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In ‘VS Trolls’, part of the brilliant animated film series launched by SK-II STUDIO earlier this year, American gymnast Simone Biles journeys through an ugly world beset by social media haters and bullies determined to shame her body size and appearance.
The episode opens with the real-life Simone sitting on her bed scrolling messages on her phone. Initially the comments are from people telling her how amazing and inspirational she is. Then a troll, presented as a little green monster, arrives. As she steps out into the street, the troll menace turns nastier as more appear.
“LOL, what’s up with ur hair?”
“Your arms are soooo big.”
“Y’all find THIS attractive? Lmaooooooo.”
“Her calves…. Errrrrrrr my God!”
“You’re not sexy or cute or popular to boot.”
“Body like a man.”
“LOL…. You’re sooo not cheerleader material.”
“Fire your hair stylist”
A swarm of these horrid trolls circles Simone, threatening to overwhelm her. She’s plunged into darkness surrounded by the trolls and screams for them to stop.
Suddenly she finds herself in an empty street, runs into her training gym and draws a deep breath. She throws away her phone that is burning up with messages from the trolls. Suddenly the shamers take the form of a giant kaiju (Japanese for ‘strange beast’).
The kaiju comes at her, looming over her, menacing, terrifying. The gymnast steps back, prepares to run out the door. But something in her changes. She turns to look at her trophies and at a magazine cover story that says ‘Simone Biles: Inspiring Young Women to Stand up to Body Shaming’.
Simone and the kaiju run at each other. As they approach she leaps from the ground and performs a perfect Amanar, a fiendishly difficult backward flipping vault with two and a half twists right in the face of the kaiju, the ultimate defiance.
The film cuts back to the real Simone. “Beauty is how you see it, not how anyone else does,” proclaims the script titles as she walks into the gym. “Destiny is not a matter of chance. It’s a choice.”
This week Simone Biles stared down and defeated another form of kaiju, an equally terrifying monster, her mental health. In one of the most unexpected yet ultimately triumphant stories of the Tokyo Olympics, the athlete withdrew from the team final not because of physical injury but because of her fears over her mental health. Later, for the same reason, she also withdrew from the individual all-around competition.
Reaction from fellow athletes and USA gymnastics has been encouragingly supportive. Inevitably though, Simone has been trolled as a “quitter”. I suspect that won’t worry her too much. She’s no quitter, she’s a winner. This was a gold medal-wining display of courage from a brilliant athlete, a role model to millions of young women, a global superstar who made a choice about her destiny, and who confronted – and defeated – the kaiju of mental illness.