My Fandom. My Story. is an ongoing series in which we explore how our fandoms have helped influence and shape our lives.
By E. Museaux
I was eleven years old when K.A. Applegate’s The Animorphs series made its debut. Being a poor kid without extra money to spend on books, I didn’t read the series upon its initial release – but in the fall I was elated to see the first couple of books in our school’s book fair flyer. I didn’t eat lunch for the entire week leading up to the book fair so that I would be able to afford the first two books, The Invasion and The Visitor. Immediately, I was hooked. I’d never considered myself a very big sci-fi fan; up until this point, my favourite books included the Anne of Green Gables series, The Baby-Sitters Club series, and the Goosebumps series. But The Invasion sparked a fire within me that no other book had. I read it within hours of buying it and raced to the library as soon as I got to school the next morning in order to reserve The Encounter.
I devoured these books in a matter of days. They weren’t being published quickly enough to keep up with my voracious appetite. To make matters more difficult, we moved around a lot when I was a kid and there would be lapses of months before I could get my hands on the series again. But I eventually did finish The Animorphs, and it had been totally worth all of the stress. The upside in starting these books in my formative years and not finishing them until early adulthood was that as the series progressed, matured, and became more nuanced and complex, so did I. I often think back to The Invasion, and how tame that book was in comparison to the other books near the end of the series. “Tame” isn’t a word that most would use to describe a book which revealed the plot of a parasitic alien race traveling through galaxies and colonizing sentient species along the way, but the progression of the Animorphs series, like many processes of growth, was gradual.
Jake, Rachel, Cassie, Marco, and Tobias are all around twelve or thirteen years old when the series begins, average American kids with worries confined to school, friendships, dating, and family. But when they learn about the existence of extraterrestrials, an unseen alien invasion which is already underway, and that the fate of the world rests on their narrow shoulders, their eyes are opened. They see the world around them for what it truly is, and they become soldiers. Once the group becomes aware of the existence of the Yeerks and learns that controllers can be anyone and everyone, their innocence is gone. Though life was easier in their state of ignorance, once they are awakened to the truth, they can no longer shut their eyes.
Similarly, when I grew older, learned uncomfortable truths about the system of cis-heteronormative White patriarchal capitalism in which I lived, and saw how this shaped every aspect of my life and the lives of those around me, I could no longer shut my eyes either. Like the humans and the Andalite who would later call themselves the Animorphs, I realized that I had a responsibility to myself and to those that I cared about, the future that I would want for my children, to fight. Unlike the Animoprhs, however, I have the option to speak up – to raise my voice when I see danger and injustice. But like Jake, Rachel, Cassie, Marco, Tobias, and Ax, I also have the option to utilize violence. Many times, marginalized, persecuted, endangered people are told to meet the violence of their oppressors with nonviolence, as if such a position doesn’t automatically favour those who are harming them, those who are and will continue to utilize violence.
The Animorphs taught me two vital lessons which I will never forget, lessons which continue to inform how I view activism, and whether or not that activism is effective or merely performative. The first is that an effective revolution requires a group effort, and in that group, loyalty must never be in question. Regardless of whatever other issues they had going on in their lives, the Animorphs always knew that they could trust one another, and knowing who has your back is one question that an activist, a soldier, should never have to ask. Their group, as small as it was, was strong, not just with loyalty, but character, resourcefulness, and above all, the singular goal to defeat their enemy and restore peace to their homes and planet. It didn’t matter that they didn’t always see eye to eye or had their occasional disagreements. The Animorphs knew that nothing was more important than remaining free.
The second lesson I learned from The Animorphs is that, when dealing with a violent enemy, violence is the answer. The group never wasted their time trying to appeal to the better nature of an enemy who wanted to see them either dead or enslaved. They also respected themselves and the gravity of the danger they were in too much to ever risk exposure by confiding in other humans who may or may not have been the enemy themselves. The burden placed upon these kids was intense, but even at their tender ages, they knew better than to go around announcing who they were, publicizing their plans, or holding hands with those who sought to colonize them. The Animorphs taught me that your allies are those fighting right by your side, not those cheering you on from the bleachers. The Animorphs taught me that you cannot be halfway committed to liberation; it’s all or nothing, and the “compromise” of being controlled is just a slower form of murder.
So many people think that there are “lesser” forms of oppression. That some forms are “not so bad,” bearable even. Those people forget, however, the capacity for the human mind and body to adapt to even the most despicable situations. Much of what we think of as tolerable now would be completely intolerable if it weren’t so heavily normalized that we’ve grown desensitized to it. Probably the greatest take-away from The Animorphs is that slavery, genocide, and other forms of oppression should never be normalized or tolerated, that they should be met with equal and greater violence and weeded out immediately, before they are given a chance to give birth to something more “tame” and therefore more insidious and harder to kill. Because all oppression is, at its core, conceived in violence. The Animorphs taught me that no one is too young to make a difference; the youth can fight and often are our best hope in stamping out both violent cultures and the toxic ideals which they espouse. Above all, I learned that activism has no blueprint. All great revolutionaries must learn as they go.
E. Museaux is an intersectional Black feminist/womanist who loathes social injustice, loves pop culture, and likes to use art to make sense of life. She talks too much, reads a lot, and watches entirely too many movies. You can find more from her at The SJW Movie* Review.