Are you being true to yourself? Should you? Better question: What in the world is a true self, anyway?
Some of my best friends are men, so no offense. But Wonder Woman has me asking, what’s the point? What good are they?
When I was growing up, there were two films the pater of my familias forbade his brood from seeing until we reached the age of 35: A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Bambi (1942). With a smirk and some curiosity, we obeyed.
This loyal filia no longer wonders why Bambi—instead she wonders why not Beauty and the Beast?
It’s probably a drag being a liberal, always boycotting things. A Progressive friend who was surprised by my politics once asked me how I could like Radiohead so much, considering its front man Thom Yorke is such a leftist. It seemed a logical error (the “moralistic boycotter’s fallacy”?). I don’t judge songs by the artist’s favorite color, either. The fact is, conservatives can’t afford to discriminate merely to maintain moral cleanliness. I wonder whose music my friend might allow me to enjoy. Kid Rock? (Blah.) Rush? (Eye roll.)
And anyway, even if an artist’s politics do affect his art, what a spiritual poverty to entertain, or be entertained by, only what confirms one’s convictions! As a psychological fact, for many the private determines the political; must we also allow the partisan to constrict the personal?
Damien Chazelle’s La La Land shows how imagining possible worlds uplifts, and disappoints, human life. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) fall in love, but ultimately the film is more about human la-la lands, symbolized by the Los Angeles in which Seb and Mia are trying to make it—he as a nostalgic jazz pianist bent on opening his own club, and she as a barista/actress infatuated with images of old Hollywood.
Every person undergoes traumatic experiences. Their quantity and quality vary, but once suffered, these experiences are incorporated into the person, usually invisibly to the rest of us. When they are not hidden enough, we may wish a person would just get over it already. Yet we marvel, when a person calmly reveals some past trauma, at the human ability seemingly to tuck such things away.
Kenneth Lonergan’s magnificent film Manchester by the Sea—poignant, funny, tough—portrays the human limits of this ability.
In war, sitting out protects one’s bodily safety. Sitting out of the morally messy struggles typical of adult human life protects one’s sense of superiority and innocence. Doing the good sometimes requires an odd courage: accepting the risk of getting the soul’s hands dirty. But how and how much to dirty one’s hands are difficult to discern.
It began as curiosity, an alienated feeling, the desire to understand. It became a temptation. The occasional trace of a melody would wriggle into my imagination. So what if I snuck away to enjoy a hot single now and then? No one had to know. But now I’ll admit it—I have two pop stations preset in the car. And I’m not ashamed.