Move over Cinderella, it’s Amelia’s turn

Theresa Bruskin

When I was little, my sister and I were so obsessed with “Peter Pan” that my mom had to institute a “no flying in the house” rule so that we’d stop putting on our Halloween costumes and jumping on the beds.

I wanted so much for the stories about Peter to be true but had to accept, as all kids do, the difference between fairy tales and reality.

But the wall between fantasy and reality came crashing down when I was assigned a report on the mysterious Amelia Earhart a few years later. In my 8-year-old mind, Amelia was the real-life version of Peter Pan.

She had the short windblown hair, the cocky smile and that easy, youthful look about her that Peter Pan carried so well. She could fly, when almost no one else could. She lived her life defiantly and refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. And she never grew up.

As a child, I was fascinated with the facts of Amelia’s disappearance and with the ease at which someone could just drop off the face of the earth. But now I understand the true meaning of her disappearance lies not in what happened, but in what didn’t.

Like Peter Pan, there’s no ending to Amelia’s story. The images of her as she stood next to an airplane looking windblown can never be replaced by photos of her looking feeble and withered. She didn’t come home and give up her dreams to settle down and have children. She didn’t get old and irrelevant. She wasn’t involved in scandals or embarrassment. She didn’t write an autobiography.

What she saw and how she felt when she made her last flight are only hers. Her memories can’t be retold. They can’t be reinterpreted.

Amelia’s story is incomplete and perfect, because it’s untarnished. All we have is what she accomplished.

I’m not glad she died, but when she flew off into Never-Never Land, she gave us the most magically beautiful gift – a fairy tale that’s actually true, and for once, a fairy tale that girls can actually look up to and try to recreate.

“Please know that I am aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it,” she said. “Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.”

Her life, though not a failure, still stands as a challenge to women. We have come a long way since then, and we are no longer so restricted in what we do. But the need to empower and challenge women is no less important.

Empowerment starts when we’re young. We need to tell girls stories like Amelia’s instead of settling for Disney princesses.

I’m nervous about seeing the new film coming out this weekend, because Hollywood so often fails to do true heroes justice. And more personally, I’ve idolized this woman for so long and my expectations are really high. But if the movie is done well, I hope we can use it to replace the archaic stories we need to stop feeding children.

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers,” she said. “You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”

Theresa Bruskin is a senior political science major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]