boardwalk he cowered under, ready to crush him seemingly at a moment’s notice.
Stumbling awake, wanting to write this down and call it “Fairy Tales,” I blurrily tried to put together something about the real fairy tale being the idea that this kind of cruelty is past. I suppose that thought came from the political gabfest on Slate my husband and I listened to yesterday, about the Steubenville rape case. I hadn’t known about the social media aspects to it—I just thought it was a rape involving football stars, alcohol and an attempted cover-up (and of course the media sympathizing with “those poor boys, such promising futures.”) I didn’t know about the posing of the unconscious raped girl in different places and positions, the videos of it, her “friends” testifying that she was a liar, the twitter threats against her by the football players’ girlfriends after-the-fact. The question arose whether this kind of thing was and is happening all the time, or if it was actually rather rare, the assumption being that social media assures that we would hear about it if it really were that common. I believe the consensus, led by Emily Bazelon who is treated by the others as an expert in these matters because of a book Slate is pushing crazy hard lately, was that it wasn’t very common. Yes, most sexual assaults aren’t reported, but still, it probably wasn’t happening because—and they went beyond the social media watchdog argument here—people just can’t really be that awful and cruel.
THAT is a fairy tale, Emily Bazelon.