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Fictional cartoon characters deal with adversity differently to us humans. In cartoons, the characters reshape their concerns in exaggerated ways, often teaching us a lesson or demonstrating a moral.

Where humans may brood about their concern, endlessly worrying about it, cartoon characters do something about it. Wile E. Coyote, for example, is a creature of action. He doesn’t sit and complain about not catching the Road Runner, he ideates, prototypes, iterates, and comes up with ideas bigger than the last. Of course, he never catches her, but that doesn’t deter the coyote, that just spurs him on to try again. We can learn from this, and many other cartoon characters who examine their concern, reshape it and then take action.

The Æffect letters page is answered by our expensive external consultant (whose very existence causes much anxiety within every corporate in-house team). Marjorie transforms the worst possible scenario and forecast into glowing opportunity. We have a number of characters to address their concerns this issue and you can read more from Snow White, Thanos and Lisa Simpson to name a few in the printed issue of Æffect, our Innovation Management Journal later this month. Here’s Ariel, The Little Mermaid, to kick us off.

 

Dear Marjorie,

I read your article on Identity in last month’s magazine, and was compelled to write and tell you about my experience in transitioning from Mermaid to Human in the late 80s.

My mother died when I was a baby, so it was just my dad and me growing up, but I didn’t want for anything. I had gadgets and gizmos a plenty, and thingamabobs? I had 20… but I knew I was different, I knew I wanted more. My father was strict. Understandably so, for I was his only daughter and he felt he needed to be both mum and dad to me. I think this is why I found it so hard to tell him that I was trapped in this mermaid body, that it wasn’t who I was supposed to be. He was so proud of our mer-heritage, he would have taken this rejection so personally, so I hid my true identity from him. I confided in a few friends, but few understood – I had everything a mermaid would ever want, so why did I want to leave my home and live on the land, as a human?

Only Sebastian, my best friend, tried to understand and he helped me arrange a social transition, where I lived underwater, but as a human, for a few months. It was amazing. I could experience what being human would feel like: walking around on my fins and combing my hair with a fork. After this experience, when I swam as a mermaid it felt different, but not as troublesome as before, because I had experienced both identities, explored, and was learning to love both sides of me. Thirty years ago, I didn’t have the options available to me as transitioning mermaids do today. I went to see Dr Ursula and my choice was: be a mermaid, or be a human. It was one of the other. All I could think was, why can’t I be part of both worlds? I chose to become human, but with no support above water, I felt isolated, like I had lost my voice. Eventually, I met and fell in love with a Prince, moved into his massive castle, got married, became a queen and my father forgave me. Now, in my mid-forties, I am comfortable with who I am. I often visit my friends and family under the sea and feel more comfortable both swimming and walking. I have realised that I don’t have to define myself as mermaid or human – I can just be Ariel, and people can take me for who I am, not what I am.

Yours,
Ariel

 

Dear Ariel,

What a terrible place to be in! Sounds like you were really floundering! I bet you had to mullet over for quite a while! But seriously though, as creator of the Self Evident Truths project, http://www.selfevidentproject.com/ iO Tillet Wright says, “You can never bend yourself into being anything other than what you are. No matter how much social pressure is put on you.” Not identifying completely as mermaid or humans is fine by me – but this isn’t the late 80s, and that must have been a tough one.

I recommend spending some quality time with Lynne Segal, socialist feminist academic and activist, Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies. She suggests that “identities and belongings, whether gendered or of any other hue, can never be securely pinned down.”

No matter how much we attach to who we are or what we aspire to be “identity concepts remain pivotal to our ways of perceiving the world, positioning ourselves and asserting differing forms of agency within it.”

It sounds that, with age, you have embraced your identity, realising that the agency you needed to change was more mental than a physical.

Keep on swimming! (Or not!)

Best wishes,
Marjorie

 

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Segal, L. After Judith Butler: Identities, Who Needs Them? Subjectivity (2008) 25: 381.