When We Dare to be Different
Posted on October 20, 2023
By Michael Winn
Associate Artistic Director/Director of Equity and Community Partnerships
Wikipedia defines normality as “a behavior that can be normal for an individual when it is consistent with the most common behavior of that person. Normal is also used to describe individual behavior that conforms to the most common behavior in society.” In many cases, normality is used to make moral judgements, such that normality is seen as good while abnormality is seen as bad. Someone being seen as normal or not normal can have social effects, such as being included, excluded, or labeled by wider society.
In Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, Morris must negotiate his relationship with “normal” when he dares to be different. His classmates begin to make judgements that make Morris’s behavior seem bad. He is labeled and excluded. They begin calling him names. The nature of their classroom is forever changed.
The Center for Disease Control defines bullying as “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths, who are not siblings or current dating partners, that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance, and is repeated multiple times or highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.” Bullying affects all the people involved. Not only those like Morris who are bullied, but also his classmates who are at this moment bullying. Even those who witness the bullying come away affected.
Bullying seeks to stop us from being who we want to be. It tries to prevent us from expressing ourselves freely. It enforces sameness and makes us feel unsafe. It attempts to label a boy’s imaginative decision to have his astronaut wear a tangerine dress.