Hushpuppy is so hot right now. The six year-old heroine of Benh Zeitlin’s new film Beasts of the Southern Wild is a phenomenal character. Likewise, Quvenzhané Wallis — the youngster who plays this precocious protagonist — is a phenomenal actress.
While the film has its flaws (albeit minor), Hushpuppy is one of American cinema’s most compelling female characters in recent years. Half charming, half fierce, Hushpuppy possesses the qualities of some of the more memorable heroines of YA/children’s lit. Like Anne she is imaginative, like Hermione she is strong-willed, like Jo she is independent, like Scout she is curious, like Meg she is reflective, like Caddie she is courageous, like Katniss she is strong, like Laura she is loyal.
Oh, and she’s adorable too.
Hushpuppy is also a believable character. She narrates the film, and her six year-old voice is authentic — for the film’s 93-minutes of running time we see the world through her eyes. Embarking on this journey with her, we, as audience members, partake in her heartache, but also in the surprisingly frequent moments of joy and celebration. The effect is somewhat disorienting. A friend put it this way: it’s the type of movie that induces tears — the source of which are somewhat inexplicable. Do they stem from sadness? Beauty? Fear? Exultation? All the above?
I find Beasts of the Southern Wild difficult to categorize, mainly because it’s so unique. Skimming through various reviews on the movie made me realize how few films take place in rural, impoverished communities — and how few feature six year-olds as the lead. The folks I saw it with all struggled to find a comparison. Notice, for example, that those children’s lit heroines I referenced earlier carried on loose personality similarities. Otherwise, Hushpuppy offers something new, fresh, different. None of those other characters are minorities (unless you count Hermione being muggle-born). None of them are as young as Hushpuppy (save Scout in the first part of TKAM and Laura in Little House in the Big Woods). None of them live alone with their dads. None of their stories are told in the style of magical realism. And sure as hell none of them have a name as cool as Hushpuppy.
Anyway, you get the gist. Basically, Hushpuppy is superhot and you should go ahead and see the film and discover her awesomeness firsthand.