2020 would be considered by many to have been a reckoning that brought more than its share of hardship and tragedy. However, for some of us, 2020 bestowed more than a few blessings. For some it was reconnecting with loved ones; an exceptional woman of color becoming the Vice President of the United States. For me personally, it was receiving a brand-new niece. Another blessing was the discovery of the 2019 short film, Dispel, which features the iconic Gina Torres.
Full transparency here! Anyone who knows me for eight seconds knows that I am a devout disciple of Gina Torres. She is the embodiment of poise, wisdom, beauty, and power. Her catalog of work as an actress, producer, activist, trailblazer and mother is a testament to the fact that she is simply perfection personified.
If you’ve seen Season 4 of Angel, with messianic deity Jasmine (played by Torres) and her disciples or for that matter Glory and her minions from season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then you have an idea of what my daily devotionals are giving.
Beyond Ms. Torres, the premise of the short film was something that resonated with me and certainly garnered my attention.
Dispel is the story of 12-year-old Lizzie and is told from her point of view in an imaginative and fantastical manner. Distraught over learning that her older brother is moving out of the house to join the military, Lizzie realizes she would now be alone and forced to contend with her abusive mother, whose addiction makes her a monster on a number of levels. Inspired by the tv series of her favorite cosmic champion, Celeste Skygoode (played by Torres), Lizzie is determined to dispel the monsters and restore the good in her mother.
Where to begin. Let’s start with the bad. My only complaint about Dispel is the same one I had for Love, Simon.
That is—I wish there had been a story like this when I was Lizzie’s age. It definitely would have saved me so much in therapy. As a Black LGBTQ and a child abuse survivor, I know all too well the dearth of quality content like this for those who resemble me. Because we live in a world where Black people are prosecuted for their own murders, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Black children are victim-blamed and vilified by the same individuals who would offer empathy to nonblack victims. Most Black children don’t get heroes who reflect them. If we’re fortunate, some of those Black children grow up and become their own superheroes and a cosmic champion for others.
When Black suffering does become a topic of interest by the media or the public at large, that’s often a red flag. When media normalizes Black trauma and whitewashes and erases our history and legacy, it makes systemic racism and antiblackness the norm in real life. This film masterfully tackles the complicated issues of abuse, addiction, and trauma without being exploitative. The humanity of these Black protagonists is ever-present. Writer/Director Kylie Eaton proves that narratives of Black triumph can be produced successfully and deliver great artistry. Without question, this film is speculative fiction at its finest.
I take comfort in the fact that this film exists for future generations. Hopefully, additional stories like Dispel will follow suit. In any event, my gratitude to Ms. Eaton, the cast and crew and everyone who made this film a reality.
And a special thanks to Gina Torres for being the Celeste Skygoode for myself and countless others.
Battle on Cosmic Champion!!!!!!