“Eleanor Oliphant”: diversity, loneliness and hope

I’ve always loved reading, but sometimes the books I’ve had on my hand didn’t leave a deep marking inside of me. This isn’t certainly the case of the last one I read, “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine“,  the debut novel by the Scottish Gail Honeyman, a little “literary sensation” that’s about to become a movie as well.

"Eleanor Oliphant in completely fine"

“Eleanor oliphant is completely fine”: the plot

Don’t worry: no spoiler! 🙂 I don’t mean to spoil your pleasure to enjoy this engaging and very well written novel. I’m just telling you something about the story of Eleanor, a character that you’ll hardly forget. Eleanor is an English young woman living an apparently “banal” life, between her job as an accountant at a graphic design the loneliness of her flat, with a plant as her only company. Eleanor is shy, not interested in being trendy, nor in socialize with her colleagues, who, after all, don’t do much to create a less than formal relationship with her. They see her as a “strange being”, due to her old-fashioned clothes, her sloppy appearance (marked by a scar spoiling her face, inheritance of the event that changed her life forever). Then, they make fun of her, isolating her and, at most, addressing her jokes and uncool nicknames. Nevertheless, as the novel’s title claims, she “is completely fine”. Or, at least, so she thinks, until, thanks to a series of events that I’m not unveiling, she’ll start to realize that there’s life beyond the borders of her routine and, gradually,  she’ll also learn to deal with her own spectres.

eleanor, “one of us”

” I’ve been the focus of far too much attention in my time. Pass me over, move along please, nothing to see here!”

I’ve found in this quote, one of my favourite ones in the novel, one of the traits that make me feel emotionally closer to Eleanor: indeed, like her, I’ve spent most of my life just longing for being invisible, not raising other people’s morbid curiosity. But, just like Eleanor, I’m gradually learning to make peace with myself, forgiving me for what I’m not guilty of and look at other people from a different perspective, not necessarily as potential “threats”, but also as “opportunities“, in every way.

So, here’s why I suggest you, shouldn’t you do it already, to read this wonderful novel: a breath of fresh air and a glimmer of hope for everyone. Since, in the end, there’s a little bit of Eleanor in everyone of us.

“The shape of water”: a fable about diversities

Should you still be among the (few) people who haven’t watched it, I hope to convince you to immediately go to the cinema! Since “The shape of water“, the movie by Guillermo del Toro that won the Golden Lion at Venice International Film Festival in 2017 and four Oscar awards just a few months ago, tells a story that you’ll hardly forget, since it  wrings the  deepest heartstrings of everyone.

“The shape of water” is a modern fable set in Baltimore at the beginning of the Sixties, during the Cold War among the USA and the URSS. Its main characters represent various diversities: Eliza, an orphan young woman who is speechless after her vocal cords had been cut off when she was a child; Zelda, an Afro-American woman who works with Eliza as a cleaner; Giles, the old homosexual advertising illustrator living with Eliza, who is subjected to discrimination at work. Plus, of course, him: the Deus Brânquia, the “shape” the title of the movie (and of the novel that’s the other part of this project), who is worshipped as a god by the Amazonian people and has been captured and taken in chains at the State laboratory Eliza and Zelda work at, to examinate and use him against Russia. Marginalized human beings who, inevitably, meet and end up making an close and odd group.

The shape of water - Eliza and the Deus Brânquia

Eliza, who succeeded establishing a relationship based on silent empathy with the creature, decides to do her best to save it from an apparently sealed destiny and, helped by Giles, Zelda and one of the laboratory scientists (who is actually a Russian spy in disguise), rescues it and takes it in her flat. Here, they end up falling in love, but, before the happy ending, they’ll have to overtake several obstacles, in a crescendo of suspense and thrill.

The end of “The shape of water” (which I won’t unveil to you) is definitely a fable, as much as the tone of the whole movie. Nevertheless,  with its sensitivity and poetry, it launches a very important message, in its simplicity: beyond our differences, we all are equal and deserve to be treated (and loved) with respect and humanity.

Inclusive Job Day: an opportunity for talents

Are you part of the so-called “protected categories” and are looking for a job? Save this date on your agendas: the Inclusive Job Day, which will take place in Milan, at the Acquario Civico, on March 19th, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The event, organized by Inclusive Mindset partnering with Comune di Milano, offers to people who are part of the “protected categories” (due to disability or other reasons) and to the foreigners the opportunity to meet prestigious businesses, even having job interviews.

Inclusive Job Day

The companies which have already confirmed their participation in Milan Inclusive Job Day include: Apple, Alten, Ferrovie dello Stato, Mapei, Costa Crociere, Pirelli and Percassi. The event is addressed both to people who have a diploma or a degree and/or a master’s degree, since the profiles the companies are willing to meet range from the most suitable for operational or administrative positions to those with a higher seniority, with managerial skills.

how to participate in the inclusive job day?

To participate in the Inclusive Job Day, you need to register for free on Inclusive Mindset website, create your profile filling all the required info (the same you’d be required by a job board) and confirm. Then, to sign up for the Inclusive Job Day, logout from the platform and login again and, selecting the “Eventi” folder, click on “Iscriviti” on the same line as the Inclusive Job Day.

Inclusive Job Day

As you can see on the above picture, to get prepared for the event, you can also particapate in a training session (always signing up online), on March 15th  at Fondazione Adecco per le Pari Opportunità: during this session, experts from Adecco will guide the candidates with tips on how to properly prepare to the Job Day.

It’s an important opportunity, at a time when, as some conventions I had the chance to attend in these weeks confirm, it seems that businesses are paying more attention to topics such as inclusion  and empowerment of diversity, in all its meanings: gender, ethnic group, religion, sexual preference, age, origin. Furthermore, a study by Boston Consulting confirms that businesses which are more willing to embrace diversity are also the most innovative ones.

Inclusive job Day - Boston Consulting

Then, update your resume and sign up now! See you there!

“Forrest Gump”: the revenge of diversity

Let’s go on with our virtual tour in the way mass media talk about disability and, generally speaking, diversity with a 1994 movie which, now, is part of common parlance: “Forrest Gump” by Robert Zemeckis, starring a great Tom Hanks playing, precisely, Forrest, a man who, in his adult age, sitting on a bench at the bus stop, tells the people who get there the story of his life.

The beginning of the tale could seem the “same old story” about a disabled child in the USA during ‘40s: the little Forrest life was marked by his illness and physical and cognitive disability, who made him an easy target for bullies. The child constantly finds the strength to react, also thanks the support from his mother and Jenny, the only peer who seems to consider him worthy of her friendship. She, to escape the umpteenth assault by bullies, helps Forrest Gump discovering a capability that, despite his physical disability, will change his life: he’s great at running! Exploiting this talent, he will be admitted to the football team and, soon, he becomes its star. Thanks to his sport merits, he is admitted to the college and graduates, before joining the army and go fighting in Vietnam. Injured while he was rescuing two fellow soldiers of his, arrives at the military hospital, where he learns to play table tennis and- needless to say- he stands out also in this sport.

“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”

“Poor Forrest”, who always used to be derided and harassed by bullies when he was a child, has become, in his own way, a successful man, who even gets to personally meet the US President, who awards him with an honour. But there’s even more: by chance circumstances, he becomes a millionaire. There would be a dream to achieve left: his love for Jenny, who, meanwhile, has had a tricky life.  She, being afraid of ruining his life, has sex with him, but then goes away. Then, Forrest rediscovers his passion for running and starts doing it without a defined destination, attracts followers who start running with him thinking he’s doing it for a noble cause, so three years pass. Then, suddenly, Forrest stops: he’s tired and wants to come back home. He meets again Jenny, who, meanwhile, gave birth to Forrest’ son and, at last, they get married, even though their happiness isn’t meant to last long: got sick, Jenny dies and Forrest takes care of raising their very smart son up.

Forrest Gump

“Forrest Gump” is a poetical movie, which succeeds narrating with levity a story that could easily slip into pitiful tones, without that, always at hand, that little detail which manages to get a smile out and lightens the mood. But, above all, it’s a movie with a very clear moral: nobody’s a sealed fate, if he succeeds finding inside himself (and in those near him) the strength (and the possibility) to overcome his own difficulties

“The elephant man”: disability in Victorian London

Let’s go on reviewing movies that talk about diversity and, particularly, disability, with a classic filmed in 1980 by one of my favourite directors ever: the magnificent “The elephant man” by David Lynch,  inspired to the true story of Joseph Merrick (renamed John), a men suffering from the very rare Proteus syndrome,  which had severely altered his face and body. In the movie as in his real life, Merrick is discovered by chance by a famous doctor during a show, where he was exposed as a freak, exploiting his “monstrosity” to enrich his cruel exploiter. The doctor takes the man with him and, gradually, helps him to include himself into the community, giving him back the human dignity that, ‘til that moment, had been neglected and allowing people discover, beyond the “monster”, a sensitive and cultured man.

"The Elephant Man"

Of course, his story rapidly spreads all over London, even lighting on to Queen Victoria’s ears. She, moved by the story, sets up a trust, to fund his medical cares. Is everything fine, then? Forget it! John’s jailor succeeds finding and kidnapping him, getting back to exploiting him in his freaks circus. But the other freaks help him escaping and getting back to London. Here we see the most moving scene in the whole movie:  at the railways station, Merrick, while running to escape from the vexations by a group of kids, accidentally hits a baby girl and, for that reason, risks to get lynched by the crowd. But the man, to stop them, screams out: “I’m not an elephant! I’m not an animal! I’m a human being!”. Finally safe, again with the doctor who had already helped him, Merrick lives another “moment of glory”, attending a performance during which he is honoured with an ovation. Got back to the hospital the man dies, at last in peace and with his heart heated by the awareness of having had, during his life, at least a friend: the doctor.

The elephant man” isn’t a mushy tale indulging with pietism. Quite the contrary! David Lynch, with his dry and essential style, lets us understand how, going beyond the appearance of physical traits, we can catch the real essence of people, including “monsters” like Merrick. Evil doesn’t lie in who is “different”, but in the community, that, not knowing how to include him, marginalizes him for fear.

“Indivisible”: a movie about disability and change

It came out in cinemas just a few days ago, but “Indivisible” by Edoardo De Angelis has already become a little “sensation”, applauded both during the last Venice Film Festival and at the International Film Festival in Toronto.

"Indivisible" - poster

It is the story of Viola and Siamese twins (conjoined by a leg) from Campania who, living in a social context full of superstitions and bias that sees them, at the same time, as “saints” to worship and as “freaks”, are forced by their family to make a living working as neomelodic singers. By chance, the girls hear of a surgeon who could separate their bodies, finally enabling them to live an autonomous life.  However, their family stands strenuously opposite to their wish for independence, being afraid of losing their source of income.

“Indivisible” offers a lot of food for thought, both about the daily life of those who live this particular condition and, generally speaking, about the way disability and diversity in general are seen. The two girls miss the opportunity to express themselves as individuals, not just due to their being physically conjoined and, therefore, unable to live separately, but also because, de facto, the context they live in doesn’t fully recognize their dignity as individuals. Starting from their rambling family, Viola and Daisy are seen much more as freaks to exhibit and to make money off (to compensate for the “misfortune” occurred to their family) than individuals with rights.  That’s another reason why their family doesn’t even conceive that the “game” could end, due to a surgery which allows the girls to live autonomously and chase their own respective dreams.

"Indivisible" - the main characters

But “Indivisible” isn’t a sad movie: quite the opposite, indeed! We can define it a sort of realistic fable, where beauty and ugly, dream and horror mix up and blend. A movie that contains a simple, but profound, moral: freedom to live your own life as you like it, regardless of your own condition, is the most important point.

“Rock, paper, scissors”: Google against bullying

In these days, while surfing the Internet, I’ve often bumped into a very beautiful and meaningful video: “Rock, paper, scissors”, the Android (the mobile operating system by Google) commercial against bullying. The commercial isn’t new, since it had been launched in February, during the last Oscar ceremony. But, since bullying is still a global issue, it’s always worth to watch it again and, above all, reflect on the profound meaning of the message it transmits.

Rock, paper, scissors”: who has never played this game, at least once, as a child? In the game, the three elements are, on one hand, able to cancel their opponent’ action, but, on the other hand, are exposed to it: for instance, the rock beats the scissors, but, meanwhile, it’s beaten by the paper. Only joining their own forces rock, paper and scissors can stand up to the external attacks.

Since the bully (or the bullies) leverage precisely the loneliness of the victim he has chosen, to hit her. And bullying is an issue that constantly affects children and kids of all ages, for very different reasons: disability, ethnic, sexual or, simply, behavioural or aesthetic differences are all factors that, marking a “diversity”, can make who represents them, unfortunately, as a sort of “menace”, to be removed from the picture that, according to the bullies, should represent “perfection”.

“Rock, paper, scissors” the commercial against bullying

So, what can we do? How to solve this problem? For sure, not pretending it doesn’t exist, judging bullying as “childish actions”, that will pass by themselves, as it, unfortunately, often happens. The only way to overtake bullying is, as the “Rock, paper, scissors” commercial recalls, joining our forces, not isolating the (even just potential) victims of bullying, staying close to them, making any possible effort to overthrow, through an inclusive culture, the barriers that separate from the “diverse” people.