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Fast Color and the humanizing of superpowers in Black women
Generational curses, the power in facing one’s past, and the domino effect that can be triggered by healing from trauma are all themes that are so beautifully presented in the movie Fast Color — a refreshing take on a group of super-powered individuals who just so happen to be three generations of Black women from the same family. They may have extraordinary abilities, but the movie doesn’t focus on what they can do for the dying world they're in; instead, it centers around how they heal themselves and one another. By focusing on an intimate story that subsequently affects the possible outcome a bigger issue, Fast Color reminds us that high stakes don’t always have to involve a larger-than-life threat. Above all else, the film humanizes Black women and shows us healing ourselves before focusing on anyone else. It examines the idea of being unable to pour from an empty cup and the concept of broken things being put back together flawed, but still whole.
The main character, Ruth, comes back to her childhood home, where both her mother and daughter currently reside. Once together, the family deal with their own personal issues and the baggage they all share together. The home they all share has been a safe place for previous generations of women in their family who also possessed special abilities, which are seen as both a blessing and a curse. The isolation takes its toll on each character differently, but the end result is the same for all three women: frustration and fear.
Bo, the matriarch of the three, left home, fell in love, married, and gave birth to Ruth, but ended up returning home because the seizures Ruth was having had caused earthquakes. Ruth, in turn, left home to seek out other means to cope, becoming a drug addict in the process, getting pregnant, and then ultimately leaving home again. Lila, Ruth’s daughter, wants to leave home in search of others like her. Her need is rooted in the same issues as both her mother and grandmother. Ruth is the broken thing shared between both Bo and Lila, and the key to breaking the generational curse that has plagued their family.
There is some foreshadowing earlier in the movie that involves Ruth, Bo, and Lila talking about Lila’s ability to take things apart and put them back together. When Ruth prompts Lila to repair a broken windowpane, Lila repeats the words of her grandmother: “Things that are broken stay broken.” Curses are next to impossible to break without some kind of healing taking place, and Fast Color does a wonderful job of using Ruth’s inability to use her powers by connecting it to her trauma, reminding us that these women are human despite their superpowered abilities. We understand how Ruth’s fear of facing her past affects her as she makes her way back home and how it prevents her from using her ingrained powers. It's not until Ruth finally confronts the demons of her early years that she begins to heal, starting a chain reaction of recovery for her mother, daughter, and ultimately the world because of what she can do with her recovered strengths. Ruth can break the sky and bring it back together, thus creating rain, something the world in Fast Color hadn’t seen in over eight years.
Ruth’s breakthrough empowers her mother to no longer be afraid of what she can do. Bo’s anxieties initially seem rooted in what can happen when the clan use their abilities out in the open. In the past, when women in their family have ventured out into the world they’ve drawn attention to themselves, something Bo wants to avoid because she doesn’t want anyone to come after them. Both mother and daughter face their biggest fears, and the result is them freeing a captive Lila, who had been taken by the people following her mother throughout the movie. It's not until they all make peace with one another that they then go and offer themselves to the world they’d stayed hidden from for generations, searching for others who share their abilities and dreams.
Fast Color shows vulnerability in women with the power to heal the world — women who would be considered strong, resilient, and expected to bend, but not break. They do break, however, and there is much to be taken from seeing a broken woman such as Ruth heal herself and her most loved ones in the process, but the biggest is a beautiful and timely message.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.