BY DAVID PERRYMAN
My first trip to a movie theater was a pretty frightening ordeal. Fortunately, my Mom had me out of the theater and into the lobby with reasonable haste. She would never have allowed me to be harmed in any way, but for several years, I wondered why a horror story was made into an animated children’s movie.
It was December in the early 1960s and the Time Theater was showing an English dubbed version of a Soviet produced adaption of Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen. We had just settled in with our popcorn. It was my older sister’s eighth or ninth birthday and several of her friends were being treated to a movie by our Mom. I was along for the ride. The cartoon ran first, followed by Art Linkletter’s prologue with a group of children around a Christmas tree. Then began the feature presentation.
The story unfolded with a little boy and girl sitting on their grandmother’s lap listening to her story about the classic tale. All of a sudden, the Snow Queen with a face the size of the entire screen started flying around frosting windows and frightening little children in the village as well as this little child in the audience. Suddenly, the shutters flew open and ice crystals blew into the boy’s eye, turning his heart to ice and making him mean-spirited. Then, the Snow Queen whisked him away to her palace.
I don’t remember anything after that scene, since I did not go back into that theater for several years.
Fast forward to 2013. My wife and I had seen fun previews of Frozen, the new Disney movie and gathered up our grandkids for a treat. We had just settled in with our popcorn when the introduction credits revealed that it was also an adaption of Andersen’s Snow Queen!
Anxiously, overcome by a flood of unpleasant memories, I assessed all the exits … in the event or one or more of our grandchildren or I needed a quick escape from the storyline. Apprehensively, I watched the entire motion picture without incident and the grandkids thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank goodness the director had utilized artistic license in a more age appropriate manner than the Russians did in the 1950s.
Speaking of remakes, a new film version of James Thurber’s Secret Life of Walter Mitty, written in 1939 and filmed as a Danny Kaye movie in the late 1940s, is being released this month with Ben Stiller in the title role.
Thurber’s fictional character, Walter Mitty, whose overbearing self-perception of indispensability and grandiose value to society has come to signify those who are unwilling or unable to separate the reality of their true mundane value from a fantastically embellished existence upon which the weight of the world rests.
While the Walter Mittys of the Oklahoma Legislature are chasing rabbits and issuing self-congratulatory press releases about useless legislation and wasting public funds, Oklahomans are facing critical issues:
One in six Oklahoma women are victims of domestic violence. We are among the highest in terms of reported incidents of child abuse. One in five high school students claim to have been physically abused or injured while on a date. Twenty-six percent of all ninth graders, three times the national average, report incidents of date violence. Oklahoma ranks third in the number of women killed by men.
Oklahoma has the highest female incarceration rate in the country. Eighty percent are non-violent offenders. Sixty percent were victims of sexual and physical abuse as children and more than 90% were the victims of domestic violence in their adult lives. More than half are mothers, many of which are the heads of single parent led households.
The list goes on. Fifth in teen pregnancy. Second in divorce rate. One in six Oklahomans living in poverty with those single persons living in poverty having an average income $410.42 per month. Incredibly, more than 190,000 children and over half a million Oklahoma residents live in homes where they don’t have enough money to pay for housing, medicine, food and heat.
These and other statistics should be a call to action by lawmakers. There should be a concerted effort to identify what Oklahoma is doing wrong in comparison to other states and addressing those issues. Simply dismissing these conditions as the result of bad decisions or lifestyle choices is the moral equivalent of sticking our proverbial head in the sand.
Yet, polished walnut and weight rooms are installed in the Capitol building while foundational problems are neglected. Huge salary increases are awarded to allegiant agency heads while caseworkers, prison guards, highway patrolmen, teachers and other state employees slip further into economic despair. Plans are made to divert public funds toward the construction of a chapel in the Capitol building.
This week I watched the 1950s version of the Snow Queen on the Internet. I am happy to tell you that it had a happy ending. The love of the sister for her brother gave her the courage to search him out at the queen’s palace and bring him home with a thawed heart.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s story is no fairy tale. Education, the most likely means to break the cycle of poverty and violence, has been cut by more than 22% which is a deeper cut than has occurred in any other state.
Until voters become engaged and hold elected officials accountable, this nightmare will continue. Speak up or endure more of the same.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives