Sep 13 2014

Reflections on Forrest Gump: Forrest knows what love is

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Forrest Gump says “I’m not a smart man but I know what love is.” And he does. He loves his Momma, Bubba, Lt. Dan, and, most of all, Jenny.

Forrest shows his love for his mother by remembering and respecting what she teaches him. Mrs. Gump equips Forrest with an outlook that marks the way he processes the things that happen to him throughout his life. It is Forrest’s acceptance of whatever comes out of the “box of chocolates” that allows him to become a participant in historic events without questioning whether he belongs there. He accepts himself and believes he has something to offer because His mother instilled worth and confidence in him. He values other people in the way Mrs. Gump teaches him to value himself.

Forrest rushes into the Vietnam jungle to save his friend Bubba and ends up saving four other men. Forrest honors Bubba by following through with the plans they made to go into the shrimping business even though Bubba is dead. So deep is Forrest’s connection to his friend that he shares his fortune with Bubba’s family even though he doesn’t know them well and they think he’s stupid. Continue reading


Nov 29 2013

Of Rattlesnakes and Mockingjays: Sacrifice and Symbol in Catching Fire

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It started with Benjamin Franklin more than 20 years before the revolution. The rattlesnake was chopped into eight pieces. It illustrated Franklin’s editorial about the “disunited state” of the colonies and was originally used to encourage the 13 colonies to unite and fight with Britain in the French and Indian war. Revolution was not on Franklin’s radar at that time, but after years of paying a less costly tribute than the 13 Districts of Panem, seeds of revolution took root and Franklin’s “join or die” snake began appearing all over Colonial America The snake metaphor was later recycled into the familiar coiled rattler on the yellow background known as the Gadsden Flag. The snake and motto appears on Navy SEALS patches. Variations of the coiled snake and motto have been used by various political groups as a symbol of protest.join-or-die

Gadsden-flag-original-Marine-flagMockingjay_on_fire                                                                                                       In the first Hunger Games, the thirteen Districts were concerned about themselves. Each one sent their Tributes and kept their heads down. Some trained their Tributes in hopes of assuring survival and gaining status but mostly they hoped the Capitol would accept the annual sacrifice and ignore them. But something happened in the year’s time between the co-victory of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Melark in the 74th Hunger Games and the decision by the Capitol to bring them back for the 75th. What is the tipping point for revolution?

For the 13 Colonies it was Lexington and Concord. Fifteen years of griping about taxes and oppression came to a head when the British shed Colonist blood. The 13 Districts put up with the shedding of blood for seventy-five years, in a controlled way. Their revolution had failed and they were living with the Capitol’s bizarre vengeance. But they too have a tipping point.

Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins says that the ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur was her inspiration and that she views Katniss modern Theseus. According to the myth King Minos of Crete demanded fourteen young Athenians, 7 male, 7 female are paid in tribute. Athens paid to avoid war. Sending the young people into the labyrinth where he kept the Minotaur, Minos enjoyed blood sport with political motivation. That does sound a lot like President Snow. In the Greek myth, the demi-god Theseus volunteers to be one of the tributes and eventually defeats the Minotaur and saves the young Athenians.

Katniss is no demi-god, but, like Theseus, but she begins as a volunteer, a willing sacrifice in The Hunger Games. Salvation stories require willing sacrifices. In Catching Fire, Peeta is the volunteer and the other tributes are sacrifices. They sacrifice themselves to save Katniss, not because she’s Katniss but because she’s the Mockingjay.

Any revolution worth its salt is going to offer an inspiring symbol, like Guy Fawkes mask or Rattlesnake or the Mockingjay. Katniss is comfortable with the role of volunteer and sacrifice, she’s comfortable when she’s the one using her platform to convey a message, like putting flowers around Rue’s grave. But Katniss is not as comfortable with her role as symbol of the valiant Tribute when the Capitol tries to use her in this way. Now she’s the Mockingjay and the District dissidents are willing to sacrifice others to save her. They have plans for her as symbol of the revolution, plans that require sacrifice.

In thinking about the spiritual implications, Jesus as volunteer and sacrifice, as dissident and revolution leader, overturning the system wasn’t His mission. Love was His mission. Jesus wasn’t setting Himself up as a symbol but as a sacrifice. He lived in a brutal and oppressive age but wasn’t teaching His disciples how to stage an uprising, yet the results of His teaching caused revolutionary change. As Katniss is lifted in the helicopter, arms stretched out in the traditional “Christ figure” movie pose, Snow’s granddaughter says, “Someday I want to love like that!” Now there’s a goal worth starting a revolution over.


Mar 5 2013

The Mayhem guy, John McClane and A Good Day to Die Hard

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I thought the Allstate Super Bowl commercial that casts Mayhem as the influence of evil was genius.Mayhem doesn’t just weave his way through History, he also impacts individuals, wreaking havoc in minivans and suburban neighborhoods as well as on battlefields. He is a first-third world problem.

After seeing the latest Die Hard installment it occurred to me that John McClane must be one of Mayhem’s favorite targets.  Through five movies over twenty-five years Mayhem has followed around John McClane. At times John has seemed like a willing participant in this chaos, but most of the time, especially in the earlier movies, he’s cast as a guy who winds up in the wrong place at the wrong time more times than any odds of coincidence can stretch. Continue reading


Feb 16 2013

Zero Dark Thirty and the importance of backstory

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Zero Dark Thirty is gripping and slow at the same time. The story is about these necessarily anonymous men and women who devoted years of their lives to locate Bin Ladin. The pace of the movie certainly mirrors the painstaking process.

 

The story itself felt real. Imperfect, often irritating individuals work together toward a common end. They disagree. Bosses pull rank. They work around protocol. They lie and deceive, spy and torture as part of their jobs. I kept wondering whether the job influences the person or the person influences the job. Who decides to make a lifestyle out of this?

Continue reading


Jul 3 2012

Captain America, Mayberry, and Independence Day

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 R.I.P. Andy Griffith.

Griffith  is most remembered for his role as Sherriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry. Andy Taylor spoke with reason and restraint, humor and compassion. His reactionary deputy Barney Fife was always ready to “Nip it in the bud.” Everything was a crisis and every wrongdoer was a villain for Barney. Andy’s calm response was usually to “have a talk with them.” A talk with Andy led to a better understanding of oneself and one’s responsibility to one’s neighbors.

In the Bible Jesus describes the apostle Bartholomew as a man with no guile.  It was a compliment. Andy Taylor was a man with no guile. He was wise and perceptive but never insidious or sly. Captain America in Marvel’s Avengers communicates the same sort of sincerity. Continue reading


Mar 17 2012

An open letter to my young friends about the Invisible Children drama

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What happened with Invisible Children may have left some of you feeling disillusioned. Some of you may feel manipulated and disappointed and maybe a little foolish. I don’t want to see you discard your idealism and enthusiasm at the altar of discernment. Learning to give is as important as learning to think. My prayer for all of us is in I Cor. 13. May we be able  “to bear all things, to believe all things, to hope all things, and to endure all things.”  Continue reading


Feb 21 2012

Downton Abbey: dealing with change and searching for significance

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CONTAINS SPOILERS: Downton Abbey appeals to me the way Jane Austin does. It’s thoughtful reflection on the human condition and relationships makes the setting somewhat irrelevant. Nobles and servants alike deal with love, pride, fear, and the longing for significance and belonging. Yet the setting is what creates the tension in the story. Downton Abbey takes place in a time of tremendous social change. The characters are products of the social expectations and traditions associated with British peerage. The modern era is pushing against the way of life they’ve always known. Downton manages to weave social and historical perspective into its storytelling but story and characters are its heart.

Robert Crawley takes his responsibility as a member of the British peerage seriously. He feels an obligation to his servants, to the people in the community, and to the traditions of the nobility to which he was born. He is willing to lose his house to preserve the integrity of that system. His personal desires are second to his sense of honor. The butler Carson represents this same commitment to tradition on the other side of the house. Carson treasures his role and is fiercely loyal to the Crawley family. They both find significance in their roles, as does his mother Violet and housekeeper Mrs. Hughes.

Downton’s heir Matthew has made a place for himself in the modern world as a lawyer. He comes to Downton with prejudices toward the lifestyle of nobility. As he spends time learning about Downton from Robert, Matthew comes to appreciate Robert’s perspective. He is not won over by the philosophy of the peerage but by Robert’s grace and honor. Continue reading


Nov 11 2011

My favorite American movie veterans

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Thank you to our veterans who are changed forever to preserve our freedoms. They go when they would rather stay home, they bear the marks of war on their bodies and their psyches. They are our friends and neighbors and our heroes. Here’s a list of my favorite veterans from some of our major wars.  Who are yours?

Benjamin Martin (The Patriot) – Revolutionary War. Brings not only his experience, but his wisdom and regrets to his second war. He won’t fight until it’s personal, leads reluctantly as a citizen soldier standing with his neighbors. It’s not about power.

54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.(Glory.) Civil War. A black regiment led by an idealistic white captain learn to put aside distractions and disagreements and focus on the cause. When one fell another took up the flag, a symbol of their determination to win freedom.

Sergeant York – World War I. Kinda hokey but I love this guy. He resists violence but he fights when his default setting is peace and love for his fellow man. Continue reading


Aug 14 2011

Harry Potter, Chosen Ones, and Heroic Sacrifice in Movies

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In my last post I wrote about Harry Potter as a messianic figure. He responded to his unique role as Voldemort’s nemesis by willingly sacrificing himself to defeat evil. He joins a distinguished list of sacrificial movie heroes. Some are chosen ones, some just choose. Continue reading

May 6 2011

A list of high school teen movies inspired by Seth Godin’s blog

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I’m a fan of Seth Godin’s blog. His entry for May, 6, 2011 is entitled What’s high school for? In it he lists some skills he thinks the next generation needs to know. Godin’s list is included below in bold. I decided to take a look at some teen movies that illustrate his points. My list is heavy on some of my favorite 80’s and 90’s titles. Does anyone connect any 21st century teen titles with Godin’s list?


Focus intently on a problem until it’s solved: The Harry Potter movies represent seven years of Harry Potter working on a way to defeat Voldemort.  Harry’s commitment to solving the problem is reflected in his choices about his relationships and associations, how he develops his gifts and talents, and his educational plan.

Postponing short term satisfaction: Teacher Jaime Escalante  pushes his low-income Hispanic AP calculus students to come early, stay late, use vacation time, even sacrifice hours that could be spent earning  money at work in order to equip themselves with knowledge that will increase their chances for college scholarships and satisfying careers.

Reading critically: In Dead Poets Society Mr. Keating tells his students, “When you read don’t just consider what the author thinks, consider what you think.” As they discover how to read literature on a deeper level Keating’s students are powerfully and profoundly changed by the ideas they encounter.

Power of being able to lead groups of peers without clear delegated authority:  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off presents a character with an incredible sphere of influence. Ferris inspires and  leads not only his friends and acquaintances but even people in his school and community who have never met him. Continue reading