Don’t flatter yourself

In the movie “Snow White and the Huntsman,” there’s this scene where Snow White escapes from the castle and ends up traveling with the Huntsman. At one point, he takes his axe and whacks off the bulk of her dress, which is hindering their progress. (Don’t worry, she has leather leggings on underneath.) Snow White looks at him pensively, and he says, “Don’t flatter yourself.”

Dont flatter yourself.

What a demonstration of the problems we face in our society: The same experience interpreted totally different ways by two people because of their very different backgrounds.

Both characters had known suffering. But experience with one type of struggle doesn’t make a person automatically privy to all types of struggles. Snow White’s only experiences with men for the last 10 years of her life had been that they come and they rape. The Huntsman presumed something altogether different, based on his experiences, just like so many of us do when we can’t imagine that others in our society could be living such a very different reality than we perceive.

Don’t flatter yourself says that only pretty girls get raped, or are worthy of being raped. Don’t flatter yourself says you don’t get to take a knee because we pay you millions of dollars to play football, not to disrupt our entertainment. Don’t flatter yourself says you’re not fully human if you use food stamps or aren’t a legal citizen.

Don’t flatter yourself says that someone else owns you, and can use you however they see fit. It says it’s your fault that your circumstances suck. It says that the perspective of the powerful is the only one that matters, and that any other experiences aren’t legitimate.

Don’t flatter yourself devalues by assuming we know someone else’s story. It assumes that since everything looks fine to me, there must be something wrong with you.

Good people get offended when people of minority groups treat them like they are not good. Good people don’t understand that it’s not really about them, but about everyone who came before them, because they can’t imagine other people not being good. They can’t imagine other people not being just like them.

Imagine if the Huntsman had recognized that Snow White’s reaction wasn’t about him. Imagine if he had asked her to share her story. Imagine if he had asked her how he could be different than the ones who came before him.

At the end of the movie, I suppose you could say this sort of happened. You could make the argument that they recognize their mutual need for each other. But even the Huntsman’s kiss scene is still all about him — resolution for his pain, her requirement for his intervention, the implication that she wouldn’t be queen if it weren’t for him. Part of me wants to tell the Huntsman: Don’t flatter yourself.

Somewhere in the middle of the movie, Snow White does point out that she saved the Huntsman from the troll, and the wise blind dwarf tells him he has eyes but can’t see who she is. What a metaphor for power today. Power never understands its reliance on those it oppresses. It never perceives others as having equal worth and value.

The opposite of don’t flatter yourself isn’t flatter yourself. That’s what we see in the wicked queen. That’s the attitude of people who find the struggles of others insulting to their version of reality. No, the opposite of don’t flatter yourself is May I flatter you?

Seek permission to understand someone else’s perspective. Seek permission to raise them up. Esteem them. Value them. Bring legitimacy to their humanity by listening to their story, and seeing the experiences that shape their reality.

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