Within the first minutes of 'Beasts of the Southern Wild', I was thrust into a trailer on stilts, with a wild-haired little girl whose clothes were filthy; whose dad was reckless and intoxicated; who mostly, though probably not often enough, knew she was loved.
And within these same first minutes, I'd already made my assumptions.
What kind of father is that? What kind of town is this? Too much alcohol; too much dirt. Not enough order; not enough love.
But there was another group of people in this movie who made assumptions. They were clean and put together and sanitary and rescued the residents of Bathtub right out of that filthy bayou. This is for your own good. It's clean here. There are hospital beds. And other children to play with. And four safe walls to keep you safe.
What Hushpuppy and her neighbors see, though, is that their choices have been stripped away. They didn't choose to leave; they were forced to leave.
So, now, clean and beds and children and walls communicate suffocation and oppression and... boredom.
What I saw in 'Beasts...' was the danger of assumptions - that this poor, unresourced community couldn't take care of themselves. That life was bad.
It made me think of my own community, my own neighbors, some of whom don't have the same things I have: two-parent homes, jobs, cars, etc. What are my assumptions? What is good for them? Will I give them time to let me know what they need - if anything - from me, or will I assume I know what it is before I've even learned their name?
Our starting place can never be assumptions, or we've not met the person in front of us; we've only met the person we've been taught to think they are.