Defending Your Life
Defending Your Life is a movie from the early 90s about arriving in the afterlife and discovering that you must now go on trial to see if you move onward, or are sent back to earth for another lifetime there. It turns out that the point of life here on earth, since we use so very little of our brains, is to get over fear. The trials look at several points in your life, and people are judged by how they handled fear, and if they overcame it.
Obviously, this is a giant correlation to my life. There was an enormous turning point when I was 25, and instead of taking the easy, the beige, the normal life, I moved to the city to live alone for the first time ever, and began to dedicate myself to becoming an artist.
Here is the *insert Twilight Zone music* part… For many years, whenever I was holding myself back due to fear, I would flip the television on and find this movie. It was a reminder, a beacon, and getting seriously creepy. About every year or so, click – there it was. Perhaps it was halfway through, but I had to drop everything and watch, and remind myself that this life is extremely short and I need to make forward progress at all times, not slow myself down because I’m afraid of something. (Except skydiving. Everyone should logically be afraid of that.)
Then, about 7 years ago, I started a band. And I haven’t seen the movie since. It hasn’t been in the listings, it hasn’t just popped onto the television, it was just gone. Freaky?
I mentioned this to my husband when I realized that my strange symbolic kick in the duff was just gone. So he rented the movie for me so that we could watch the whole thing.
I’m left feeling like I might never see it again, and that’s okay. I think I’ve learned everything I can from the flustered “everyman” character by Albert Brooks, and the always radiant and fearless Meryl Streep. (Rip Torn is also particularly charming.) This movie has given me a reference point to look at life’s challenging scenes from the outside, and question my decisions as if I were being judged by strangers.
Whip It is the 2009 directorial debut by Drew Barrymore, starring Ellen Page as a small town Texas misfit with a small town life who suddenly finds herself in a bigger city doing something somewhat outrageous (roller derby), and finds her true self along the way. Well, boy howdy, is that ever me in a nutshell.
Bliss finds that she needs to be more aggressive, and take control while playing roller derby, then sees that she needs to take control of the rest of her life as well. For me, I needed to take my writing off the page and begin doing poetry readings to find my voice, and discover why I was writing in the first place. Then, I needed to turn up my vocal volume in every aspect of my life. I had already been working on this process well before the movie came out, but it conjured up many trains of thought that were helpful to explore.
In Whip It, the mother made Bliss compete in beauty pageants, and upheld her opinions on conservative womenhood. She was a bit of a nervous nellie, and seemed to defer to traditions and authority a little more than one would think for our time. She wasn’t completely out of touch, and just wanted the best for her daughters, but as Bliss was trying to find herself on the road from girl to woman, her mom was stifling.
This conjures up vague memories of my early years, when no matter what happened, my mother would take the side of authority or tradition over my ideas and opinions, completely invalidating anything I had to say about certain subjects. It is infuriating when you know someone wants the best for you, but they are going about it wrong, and they refuse to listen to you, or basic logic. Add teenage hormones to the mix, and you create an acidic vortex of rage.
I watch this movie about twice a year, and it has also reminded me of the importance of controlling your environment, and being kind to yourself. I cannot stand the hideous rat faced boyfriend in this movie, so I simply forward through the scenes with him in it. Ta-da! I don’t think one should bury their head in the sand and ignore the world if it disturbs them, but if you know something is going to angry up your blood, avoid it if possible. Know thyself.
Pretty in Pink
Although I didn’t see it until later, the 1986 classic Pretty in Pink was quintessential mid-80’s teenage angst. I, like Andie, was poor and had to rummage through thrift stores to develop some sort of style that allowed me to express myself. I always felt inferior and often creeped out by rich kids.
I had weird friends who dressed strangely, and were outcasts too. I had rich kids be rude and obscene to me. I didn’t wear a lot of pink, but layered jewelry and odd retro outfits gave me a sense of self that I used as armor for some of the horrific high school years.
I suppose this movie gave me validation, of a sort. Reassurance that I wasn’t the only one to have survived such ridiculous crap. It didn’t matter than I was poor and others were rich – it was that some of them were pricks and I was just trying to ignore them and endure high school.
A memory just surfaced… I actually did go to the prom in a pink dress. My date was a buddy of mine, and we ended up drinking in the basement of a bowling alley, after I was playing drums at a party with my silk glove encased fists. In small towns, these things happen.
Life Lessons / Questions:
If there are movies you watch repeatedly, stop and ask yourself why. Genuinely think about it.
When watching all movies, what characters do you most identify with? Who makes you angry / frightened / frustrated? Why?
If there is a scene that follows you around days later, think about what it meant to you. Perhaps it was just gorgeous filmwork, or maybe your mind is trying to tell you something, or conjure up a memory to you need to sort out.
PS: I didn’t have a photo of a movie theatre, so that’s a Weird Al concert featuring a neighbourhood kitty named Seamus trying to sneak into the house.