I find it of no particular surprise that as I sit to convey my thoughts on two of the biggest and most shocking sports stories in recent memory that a number of quotes from famous movies immediately come to mind as perfect starting points. I’ll spare you the Hollywood cheese/sleaze, but it must be reiterated that it is my belief that the entertainment arts have a much larger cultural affect than we care to acknowledge. Furthermore, it is our frighteningly passionate and borderline malevolent desires to blur the lines between fiction and reality when preparing to crucify supposed heroes of the athletic community that have fallen from grace that are the causes for the comic uproar we currently find ourselves in amidst the stories of Lance Armstrong and Manit Te’o.
This week we watched a man who for years had brazenly denied any accusations brought against him that claimed he took performance enhancing drugs on his way to becoming one of the most dominating and celebrated athletes in the history of sports come clean about his cheating with as a little as an, “I’m sorry.” We also shook our heads in confusion as a seemingly intelligent and admirable college student revealed that he had taken part in an online relationship with a girl who turned out to have never existed; a girl who supposedly “died” during the football season, granting Te’o a great amount of publicity.
What immediately strikes me about both of these cases is our immediate and semi-innate longing to form an opinion on these people—these flawed and imperfect human beings that we have likely never met nor ever will. You are either a supporter or a denouncer. I have no problem identifying myself in the minority, but I have trouble understanding this requirement for a good/evil distinction. There is good and evil in all of us—and that is no news to you, but this fact seems to evade people taking part in water cooler discussions over these men. These situations are so deeply complicated and layered that they must require much more than these rudimentary judgments.
Where does this wish for singular identification come from that drives us to take a stand one way or the other? One place we may look is the entertainment arts, which have been crafting binary opposites between protagonists and antagonists since the first stories were told. We sit down and root for superheroes who are good to their very core and will never compromise their values amidst any hardships. But, at the same time, we know that these people do not truly exist and that their presence on the screen or the page serves as a surreal example of what a perfect human being might look like.
Why do we let authors perpetuate this trend? It makes for simple, and in my opinion sloppy, storytelling. Audience members love to be told what to do and who to root for. In short, they enjoy not having to think. Yet, in this day and age, we continue to see through stories like those of Armstrong and Te’o that such oppositions simply do not exist. There are no true or pure good and bad guys.
Manti Te’o is a phenomenal football player who was either idiotic enough to enter into a romantic relationship with someone without ever even laying eyes on her, or knowingly took part in a fake relationship in order to gain publicity. Both possibilities speak to his character in a negative light, yet we are so quick to dismiss the hallmark qualities we initially hailed him for. He took the field, as a captain no less, the day after his grandmother passed away and lead his team to victory. He claims to be a man of faith and is clearly a person his teammates look up to and revere. And he is said to be extremely faithful to his family. No matter how foolish or misleading his actions regarding a fake girlfriend, these qualities simply cannot and should not be overlooked.
The situation of Lance Armstrong carries more weight yet should be given similar examination. All things considered, the destructive and harmful nature of his actions over the past few decades seems, at first glance, nearly insurmountable. To have lied publicly time and again about cheating his way to becoming the greatest cyclist of all time cannot go ignored. Furthermore, the unabashed and unashamed fury with which he attacked people who questioned him is nothing short of frightening: the man was willing to destroy the reputations and lives of anybody who set up to reveal his faults, while using his status as a “superhero” to humiliate them in the process. Yet, after the smoke has cleared, we still have a cancer survivor who has raised millions of dollars in cancer research. Though his desire to win may have clouded his judgment, his devotion to cancer research is undeniably admirable and should be praised for years to come.
What shocks me through all of this is not only our forceful actions that elevate these people to superhero status but also our rapid rejection and dismissal of them at the first sign of fault.
Amidst all of this, where is the forgiving and accepting nature of the human race?
What these men did is by no means easily forgiven and should certainly be condemned. But who are we to judge these people? What give us that right? They didn’t even necessarily ask to be put under such scrutiny. That was our decision. We gave them the label of superhero, and we are also the ones who seem to find some sort of sick joy when we get to strip them of said title.
It may serve us best to leave superheroes to our imaginations, where they are unlikely to let us down. But, in my opinion, there is more beauty in the grey imperfections of real life human beings than we will ever find in a world where black and white never blends.
I sat down to attempt to explore the reasons behind my total lack of interest in seeing the movies Argo and Flight, but in the past half hour I have come up with nothing besides the fact that I must be a cynical film snob incapable of recognizing quality within the Hollywood system. So now that I’ve properly insulted myself, can we move on?
I recently came across a video exploring the collapse of society’s celebration of introversion and our collective effort to promote activity that heavily favors extroverts. The video, which is likely too long to view for anyone other than somebody with as much time as I have on my hands, states that a third to a half of the human population are introverted. Furthermore, it quickly detaches introversion from shyness (a fear of social judgment). Rather, introversion deals more with one’s reaction to social stimulation. According to this video, introverts are more “alive and capable” in “quieter and more low-key environments.”
This video is quick to point out that 21st century society has moved to primarily favor extroverts and their need for social stimulation. This is clear in schools and workplaces, where individual effort and separation are cast away in favor of group work and other types of forced interaction.
I can clearly see these points in my own life. Though I can look back and find myself having grown more comfortable in social situations, most notably in the past four years (ask my roommate from freshman year of college how much I’ve changed since we first met), I still consider myself fitting the mold of an introvert in that I am perfectly satisfied in the comfort of my own company.
But it is easy for me to see not only the constructs of my education as an influence on my development as a social human being. As a twenty-three year old (boy, that’s fun to write), the largest influence on my life may still very well be popular culture. And when one closely examines some of the most prominent themes present in both mainstream and independent entertainment, it shows that they are those favoring extroversion.
How many movies have you seen surrounding a shy, socially uncomfortable protagonist whose character arc comes to fruition following their ultimate acceptance of communal interaction as a means of happiness?
How many songs urge their listeners to embrace the world around them and to abandon their lonely nights talking to themselves?
And, to me, the fascinating power behind these messages lies in the fact that, most likely, they were written by introverts themselves. Screenwriting is famously one of the most solitary careers in existence, with the minds behind the genesis of some of the world’s most famous movies often emerging from a cave of seclusion following a lonely two-year journey. Songwriters, though admittedly comfortable with public stimulation when performing onstage, undoubtedly craft tunes in the privacy of their own minds. So, it would appear that we have a mass of introverts furthering the ideas of extroverted behavior.
In today’s day and age, for a young twenty-something to spend a quiet evening alone with a book or a movie (as I in fact did last night) has suddenly become deemed ‘depressing’ behavior, causing for concern. But, as the above video points out, it is often times of quiet reflection and isolation that allow for the greatest amount of individual understanding and growth.
I am certainly not saying that public interaction should be looked down upon or that it cannot be good for one’s personality. However, when it comes to ‘individual understanding and growth,’ I cannot say that I have ever experienced anything like that at a bar surrounded primarily by strangers. In my experience, my reaction is often something like ‘wow, this music is atrocious,’ ‘I can’t hear a single thing you’re saying,’ or ‘I despise 95% of the people in this place.’
But, what really interests me in the conversation of extroverts versus introverts is the role of social media. Facebook has taken over the world. Twitter too. Yet the fact that these outlets are granted the term of ‘social networks’ is something I find particularly ironic. This is because I feel we are all being tricked into believing we are sharing our lives with each other via the Internet, which is actually quite contrary to the truth.
In fact, the film The Social Network, chronicling the creation of Facebook, displays this fact quite well. Mark Zuckerberg, an introvert if I’ve ever seen one, finds himself as the CEO of one of the most successful businesses in the world by creating an alternate reality for all of us to live and mingle in. However, it is clear that by the end of the film, he has no new friends because of this, and has managed to cast out what little friends he did have.
On another level, the film itself is a demonstration of the manipulating power of well-written media. I consider this to be one of my favorite films, and to some degree I have no idea why. The protagonist is not likeable; the story is relatively flat. What is it about this film that captivates my attention? Is it seriously the fact that it is a movie about Facebook? Is hearing words like ‘status update’ and ‘relationship status’ in this context enough to have me on the edge of my seat? Apparently, yes.
I am not trying to say I have any breathing room on this subject. I am a bona-fide social media addict. As I type this, I am fitting the urge to refresh my Twitter feed, even though all I know that is waiting is someone telling me they had an awesome breakfast, how stupid somebody’s ex-boyfriend/girlfriend is or some truly enlightening political statement. And reading these updates will frustrate me. This is because I know they are teaching me nothing about myself or my life and that they are moments I will never get back.
Author’s Note: This post would not have been possible had I not seen the above video on my friend’s Facebook page. Mmm. Irony, drink it in.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Look at Tremml and his pretentious use of French words.” Or, maybe you’re thinking, “Who is Will Gluck?” Better yet, maybe you’re thinking, “This looks really long, I’m leaving.” To which I say “FINE!”
Whatever the circumstance for your continued reading, I assure you this post has been brewing in my brain for a few weeks now, and I thank you for your interest in my ridiculous obsession with making far-fetched claims.
First things first, what is an auteur? The French word for ‘author’, auteur theory was developed in 1954 by French filmmaker Francois Truffaut in response to the films of the French New Wave and the writers for French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma. Further enhanced by American movie critics such as Andrew Sarris, Peter Wollen and Pauline Kael, auteur theory has come to represent a means of reading a director’s work by examining their collective body of work rather than focusing on one or two films within their oeuvre.
As Peter Wollen outlines in his essay “The Auteur Theory,” there are two distinct schools of auteur theory. The first places primary interest in revealing a core of meanings or thematic motifs that range across a director’s entire body of work. For example, many of Quentin Tarantino’s films center on themes of revenge, thus leading to his labeling as a modern auteur.
The second school of auteur theory consists of critics honing in on a director’s immediately recognizable technical style of filmmaking. This may include a common camera technique, similar choices in music filling the soundtrack, and even actors that appear from film to film. Wes Anderson fits this type of auteur perfectly with his constant use of straight angles, steady cameras, 1960’s Brit-Pop songs and a repetitive list of actors including Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman.
So, where does Will Gluck fit into all of this?
It is my argument that Will Gluck is attempting to become an auteur with an emphasis on postmodern pastiche of common cliché-driven Hollywood films. The characters in his films openly mock and even try to rebel against tendencies of mainstream films. However, this awareness of common film tactics goes no further than simple recognition and ultimately succumbs to their powers at the climax of each film, turning into the very items they disapprove of, thus reinforcing their inevitable fate of anonymity. So to, I believe, will go the fate of Mr. Gluck.
Let’s start with his first film Fired Up! Though the film centers on two football jocks that ditch training camp to attend cheerleading camp so they may sleep with as many girls as possible (a true theme for our youth), Mr. Gluck cheerfully reminds us that “this is not a cheerleading movie!” on its cover. The two main characters appear to operate as if they are aware they are in a movie, not doubting their plan for one minute and playfully enjoying an unrealistic portrayal of cheerleading camp. Second, a minor character Dr. Rick openly quotes other movies as part of his character in order to come across as a villain. Finally, furthering the “this is not a cheerleading movie” idea, a scene in which the entire camp is watching perhaps the most famous cheerleading movie, Bring It On, attempts to poke fun at the genre of teenage drama. However, the film slowly progresses into a drama itself, complete with a love story and climactic competition at the conclusion, thus cementing its status as the very thing it claims to oppose. By the end of the film, all of the mocking tendencies have been replaced by genuine portrayals of these elements.
Gluck’s follow-up, the critically acclaimed Easy A, follows a similar path in its attempt for originality despite a familiar plot. With a very loose basing on Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, this film presents the story of a high school girl named Olive who lies about losing her virginity in order to be noticed, and ends up being ostracized for her supposed promiscuity as boys pay her to pretend to sleep with her. Throughout the film, characters complain about typical high school film clichés, climaxing with the Olive’s lament on the death of chivalry. Of course, her idea of chivalry stems from classic 80’s movies (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Say Anything, Can’t Buy Me Love), whose iconic scenes conveniently appear on the screen for the viewers to enjoy. Olive states she wishes her life were more like a John Hughes production, and sadly lingers in the realization of the impossibility of this desire. However, much to the shock of every audience member (not), the film’s conclusion takes the form of a postmodern homage to the films listed above with each being referenced with their own recreation. This eventual granting of Olive’s wish does nothing to separate the film from those which provided its foundation and in fact takes away from its disarming charm and witty dialogue. (Furthermore, if you didn’t enjoy Emma Stone’s performance in this film, congratulations on the successful lobotomy).
This brings us to Gluck’s latest creation, 2011’s Friends With Benefits, the story of two friends who begin sleeping with each other in order to fulfill their sexual needs without the hindering effects of a romantic relationship. Both characters enter the film frustrated with Hollywood’s portrayal of romance and shun their depictions of relationships. While the two watch a fictitious version of a Hollywood romantic comedy, they both pick out indicators of their lack of realism, such as the false depiction of Grand Central Station or the use of uplifting pop songs to trick a viewer into thinking they had a good time. However, as the film unfolds, the two begin to fall in love with each other (shocker) and eventually end up the product of a Hollywood-driven entrance into a relationship. In the climax of the film (and if anyone’s upset that I’m ruining this I honestly doubt you couldn’t really predict the ending), the male plays a nostalgic song from their college years while a flash mob (the second one of the movie) performs around the female in none other than Grand Central Station (this doesn’t sound “Hollywood” at all, does it?). Then, after they kiss, the song critiqued by both of them following the “generic” romantic comedy begins to play, thus reinforcing the very tricks the characters disapproved of at the beginning of the film.
In conclusion, Gluck has begun to employ a familiar set of actors in his films, with double appearances from Emma Stone and Patricia Clarkson, while the themes seem to be centering on sex and its affects on relationships, thus furthering my speculation of his desire to blossom into an auteur. And, as a result, I think I speak for all of us when I say we can’t wait to see which film Mr. Gluck plans to imitate next.
The crowd waits for hours in desperate anticipation. Feet get heavy, backs ache, and often strangers end up becoming close acquaintances in the mad dash to get as close to the stage as possible. Then, after seemingly a lifetime of unbearable waiting, time suddenly stands still. They take the stage. The lights turn off. The music begins.
Such is a rough example of a live music concert, one of the greatest artistic expressions on earth. Each happens merely one time and each has its own form, feeling, and flow. Even if the setlist goes unchanged from night to night, each concert is a complete individual. And, no matter the quality of video and audio capturing a live show, no re-presentation can ever replace the experience of being in the moment itself.
Below are ten video examples of my personal favorite representations of live music. And though these videos offer a taste of what the shows must have been like, it is my belief that even the person farthest from the stage at each show would not trade anything in the world for that experience.
10. M. Ward - “Chinese Translation (Live at the Bing Lounge)
To kick off the list I chose M. Ward, one of my favorite songwriters and guitar players. This is my favorite song by Ward and I find this performance subtly sublime. Though most of the videos to follow in this list include crowds of several thousands and grand spectacles, I can honestly say that if I could trade places with any of the artists I mention, it would be M. Ward. His rugged voice and expert guitar playing can bring comfort to even the most troubled soul, one of the key components to a great artist.
9. My Morning Jacket - “Mahgeetah (Live at Okonokos)”
Ever since being introduced to them my freshman year in college by a good friend, My Morning Jacket have quickly risen in the ranks of my favorite bands. Known for a unique blend of southern rock, country and soul influences, MMJ have been touring rigorously for well over a decade creating a devoted following of fans. Part of this is due to their truly outstanding live performance. This video captures them at their best— such passion and energy is emitted from the band members for the audience to receive that it is nearly overwhelming. I had the privilege of seeing this band two years ago and plan on seeing them many times in the future. (Anyone reading in the Chicago area, they are playing Northerly Island on August 22).
8. The Verve - “Bittersweet Symphony (Glastonbury 2008)”
An anthem in its own right, this song is meant to be received by 10,000 at a time, just as this video demonstrates. An often overlooked lyric, this song displays the struggle Ian Brown speaks of prior to the song. Having himself fallen victim to the pressures of life, the band on stage stands as an example of its own creation and unites with the audience. At 1:15, Brown puts the microphone to his heart, and for the rest of the performance lets it do the singing rather than his voice.
7. The Killers - “When You Were Young (Royal Albert Hall)”
The idea behind a musical performance being a single event never to be repeated is demonstrated clearly in this video. The audience interaction perfectly matches the intensity of the performers. For once in the modern age, there is little evidence of people attempting to capture the moment on their cell phones. No tweeting is happening. Everyone is simply living in the moment. This is the way it should be. Chills at 3:15.
6. Oceansize - “Ornament/The Last Wrongs (Feed to Feed)”
The complexity of this performance is what I appreciate the most. Oceansize clearly was a band of complicated arrangements and thoughtful songwriting. This presentation of this song in such an intimate environment allows it to blossom throughout the space and fill every last square foot. Though this song could easily be played in front of a distracted arena crowd, I prefer this moment in which a select few were free to enjoy its true beauty.
5. Derek Trucks Band ft. Susan Tedeschi - “Anyday (Crossroads Festival)”
Within this video is my favorite guitar player (Derek Trucks) and one of my favorite vocalists (Susan Tedeschi). What follows is a nearly perfect cover of a Derrick and the Dominos tune. The chemistry between the expert slide guitar work of Trucks and the soulful vocals of Tedeschi is electric. Did I mention the two are married? To have a pair so clearly matched in their purpose of sharing music with the world gracing the stage together is remarkable to watch.
4. Swedish House Mafia - “Tomorrowland Encore”
Leaning more toward the spectacle aspects of live music, this video offers a taste of the potential future of musical performance. Looking out into the crowd of this video presents the unifying power of music and its ability to create truly once in a lifetime memories. This festival creates an environment for music fans and DJ’s to dance underneath the umbrella of their favorite tunes. Not all music needs to be complex. In fact, simplicity is often more than enough. And what the music in this video lacks in complexity, the producers of this show more than make up for in visual presentation. (Talk about going out with a BANG!…..right? Anyone? Ok, I’ll stop).
3. Arcade Fire - “Wake Up (Coachella 2011)”
Having successfully taken over the world with their album The Suburbs, “Wake Up” remains arguably Arcade Fire’s most recognizable song, and with good reason. Anyone who has seen this song live will surely never forget the performance. The genuine passion with which this band plays does not go unnoticed and nor does the message this song attempts to embark upon the audience. With any luck, we’ll be hearing this song for many years to come. (Look out for a cool moment specific to this video at 2:00).
2. Oasis - “Don’t Look Back in Anger (Argentina 2009)”
Granted, Oasis holds a special place in my heart, and since this is my favorite song you had to see this coming. That being said, this is truly an incredible performance. A historically un-emotional Noel Gallagher is moved nearly to the brink of tears following the response of this specific audience. Having heard this song sung back to him by crowds twice this size, it is the pure jubilation with which the audience belts the chorus that surely caught Mr. Gallagher off guard. It seems as if until this very moment he had not realized the true impact his music has had upon the world. Now you know, my friend.
1. The Who - “Won’t Get Fooled Again (Concert for NYC)”
My number one favorite example of live music comes from English rock legends The Who. Though, in this performance, it is not their characteristic energy and showmanship that steal the show. It is the clear evidence that they are not playing for themselves, and instead are giving everything they can to the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives on 9/11 to protect the innocent victims of that fateful day. This video proves that music has the power to transcend entertainment and can in fact shape the lives of those who choose to enjoy it. To view one of the most famous bands in pop music history so clearly undermine their achievements in honor of those in the audience reinforces the beauty of musical performance and solidifies its necessary place in society.
“We could never follow what you did” - Roger Daltrey addressing the New York City Police and Fire Departments.
Refreshing. Endearing. Sentimental. These are not words often used to describe the 2007 film Superbad.
However, it is the opinion of this self-proclaimed “know-it-all” that this film indeed deserves these identifiers. Mostly remembered for it’s countless one-liners and the immortal character of McLovin, this film will most likely greet future generations as merely a member of an endless list of high-school comedies. But it is my opinion this film will have the potential to resonate with audiences for many years to come rather than solely be remembered by those living upon its release.
On the surface, this film appears to hold a simple narrative: two best friends two weeks from high graduation utilizing a Friday night to make one last pass at their respective crushes. Underneath this, however, lies a complicated challenge to a relationship that is nearly universal for all entering a transition period in their lives (whether it be graduating high school, graduating college, accepting a new job, moving to a new town). Over the course of a lifetime we meet countless numbers of individuals and forge several relationships, yet often times these relationships have time limits and eventually wither away as time marches on. This is a fact we all must face, and this is the case for numerous childhood friendships following high school graduation.
Thus is the premise for my beloved Superbad.
Evan and Seth have been friends since they were six years old and yet have chosen to go on to different colleges in the fall. Evan has been accepted to Dartmouth whereas Seth is bound for a school of lesser academic allure. Throughout the film secondary characters question what is to happen to their relationship upon their eventual separation. The duo do their best to avoid the question by reassuring everyone that nothing substantial will occur. However, there is a presence of denial within their voices, and they both must build up the courage to face the inevitable fact that despite their best efforts they will never be as close again.
In the film’s most honest scene, Seth displays his feeling of betrayal from his best friend for going to a school he knew was impossible for him to get in to. In response, Evan states he looks forward to being separated from Seth so he might not be “held back” anymore and he can be free to meet new friends and chase after girls. Transitioning the level of primary importance from friendship to romantic relationships undoubtedly approaches us all at some point, though the timing is never the same. It is at this moment the film loses all sense of time and characterization and becomes a representation for the human experience. And though each character ultimately accepts the change entering their lives and successfully spark relationships with their crushes, the importance of their friendship is now clear and free to grow.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:
The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.
This is what Evan and Seth finally achieve at the end of Superbad.
Thought after proofreading:
“Did I really just compare a movie that drops the “f-bomb” 176 times to a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote?”
Yep. I’m okay with it.
For anyone currently living under a rock, or perhaps anyone successfully enjoying what must be peaceful seclusion from Hollywood’s latest product of seizure-inducing visual ecstasy, the recent Blockbuster “Marvel’s The Avengers” has recently passed $1 billion dollars in global box office and continues to, for lack of a better word, smash income records for motion pictures even three weeks after its release.
Building upon previous films centered around a single super hero (Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, and Captain America), this steroid infused blockbuster unites all of them under the simple task of saving the world from an alien named Loki, who also happens to be a god.
Under the organization of a cylcloptic Samuel L. Jackson playing head of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury, a team of super humans form the Avengers in order to destroy Loki and his army.
Layered amidst this straightforward narrative are various subplots attempting to join the various back stories of each character brought together to save the world.
Most notable among these back stories is that of Captain America, a super hero experiment brought into existence during World War II who was recently discovered after being frozen for over fifty years.
Visibly lacking in super hero power in relation to his peers (can’t fly like Iron Man, lacks truly superior strength when compared to the Hulk, not a god like Thor) Captain America also lacks true knowledge of the times in which he has been thrust into.
This position strongly suggests the nostalgic obsession America has with itself. Views of a perfect union united under a common goal of battling evil are quickly fading in light of a highly evolving technological world. Though the promotion of equality for all human beings is, and should, remain the focus of this country, there is no denying a level of distrust among our peers regarding the system of beliefs on which we build our agenda.
However, it appears America may be either ignorant to this fact, or unwilling to accept it. Marvel’s The Avengers supports the latter.
Littered with numerous ideological devices within the framework of the narrative, particularly Captain America himself, the film promotes a wholly American set of morals and beliefs inherently built upon from the Baby Boomer era of post-World War II America.
In reaction to Loki’s status as a god, Captain America shuns this fact as a mere exaggeration of the truth. When Iron Man and Thor embark to fight Loki, a team member cautions Captain America to stay out of the battle due to his inferiority and their status as “gods.” In response, Captain America confidently responds “there’s only one god, and he doesn’t dress like that,” perpetuating the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which this country was built and what dominated the majority of America not fifty years ago.
The opposition of Loki and Thor as good and evil could not more clearly at least suggest a relationship between the Devil and Jesus Christ, with the latter happily joining America to defeat the former. This nostalgic recollection of World War II, a time when good and evil were so clear, harkens a desire to return a time of moralistic certainty that is no longer as clear.
To Captain America, teamwork and leadership are still capable of defeating evil, despite his personal lack of power. And to the filmmakers, America is still capable and responsible for ridding the world of evil and is furthermore able to do so without adapting to the current times.
As is demonstrated by the film, evil still remains a constant threat, but so long as America is around, we will be willing to (again) smash anything that stands in our way.
Raising a child is certainly no easy task, and I’ve never even tried so I’m just speaking from observation. Nonetheless, it seems like there is a lot of pressure placed upon parents to successfully prepare their offspring for the world that lies outside their homes. Whether direct or indirect, all people are undoubtedly at least a minor reflection of those who raised them from birth. The same is true for me.
In the endless abyss of potential sentence formulations from which writers such as myself may select, it is clear to me that I will never be able to create a combination of words within the English language that could express the amount of gratitude and love I hold for my mom.
So, I’m not even going to try. All that is left is the fact that I simply would not be the person I am today without her guidance.
This post is for all the Mother’s out there, your affect you have on our lives is more than you will ever know!
Love you, Mom
I want to talk about The Hunger Games, the first in a trilogy of novels written by Suzanne Collins and now a major motion picture boasting the third highest grossing North American opening weekend in box-office history (it earned $155 million dollars in the first three days of its release).
In reaction to the record-setting film, the Monday following it’s release one of my current professors in college stated “which film is that? Oh, it’s the PG-13 rated one about kids running around killing each other? Yeah, won’t be taking my kids to see that one.”
However, based on both personal and shared experiences, the main audience for this story has in fact been young people, particularly those in their early teens. This fact disturbs me. What disturbs me even more, is how even I was unable to escape the novel’s hypnotizing tendencies; I don’t think I’ve ever been more tantalized and enthralled by a piece of literature in my life. Overlooking the youthful and (in my opinion) writing style, I simply could not put this book down. If I may speak for several others I have discussed this topic with, the same affect has captured most consumers who make the choice to indulge in this fantasy.
What I am having trouble understanding, is why? What is it about this story that is so overwhelmingly fascinating that it demands our attention?
Perhaps a look at the content is necessary. For those unaware, the Hunger Games is a futuristic dystopia set in Panem, the “ruins of a place once known as North America.” In the aftermath of a rebellion, the Capitol has instituted an annual sacrificial event known as The Hunger Games, in which each of the twelve outlying districts must offer one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to enter an arena and fight to the death.
The subtext clearly offers a glimpse of the potential future of reality television (made particularly clear in the film version) as the contestants are constantly reminded that they are to be putting on a “show” for the audience.
Viewed simply as pawns in a game, characters in a drama, and from our perspective, actors on a screen, The Hunger Games represents a glorified sporting match complete with audience bets and sponsorships. However, to those participating, this is clearly more than a game.
I consider this to be one of the most horrifying looks into the future that has ever been imagined. Particularly in the movie version, even despite the protective umbrella of its PG-13 rated violence (cloaked by shaky-cam and blurred visuals), witnessing the horrific act of teenagers killing each other while embracing the competitive and sporting nature of their situation (laughing and encouraging one another amidst early alliances) is nothing short of disturbing.
All this being said, what is the source for the overwhelming support of this book/film combination? Though it is a rare offering of a strong and independent lead female character, the presence of “blood lust,” one of man’s oldest desires dating back to the days of Roman gladiatorial combat, prompting the massive support of this story is both undeniable and even addressed within itself. A particular scene in the middle of the film displays the mentor for the main character witnessing a member of the Capitol gifting his son a play sword and watching him playfully pretend to stab his mother. This fifteen second clip alone speaks volumes about humanity’s furthering desensitization to violence.
Why are we so passive regarding violent content within popular culture, arguably our strongest teaching point among today’s youth? Though it has been discussed many times before, what is it about violence that gets a free pass, while things such as foul language and sexual content garner stricter age-restricting ratings?
Though I am not suggesting Suzanne Collins is attempting to condone the acts present within the story of her creation, I think it is worth noting the astonishing success and effectiveness in utilizing violence as a gimmick around which to build a story. While aspects of love, morality, and family are present within this story, it is fairly clear that the imminence of multiple violent deaths is what keeps the pages turning.
It may be argued that violent acts toward another human being may be considered man’s worst facet, and may very well end up being the future doom of our race. Yet, displays of it run wild among our entertainment with very few restrictions. On the other hand, when handled under proper circumstances, sexual interaction may be considered man’s greatest gift and is obviously the source of all life on this planet. However, any remote display of it is hidden from the eyes of the youth.
So what does it say about us (myself included) when we flock in masses to view a disturbingly violent display of futuristic entertainment? Though I strongly doubt this is in fact a glimpse into the future, the massive popularity of this type of story only seems to suggest that the possibility nonetheless exists, a frightening thought in it’s own right.
As you can see, this is the second post in a week motivated by Noel Gallagher, last week’s concert was a big moment for me, SO DEAL WITH IT.
One of my favorite songs of his is a little known B-side called “D’yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?” Key of G, simple lyrics, upbeat melody, CLASSIC Noel, but still I feel it represents some very interesting issues we meet as we trudge our way through life growing older and (for some) wiser each day.
The song tells the simple story of an adult returning to his/her hometown and meeting their childhood friend for the first time in many years. The friend is now only a mere shell of their former self, a child with big dreams of freedom, happiness, and yes, space travel. However, the author has come home to find them obsessed with money and supporting a family through their career. This is very troubling, both to the author and to myself, because it shows the ways in which we are so willing to cast our dreams aside for the comforts of normality.
How many people enjoy their job? How many people end up actually doing what makes them happy? How many people are stuck in loveless marriages? The numbers, I fear, are quite high. Perhaps I am making an improper judgement, especially considering my limited point of view (I’m still technically a senior in college, I’m allowed to be naive).
Nonetheless, is it wildly absurd for us to seek self-fulfilment? In this day and age, is it even possible? I like to think so. And so does Noel. The song ends with the author comforting their friend and letting them know that imagination can always provide an avenue away from anxiety. Through lasting relationships, I feel we can truly achieve happiness.
And this, dear readers (all 4 of you), is what I hope for you! Don’t let go of your dreams, embrace what life throws at you, and “forget about feeling down!”
Tomorrow I will be traveling to Chicago Illinois to attend a concert featuring one of my favorite musicians, the legendary Noel Gallagher.
Shamelessly simple and straightforward, the songs this man has written over the past two decades have come to mean a great deal to me. They have helped me come to realize the true beauty of life and yet have been able to accompany me through the more difficult things I have been forced to endure.
He’s one of the only people in my life (though it is an in-direct relationship) who has never let me down. And so, if I happen to get the chance tomorrow, I wish to say just one thing to him: thank you.
In honor of this concert I have decided to create two lists regarding the songs of his former band, Oasis.
Top-Ten Oasis Songs (those which match the very essence of everything Oasis stood for)
2. Live Forever
4. Some Might Say
5. Don’t Look Back in Anger
6. Champagne Supernova
7. Slide Away
9. Cigarettes and Alcohol
Top-Ten Favorite Oasis Songs (my personal faves)
1. Don’t Look Back in Anger
2. Live Forever
3. D’yer Wanna be a Spaceman?
5. Half the World Away
6. Little By Little
8. It’s Getting Better (Man!!)
10. The Masterplan