By: Oumar Diagne
Imagine drowning. Being at the bottom of the pool, not being able to do what your body is naturally inclined to do. You try to escape and to no avail, you continue to be pulled down by boys that are bigger and stronger than you. For the first time in your life, you face death. Would you ever go back in the water?
Imagine being afraid of your parent. The one person in the world that is meant to take care of you and love you unconditionally, frightens you to the very core of your being. That the very utterance of your name begins a panic within your psyche. You are so afraid, that the only place you find solace is in the dark. Would you ever find the light?
Imagine being broken. Not due to an accident. But being born broken. That to you, everything in the world is dangerous. A carnival ride, a set of stairs, or even a mother’s hug. Imagine your body being its own worst enemy, what would you turn to in your search for answers?
The characters in M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, don’t have to imagine.
19 years have passed since David Dunn survived the train crash that would change his life forever. Since then, our security guard has opened up a security shop, helping people to feel safe. He’s lost his wife to a battle with cancer. He is as close as ever to his son as they work together. Oh…David also wears a rain slicker and goes out at night to beat up bad guys. He’s even given a few, although incredibly bad, nicknames.
David’s night time activities take a sharp turn due to none other then The Horde. The multiple personalities killer that we met in SPLIT is back and continuing to put fear into the hearts of the unbroken. This time the gang of psychoses has kidnapped a group of cheerleaders and locked them away. It is now up to the Unbreakable David Dunn to find the girls and defeat the biggest baddest personality of them all The Beast.
Or so Glass would like for you to believe. Instead of a violent battle between good and evil, Shyamalan offers us insight not only into the minds of heroes and villains but also in the very thing that gives these exceptional beings their power. Belief.
After our hero and our villain are captured, they are taken to a mental health facility where therapist Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) does her best to drive seeds of doubt into the minds of each individual. She believes that losing faith in their abilities, will force them to face their own mortality and realize that they are not special, but just like the rest of us.
What I find the most interesting about this concept and how the film embraces it; the belief in the self is incredibly important, but what makes these three characters push further forward into their strength and abilities, is the belief that others have in them.
Other than our three comic book avatars, the movie is populated with people that have a close relationship or bond with each of them. David Dunn has his son, Joseph. Mr. Glass has his mother, and The Horde has Casey. These three characters play a huge role in giving our three leads the final push they need to embrace their true selves.
David Dunn was almost drowned as a child. There is no doubt about the feelings of powerlessness and weakness that must have washed over him for years to come. In the flashback we see in GLASS, he’s fighting back to no avail. How strange it must have felt for him to discover later on in his life, that he was not only strong but damn near indestructible. Years before he survived the train crash, he survived a car accident with his wife in the vehicle, he came out of that unscathed and even then, he still continued to doubt in the incredible power within him. His son changed all of that.
In Unbreakable, he steps inside his son’s room one night and he tells him. “I know about your secret identity.” This was the turning point for David. He could have survived a train accident so violent that everyone else died, but it was only when his son believed in him, that he truly began to believe in himself. He pushed the limits of his body, bench pressing heavier and heavier loads. He put on the rain slicker and went out into the world to help the people that needed his strength. David Dunn was no longer the weak child at the bottom of the pool. He was the one pulling people out.
Meanwhile, Mr. Glass was born and within the first few minutes of his time on earth, he broke. His bones like brittle, couldn’t even handle a hug from his loving mother. He grew up believing that he was a mistake. That something was deeply wrong with his existence. There is nothing more tragic than a child with no sense of self.
While Elijah thought this, his mother believed otherwise. She believed that her son was spectacular. In her eyes, he was perfect. She took care of him and loved him the way only a mother could. Cultivating the notion that there was an explanation beyond the natural for his predicament. The belief that his mother gave him, set him on a path that would affect the lives of countless people.
He found comic books. Stories of heroes and villains. Stories of people with extraordinary abilities and their counterparts. Since his body failed him, his mind became his greatest weapon. His mother’s words, her belief had to come from somewhere. It had to have some anchor into the world. Once his theory began to manifest, that heroes and villains in comic books were real, that they were a historical record, there was no turning back for him. Since he was made of glass, there had to have been a man made of steel. Not only did he find him, but he also created something he never intended to.
Kevin Crumb was scared. His father had left and his mother abused him. We see her looking for him as he hid under the bed. We see her coming up the stairs, a hot iron in her hand, ready to punish him. To protect himself, Kevin created different personalities to live his life while he hid away from the light. An incident at his job caused the fears Kevin grew up with to resurface themselves. Certain personalities within Kevin began to believe that they were not enough to protect Kevin. He needed someone with incredible strength. Someone who could climb walls with their bare hands. He needed someone that was not entirely human. He needed someone who had no fear. This led them on a quest to find The Beast.
The Beast was Kevin’s most powerful alter ego. And he just like David, just like Elijah, could only prosper in large part thanks to belief. In Glass, after the fight against David, the horde begins to doubt the power of The Beast.
Interestingly enough, there are two polar opposites at war within Kevin. There is Kevin, the scared little boy, and the Beast. The Beast is the darkest form of humanity. We all have one deep down in the pit of our stomach. We ignore it, find ways to distract ourselves from it, some of us have even learned to believe it doesn’t exist. Kevin’s psyche was so profoundly broken, that he was able to reach deep inside of himself enough to pull him out, bringing senseless death and violence with him.
In Glass, we see the influence of Elijah. Pushing the alters to bring forth The Beast. Elijah’s belief in The Beast feeds its power and gives new found hope to the alters within Kevin that hopes the Beast will be their salvation. On the other hand, we have Casey, the only surviving member of the trio of girls that were kidnapped in Split.
Casey is very much like Kevin. They were both hurt by the people that were meant to protect them from pain. When we meet her in Split, she’s hiding under layers of clothing. We find out at the end, that she’s hiding the scars that her uncle made on her flesh. In Glass, after her ordeal and sending her uncle to prison, she’s different. She’s smiling and open, she looks healthy and happy with a new foster family. We even see her wearing a shirt with no sleeve, no longer hiding her scars but learning to love herself despite them.
Her effect of Kevin is the opposite of Elijah’s. She brings Kevin to the surface. They have a kinship based in a similar experience and through that, they have a connection and a bond much deeper than Elijah’s manipulations. Her touch, her warmth, and understanding bring Kevin back into the light. Her faith in him, that he can face the world, that he can do what she did, gives him the strength to step into the light and face his past.
M.Night’s message to me is clear as day. Belief in self is important, it’s paramount, but having someone else believe in us is the key to unlocking our truest potential. We may find strength within ourselves, but together there is no limit to what we can do.
So be kind to yourselves, but be kind to each other as well. As Elijah says “Allow each other to be superheroes.” Our greatest heroes would not exist if we did not believe in them, therefore we need to do that for each other and come out of the darkness as one. After all….It’s not so bad in the light.