5 Lessons I’ve Learned from the Movies

Life’s hard. Watching movies isn’t. Here are 5 ways in which my magic box has helped me become superhumanly awesome:

1. Sometimes the Most Impossible Things Have the Simplest Solutions

Just ask Macgyver, there are infinite possibilities with the most basic resources and a little improvisational know-how. Not only does that make the twists and turns of our entertainment a bit more exciting, but it also serves a greater purpose in the real world.

People admire that kind of creative, spontaneous, back-to-basics thinking. It’s why you’ll occasionally get that silly interview question about the many uses of a pencil. Note: Citing the Joker’s disappearing pencil act as an “alternate use” is a surefire way to not only completely fudge an interview, but to also ensure a speedy exit accompanied by security. NOT the greatest experience when your psyche’s already damaged from that time you were escorted by a fellow student out of the 2nd grade for peeing your pants. But whatever. Totally over it.

2. Sex between two people of the same gender is about as rare as my ability to watch a football game – Unless the fornicators in question are big-breasted females and/or European. Even so, most of the time their tips don’t touch.

If movies are to be believed, sex isn’t all that personal either. Kirby Dick’s This Film Is Not Yet Rated gave a bit of insight on the MPAA board’s apparent fear of all things gay or even remotely intimate. We’re talking NC-17 ratings for seeing a lady masturbate over her nightgown while making pleasure faces. No boobs. No hoo-haws. Just pure innocent over-the-clothes chicken-choking.

Dick’s documentary also went so far as to compare side-by-side depictions of straight versus gay sex. The cameras were positioned almost identically, but the Judys, once again, got an NC-17, while the breeders got R’s. This may not seem like a huge deal, until you consider the fact that many theaters treat NC-17’s like the kid who peed his pants in the 2nd grade. Yeah, that bad. It’s the kind of marketing suicide that only R. Kelly’s publicist could ever bounce back from.

3. Doing a thing is a lot more meaningful when the act of doing it sucks.

Andy Dufresne. Luke Skywalker. Rocky. Frodo. Dorothy. They all went through a whole bunch of Scheiße to get the thing they wanted. AND IT HAD TO BE THAT WAY. When all is said and done, what was the Wizard of Oz, really? It was a girl with a misfit mutt who banged her head during a tornado and woke back up. Everything in color was totally over the top and didn’t NEED to be there, but that’s why it was. Because those extra details are what make life an involving, fulfilling process. In Dorothy’s case, her dream sequence elaborated on the struggles she experienced in the waking world. It gave us a more complete perspective of who she was without dwelling on boring Kansas farm-scapes.

Likewise, the force would kind of lose its mystery if Luke could use it and did so freely without ever struggling with it. Same with Rocky. He needed to hone his skills to become a man we could identify with. And as for Frodo – He’s adorable, ain’t he?

Just look at that face!

Just look at that face!

4. Acne and obesity is met with more resistance than whatever that guy from Mask had.

So I’m kind of embarrassed to admit the fact that it’s only now (after buying my brand new Nook) that I’ve begun to read Stephen King’s novel(la) version of Carrie. And in doing so, there’s a detail I find a tad telling – King’s Carrie, contrary to Sissy Spacek and Chloe Moretz, is described as acne’d and “bovine”. Hm. Ok, so King probably wrote her that way because society finds those qualities especially repellant, thereby making the story more believable. But when Hollywood took over, they decided that they’d never trust us to sympathize with someone who was THAT well-fed.

It’s kind of weird: audiences get the occasional disfigured monster with a heart of gold (Rocky Dennis, the Elephant Man), but never a redeeming teen with bad skin. Sometimes, they’ll get a bit lax on their No-Fatties rule (see: Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy), but they only exist in comedy land. That, and we tend to get extremes. Either you’re stranded in the desert for 4 weeks or you’ve eaten an entire chocolate model of Disney Land in 4 minutes. You’re a chiseled heartthrob, or a brace-faced, suspender-slinging four-eyed freakshow. Grey area is scary to the general public, but so is having more than one defining characteristic. So we keep it both simple and impossible to miss. Hence why the odd-faced, malnourished young lady named “Sissy” made the tormented teen of Carrie iconic. Had she been sturdy and stone-faced and named “Joan”, eh, not so much.

5. If you’re not in Love, you don’t exist.

But hang on, there’s a bit more to this one. I once struggled with the idea that, in movies, a character was not complete until they “found love.” But then I realized that, though 9 times out of 10 it is the case, the love they’re chasing doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic and it doesn’t have to be toward a person. Love is passion. Desire. It’s that thing that makes getting in a boxing ring seem worth it. We’ve seen it in movies a million times, but always for different reasons. In City Lights, it was to earn money to pay for an operation for the Tramp’s unknowing object of affection. In Rocky, it’s to challenge his perceived limitations and gain notoriety. In The Fighter, it’s for Wahlberg to forge his own path, independent of his family. Whatever the characters choose, in the end, the object really doesn’t matter. It’s the love for it.

Feeling something strong enough incites action. It motivates one to do things that they don’t necessarily expect of themselves. And it also helps us figure out what stuff in life is worth putting up with and what simply takes us off-course from our greater goals. Without that feeling to guide us, we just drift. Our lives become a Canadian shoe-gazing lo-fi indie flick. And nobody wants to see that.

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5 thoughts on “5 Lessons I’ve Learned from the Movies

    • Thanks much, Vinnie. I’m starting to realize how much favoritism I reveal on this site – I must mention the Hobbit or LotR and 6 other movie classics about once a month. But how can I not? They’re timeless!

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