#KetchupCut - A silent voice and its take on bullying, self-hatred and redemption

Piyush Singh
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Let's take a deeper look at how "A Silent Voice" explored the themes of bullying, social isolation, and self-acceptance with its story and symbolism.

TW: mention of suicide and bullying

One fine day in April, Shoya Ishida quit his job, sold all his stuff, emptied his bank account and tucked all of his meagre wealth in an envelope for his mother. On that fine day, he takes a walk to the nearby bridge, stands on the top of the bridge and when he gets a moment to think, he contemplates about life as he plans to attempt suicide. But then, he hears the fireworks nearby which makes him stop and reminisce the string of his childhood memories that led him to this position. 

"Things would have been so much better back then, if we had heard each other’s voices." - Shoya Ishida 

When Shoya was in the 6th grade, he was quite popular among his peers for his outgoing nature and willingness to take challenges. One day, a girl named Shouko Nishimiya gets transferred to their class. Since she was deaf and used a notebook to communicate, their teacher asked every student to be cooperative. While some kids like Miyoko Sahara tried to learn sign language to make her feel accepted, some kids like Shoya made fun out of her disability which (he believed) made him popular among his friends. After a point, Shouko stopped trying to be accepted on feeling like a burden to everyone around her due to her disability. What started with making jokes led to her being physically harmed when Shoya seriously damaged her ear by plugging out her expensive hearing device. He faced disciplinary action from the school for his behaviour and was solely blamed for what happened. His friends deserted him to save themselves and Shoya faced social isolation after that.

There's nothing that could justify Shoya's insensitive actions towards Nishimiya and he paid for his actions too but what about the perpetrators of abuse? We can't say if he was the only one responsible for the bullying as even the teachers couldn't care less about what Nishimiya was going through until some physical harm was done. After that day, Shoya went through the same things that Nishimiya did as an outcast. They both grew up with that experience and the film continues to show the consequences of bullying on both, the bully and the victim. 

Also Read: #WednesdayWithVillains: What makes Monster’s Johan Liebert one of the most well-written antagonists?

Internalized self hatred: 

Despite their differences, both Shoya and Shouko were driven by the same need as children. They both wanted to be accepted by their peers. While Shouko tried to be accomodate to the needs of her classmates to fit in, Shoya's way of seeking acceptance came from a maladaptive nature but what they both believed in came from the environment around them. They might have had different experiences but they ended up on the same page as they both grew up believing themselves to be unlikeable and a burden to other people. Nishimiya believed that it's due to her disability, while Shoya couldn't get over the burden of his past mistakes and they both grew up with self-loathing which lead to their social anxiety.

The symbolism of purple crosses

"You probably didn't know this, but I don't really fit in at school. It's because I have trouble looking people in the eye, so it's easier for me to stare at the floor all the time." - Shoya Ishida

In one of the scenes, we saw Shoya walking through his school hall and we saw purple cross marks on everyone's face which is a symbolism of Shoya's perception of the world. Everyone who has a cross on his face here is a person who is not his friend. As Shoya goes through his healing journey, he meets people he is comfortable with and that's how the crosses fall off. His journey of healing starts when he meets Nishimiya again as an adult and returns her notebook from 6th grade that he threw in water to bully her. The notebook meant a lot to her at that time as it was her only medium to connect and communicate with people. The scene where she jumps in a pond to find her notebook was equivalent to her losing her own voice.

It all starts with acceptance

A lot happens in the story for Shoko to internally heal. At the end of the movie, Nishimiya tries to end her life as she couldn't get over the feeling that her disability and her were a burden on people around her and thus, she decided to take her own life. Shoya saves Nishimiya from committing suicide but gets seriously injured and ends up in a coma. 

We have see Nishimiya always apologising so she doesn't offend anyone. She even apologided to her abusers because she believed that it is her fault and her unlikability is the reason for them to hurt her. She would often apologise even if she didn't really think it's her fault just to feel accepted. But when Nishimiya apologized to Shoya's mother for his condition, that was real. The emotion filled cry that we see was the start of Nishimiya's journey of acceptance as she tries to rebuild her human connections without blaming herself.

The last scene 

Nishimiya also helps Shoya in finding acceptance and practicing self-love. Shoya now tries to understand people around him rather than see them through his own negative perceptions. During a school festival, he saw people having fun with their families and friends. We saw the purple hearts dropping from everyone's faces as he learned the true value of life. This film has a place in my heart for how humanising and empathetic it is. It's a film that feels like it was just made for you and screams "I understand you".

What was your favourite part of the movie? Tell us in the comments below!

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