WHEN: 5:33 pm EST, April 4th, 2013

WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME

FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV

COMPANY: None

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Full of ravioli. I’m still feeling a bit sick. This cold has been lingering for over a week now.

THOUGHTS:

In Fantasia, Atreyu must pass tests and lose friends in order to prevail over the Nothing. In the ordinary world, Bastian has to deal with these three punks:

Zachery Ty Bryan of the ’80s, Evil Jonah Hill, and Red Hat.

We find out pretty quickly that, in addition to having a shitty home life, Bastian is also a victim of bullying. Most likely on a daily basis. The bullies are waiting for him on his walk to school and Bastian looks pissed that he forgot to take a different route. He immediately runs, trying to escape the trio. Once the group catches up with him, they want lunch money, call him a “momma’s boy,” and toss him into a dumpster. So, we also find out that Bastian is considered a dweeb by his peers. However, the momma’s boy comment stings in particular since we know that Bastian’s mother recently died. If those bullies are pulling that shit, then I extra loathe them.

There’s a lot to infer from this one encounter. First, as mentioned above, this appears to be, if not a daily, then at least a frequent occurrence in Bastian’s life. The trio is waiting for Bastian on his walk to school. These ruffians are probably the reason Bastian is late to school so often. Either Bastian is hiding from them, taking long ways to avoid them, or enduring their torture. Bastian could decide to tell someone, but his dad certainly isn’t any help and he seems less than thrilled with school, so a teacher doesn’t seem plausible, either. When Bastian hides in Mr. Koreander’s shop, the old man suggests that Bastian gives them a good punch in the nose. Bastian just shrugs and mumbles. It also appears that Bastian doesn’t have any friends. He doesn’t walk to school with anyone and no classmate points out that he’s missing. Bastian is isolated and enduring constant badgering by these fiends. No wonder he doesn’t leave at the end of the school day. The bullies are probably waiting for him.

“The attic is my home now.”

The bullies themselves might be older, or they may just be bigger than Bastian to highlight his scrawniness. They also have very different clothing from Bastian. They wear lots of pins (all three have The Rolling Stones lips) and two of them have weird cube backpacks. The differences are there to cue the audience into why they want to beat up Bastian. If you haven’t figured it out, it’s because Bastian is different and different is scary. Bastian reads a lot, carries a sack, daydreams during class, and probably comes from a more affluent family. Bastian’s dad is dressed quite well at breakfast. It also looks like they live in a house and not an apartment, so there’s a mortgage in there somewhere. Since Bastian appears to be a quiet, friendless, intelligent kid, he becomes an easy target for the trio.

I’m going to say something obvious now, but it needs saying: bullying is never okay. After taking notes during my viewing, I went to the U.S. government’s official website on bullying, stopbullying.gov. After perusing, I found information about risk factors for kids who get bullied and the kids who do the bullying. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Generally, children who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider ‘cool’
  • Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
  • Are depressed, anxious, or have low self esteem
  • Are less popular than others and have few friends
  • Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention

We don’t know that much about the last risk factor, but Bastian is a check on the other four. Bastian does not deserve to be bullied. Nobody does. I am merely comparing risk factors and am in no way implying that anyone with these qualities should be bullied. Ever.

Fucking frightening in real life.

But we also need to learn more about the bullies themselves. What “creates” a bully?

Children who have these factors are also more likely to bully others;

  • Are aggressive or easily frustrated
  • Have less parental involvement or having issues at home
  • Think badly of others
  • Have difficulty following rules
  • View violence in a positive way
  • Have friends who bully others

Remember, those who bully others do not need to be stronger or bigger than those they bully. The power imbalance can come from a number of sources—popularity, strength, cognitive ability—and children who bully may have more than one of these characteristics.

Since we don’t see much outside of Bastian’s encounter, we can only make conjectures about these intimidators. They are certainly aggressive and view violence as something fun. Since they are a group of three, they each have friends who bully other kids. I’m assuming since they’re lingering, waiting for Bastian, they don’t care about rules like being on time for school and thus have difficulty following them. Since they insist on calling Bastian a “weirdo” and a “chicken,” you can say that they think badly of at least one person. Are any of them having issues at home? At this point, the checklist is complete enough to sign them up for a life of petty crime and drug abuse.

And anal fissures.

Lastly, let’s discuss the whole revenge thing. In the movie, Bastian wishes for Falkor to help him gain retribution against his tormentors. It’s a fantastical scene that’s supposed to be about Bastian taking a stand, gaining confidence, and having a fun adventure. In our world, it’s a Pearl Jam song waiting to happen. Scenario: alternate reality Bastian never reads The Neverending Story, falls deeper into depression, and one day, in a fit of suppressed rage, bashes one of the bullies’ faces in. Not okay, Bastian. Falkor is jolly and fun-fun, but the act is quite sickening. Bastian could wish for anything (like his mother), but he uses his power for creepy revenge. Bastian needs some serious counseling and not just adventures in Fantasia. He doesn’t even think of the consequences of his actions. Besides terrorizing a city block, his revenge could result in some serious injuries.

Twisted ankle and a concussion.

Hepatitis and AIDS.

The trio of terror serves to show how much Bastian’s life sucks in the ordinary world. Of course he’s the perfect candidate to save Fantasia; he’d believe anything a fantasy book said to him at this point. Bastian is the victim and the underdog. He is the character that we, the audience, can relate to and root for.