You’ve stumbled upon Circle of Jerks, our sporadically published, weekly feature in which we ask the questions that really matter to our writers and readers. It’s a time to take a break from our busy lives and revel in the one thing that we all share: a deep, passionate love of movies. If you have a question you’d like answered by the FSR readers and staff, send us an email at email@example.com.
You guys were probably too busy watching “The Dark Knight” again to notice we had an election, but it was a pretty huge night that led my roommates and I into a discussion social change and movies. Question time: What movie actually changed your mind about a social or cultural issue? Thanks. – Ted F.
Amistad convinced me that slavery was wrong when I first saw it in 2008. Just kidding. Slavery is still awesome! Joking.
Okay, now that I’ve dug myself into a black hole of terrible – wait, not black like that, but like the science thing. God damn it! Restart! Redo, don’t print this part. Never mind I’m not going to delete it. Why? Because at least maybe you’ll get a laugh from it, as otherwise I have little to contribute to this discussion.
I don’t think a movie has ever really changed the way I thought about any serious subject. In terms of recent elections, the only thing that I’ve changed my mind on in the last few years is drug use.
In California, Prop 19 was meant to legalize marijuana and it failed. Two or three years ago, I would have voted against that. Now, I don’t care. Why? Not sure it has anything to do with a movie, but I just don’t care if people smoke weed. Okay, who am I kidding, Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie changed my life. Watching Tommy Chong, high out of his mind, turn a glass into his dick (ain’t that a peach?) made me realize weed is awesome.
As I sat watching The Dark Knight and completely ignoring the election I remember thinking to myself during the third act, “Non-consensual phone tapping…obviously that could work.”
This is a difficult question for a liberal. Considering the overwhelming number of liberal-minded filmmakers in Hollywood, and lack of conservative-leaning artists who actually make [good] films in favor of an opinion that I don’t agree, pertaining to some cultural or social issue, then it comes down to trying to find a film that helped shape an opinion or belief at an earlier age. With that in mind the first thing I can think of is Tarzan, which didn’t reverse a belief on a social issue, but did largely influence my stance on the existence of God.
I was, I believe, a few months removed from high school when I started to think about whether or not I did, or did not believe in God. Then, because my mind doesn’t function properly, I started to think about Tarzan and what would have happened to him in the existence of an afterlife if he had never been found and domesticated. Would he have gone to heaven? If yes, then obviously there was no need for religion to get him there – just innocent ignorance to right or wrong, in which case if there is a heaven and Tarzan can get there by knowing nothing then what good is it for us to think we know right and/or wrong? If he doesn’t go to heaven then why punish someone who has no concept of right or wrong because he was never taught? That seems unfair.
It was at that point that I definitively became agnostic. I don’t know if God exists, but I do know that if there is a God then either our perception of him/it is wrong, or his/its logic of earning eternal happiness is unfairly restrictive. All thanks to The Ape Man.
I don’t know that it changed my mind per se, but The Shawshank Redemption made me think about something I had never really considered before: prisoners rights and rehabilitation.
For most of my life up until seeing that movie I thought ‘you commit a crime, you face the consequences.’ Shawshank was the first movie I saw that suggested the story doesn’t end there. By conveying the brutality of life in prison and by making men deemed dangers to society relatable, it made me think about justice and what it really means.
It also made me think about how life in jail can socialize a prisoner to become a different person when he leaves than he was when he entered, as well as how one can become institutionalized to the point where he (or she) doesn’t ever want to leave (and will go to extreme lengths to stay). Look at Brooks. He was a dangerous criminal – one who on paper must have seemed pretty scary – but show me someone who doesn’t weep at his story and I’ll show you someone who’s dead inside.
The Shawshank Redemption helped me to see that social justice is a complex issue and that right and wrong aren’t always easily defined. (I like to think I would have eventually come to that conclusion without the help of a Hollywood movie, but still…)
The first time I truly understood conservatism was after reading “Things Fall Apart.” Apparently that’s not the normal reaction to the novel about a village in Africa being taken over by white settlers, the slave trade, and bicycle abuse, but there was something striking about the way that the Igbo stood proud in resistance to change. Sometimes it was to their detriment, and sometimes it was the only strength they had left.
The eye-opener led to seeing a film I’d watched a dozen times in a new light. That film was Groundhog Day, and instead of simply laughing at Phil Connors driving a small rodent off a cliff, I finally saw the film for the championing of small town values that it really portrays. In the beginning, Phil is an urban jackass with an entitlement and ego problem, chasing down the glittery trappings of newness that entice everyone without a true anchor to ground them. During his many, many years of reliving the same day, he learns to appreciate the genuine kindness and hospitality of the small town. He learns who the people around him really are, and he loses his cynicism. In that way, the film both shuns elitism and embraces compassion toward our fellow man. Think about how many times Phil tries to save the homeless man’s life. In those moments lie the best possible traits of conservative and progressive values.
In a way, the movie helped not only in changing my mind about one particular social issue, but about my entire outlook on how social issues should be viewed.
Answer more burning cinematic questions with the Circle of Jerks