Monday, April 6, 2009

Escaping the Shadow

In Saturday Night Fever, Tony Manero yearns to escape the streets of Brooklyn, and dancing seems to be his way out. Overcoming a situation is a common theme throughout movies, because most audiences like to root for the underdog. Other movies have characters that do not have to overcome a situation, but rather overcome the shadow of an older sibling. Tony also struggles with this, as his parents constantly remind him how perfect his older priest brother turned out to be. Ironically, Tony’s older brother falls from the faith and removes himself from the priesthood, but up until that point, Tony’s parents could not help but compare their younger son to his achieving elder sibling.

In The Pursuit of Happyness, audiences see one of those difficult situations. Chris Gardner is a salesman who loses everything in a risky investment. After his wife leaves him and he takes custody of their son, Gardner is forced to live on the streets of San Francisco. The entire movie is about Gardner’s quest to find a better life for his son. Hope for a better life comes in the form of a stockbroker position, but Gardner must go through 6 months without pay to even be considered for the job. Like Tony, he realizes that he must escape the streets of San Francisco to have any hope. Tony has skills in dancing that seem to offer his only chance of success. In the movie, Chris Gardner also has a talent that ends up being the doorway to opportunity: his Rubik’s cube skills. Chris impresses a man hiring for the stockbroker internship with his speed at solving the Rubik’s cube, which in turn gets him the internship. For Chris Gardner, getting off the streets relied not in his feet, but in his hands. Not only this, but Gardner tells his son throughout the movie that the boy can grow up to do anything, and to not let anyone tell him otherwise. He is determined to escape his environment, and keep his son from falling back in.

In Saturday Night Fever Tony has an older brother in the priesthood, and his parents think that he poops pearls. Tony finds this frustrating, and with good reason, because nothing he seems to do can live up to what his brother has accomplished. Living up to an over-achieving older sibling can be difficult.

In the TV series “Greek,” Casey Cartwright seems to have it all. She is Rush chair for the Zeta Beta Zeta sorority (“the best on campus”), a winner with boyfriends’ parents, and practically perfect. However, opposite from Tony’s situation, Casey finds it hard to live up to her brother Rusty, a freshman at Cyprus-Rhodes. Rusty is undeniably awkward, cute in a nerdy way, and incredibly smart. In one episode, the Cartwright parents come to visit Rusty for Freshman Parents’ Day. It becomes apparent that the parents favor Rusty because of his smarts, ambition, and mapped out plan for his life. By the end of the episode, though, Rusty ends up sticking for his sister, pointing out her numerous good qualities, and the parents realize that they can’t ask Casey to be Rusty. So, the hardships of living up to another sibling are still a theme today, and happen in real life. Not that I would know: I am that older sibling. My younger brother constantly nags about how he has to live up to the "Anna shadow" in high school. I understand his point of view, but he can’t ask me to be anything less than what I am. And that is an overachiever. :)

1 comment:

  1. What would be the coolest way for a person to better their situation?