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Category Archives: Movies

One Wednesday evening, I left work and went to the movies to see  Jordan Peele’s inaugural film, “Get Out.” Here are some quick thoughts in no particular order.

  1. Anxiety. The film depicts the anxiety that an African-American partner in an interracial relationship often feels upon knowing that he or she will meet the white parents. This is quite common.
  2. Stereotyping. The film illustrates stereotyping.  I remember teaching a group of white students and many of them shared similar stories to that when the white police officer asked Chris for his ID.  One white female student said, “I was driving and an African-American male friend was in the passenger seat. When we were stopped by the police, the white police officer did not ask me for my driver’s license; he only asked my Black friend for his.” Rose had to come to Chris’ defense. This is a case of using one’s privilege for good.  But how common is this?
  3. Power/Privilege Misused. The film portrays the misuse of power and privilege by the majority culture to serve their own selfish desires. Rose’s dad was a doctor; Rose’s mother a psychologist.  Both used their skills to exploit African-Americans to serve the desire of a white customer. All this began, however, with Rose betraying Chris; she used, manipulated him as she did several others.
  4. Awkwardness. The film portrays how awkward it is when a minority is in the company of the majority culture. To ease this discomfort, Chris sought out others who looked like him…to no avail – they looked like him but were not like him. Yes, it is possible to be lonely in a crowd.
  5. Reductionism. The film shows how a Black life is reduced merely to being a source for someone else’s pursuit of the good life. This is exploitation plain and simple.
  6. Utilitarian. The film exhibits an utilitarian ethic – ‘the end justifies the means’. The ‘Bingo game’ scene was reminiscent of a slave auction (the means).  Chris went to the highest bidder – a blind bidder who wanted to see again (the end).
  7. Beauty of Friendship. The film portrays the sweet gift and beauty of friendship.  Rod, Chris’ friend, despite being ridiculed, pursued Chris and secured his eventual rescue.
  8. Imagination. This film illustrated Chris’ imagination, innovation and ‘quick thinking’. By stuffing his ears with cotton, he was not hypnotized (or controlled) and eventually fought his way out of Rose’s parents’ home.
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Most people would agree that the family context is vitally important for a child’s spiritual, emotional, moral, relational, and social development.  The Greeks coined a term eudaimonia which means well-being.  The family fosters the well-being or the flourishing of children.  And society benefits from children who are raised in the family context – a child’s first social and educational environment.  It’s in the family that children learn gender roles, conflict resolution, emotional management skills and what it means to be a community member.  If this is true, and I believe it is, why the fuss on white couples adopting black kids or white families adopting Asian kids or why the fuss over cross ethnic and cross racial adoptions?  I can think of a couple of reasons.  One, whites might be accused of acting like the “messiah.”  Some have said the white messiah complex is portrayed in the film, “The Blind Side.”  A rich white couple ‘rescues’ a homeless black boy from the streets.  Second, Americans still have hang ups with race and ethnicity.  For example, blacks would argue that whites have no business raising black kids – because their cultures are polar opposite among other things.  It is odd for many Americans to see cross-ethnic and cross-racial adoptions because it does not fit our worldviews.  Generally, we don’t have a category for cross-racial and cross-ethnic families.  Do whites consider themselves the ‘savior’ of non-whites?  To be sure, there is some of this going on.  However, one thing the film “Blind Side” taught me was that kids flourish when they are raised in a functional family environment.  This does mean there will not be hiccups along the way but every child deserves and needs to be loved and the family provides that place of nurture.  Don’t we want this for all children? I wonder if there would be so much fuss if non-white couples adopted white kids or Asian kids, etc.?

photography_14384349-0b83-47e0-8557-777fc4ae3f9b_34x59.jpgphotography_14384349-0b83-47e0-8557-777fc4ae3f9b_34x59.jpgToday, a colleague of mine and I were returning to workphotography_14384349-0b83-47e0-8557-777fc4ae3f9b_34x59.jpgphotography_14384349-0b83-47e0-8557-777fc4ae3f9b_34x59.jpg after lunch.  (Another car full of colleagues had already left: destination – work.)  My colleague made a sharp right hand turn (hugging the curb) out of the lot to only be greeted by a lady who made a rather wide right turn.  So wide that she almost hit us head on.  The other motorist was driving a Jaguar.  My colleague and I quickly wondered out loud: do people who drive nice cars have a sense of entitlement that even extends to driving privileges or liberties?  In other words, (and generally speaking) do those who are ‘well to do’ expect privileges (with no questions asked) because of their socio-economic status? We might ask this way, is Miranda’s character in Devil Wears Prada a case where art intimates life?  Maybe I am just cynical and this is my over active imagination? (By the way, my colleague is a white lady (late 40s?); I rarely mention such things but I think this is interesting that a black person and white person asked the same question.  Yet we both admit to being jaded or cynical too.)  And for those who think I am over reacting (and I probably am) instances like this have happened before.

My kids and I saw the movie The Pursuit of Happynesstoday.  I can see why critics have said that Will Smith has put in a great performance because his acting was so convincing.  (Will’s son did an excellent job too.) I remember Jay Leno interviewing Will Smith recently and Jay said, “this movie is not about race.”  I think Jay and Will are right but the movie is about class; specifically, it is about the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’  among other things.  Other themes include determination, persistence, hard work, ambition, a father’s love for his son, fear, anger, frustration, and humiliation.  It raises other questions like is happiness really related to money or having stuff?  What does happiness mean?  What is a person willing to do to make ends meet?  What did Jefferson really mean when he wrote ‘…and the pursuit of happiness”?  The movie raises questions about marriage – especially the vows which say, “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, to death till you part.”  This movie made me cry like a baby.  This movie ranks among those that will indelibly mark my heart and mind for a long time. 

benjamin-tour-guide-at-robbins.jpgIn July 2005 I had the great honor of going to Cape Town, South Africa to give talks, lecture, and preach.  On a national holiday called “Women’s Day” (analgous to our Mother’s Day), our team took a ferry to Robben Island.  This island among other things housed lepers, a school, and it housed prison inmates.  This is where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.  In fact, I stood in his cell. In this prison system, guards separated prisoners like Mandela (called a political prisoner) from other ‘common’ inmates.  It was feared that inmates like Mandela could influence other less informed inmates with ideas.  And because ‘ideas’ are powerful, this might lead to an insurrection.  (This notion of an idea being powerful is portrayed powerfully in the movie, V for Vendetta.)

Pictured is Benjamin, our tour guide and a professed atheist (of which I am not surprised).  He described how inhumane the conditions were for prisoners.  Men released themselves in a bucket (number 1 and 2).  Men slept on a concrete floor in chilly weather with thin covering.  Men were electrocuted as a form of discipline.  Benjamin knew so much about the conditions because he was once an inmate on Robben Island.  I was chopping at the bits to ask Benjamin a question.  I raised my hand and asked him, “How could you work for such a place like this after being treated so inhumanely?”  After a short pause he answered in a calm voice, “I needed a job.”  Wow – a blank stare (from me)!  The reality of the urgent is the reason why we should ‘never say never.’  Never say what you will never do because life might have you eat those words!