The Thing I Like About …

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: the part where he introduces Rocky to the group.

Dr. Frank-N-Furter has been working very hard on his creation – the beautiful Rocky. He has re-animated the fellow with some sort of wizard-science, and he is proudly parading him around the room full of fawning party-guests. Everyone is praising the doctor’s achievement … except Janet.

Janet looks shyly at Brad and then tells Dr. Frank-N-Furter that she doesn’t like men with too many muscles. (Poor Brad.)

Dr. Frank-N-Furter stares at her in absolute indignation and tells her, “I didn’t make him for YOU!”

Why is this important? Because we forget this for ourselves all the time, and it pretty much ruins our lives.

We arrange our lives around what other people expect/request/want/prefer, not just when we’re little kids and our parents are trying to teach us things, but forever – we get the job we think we “should” have and the education we think we “should” have and date the people that seem “proper”. Then we have children that we raise with all the other parents in mind instead of the children themselves; we compare and evaluate our parenting based on what the Joneses are able to give/afford/do and on what the Joneses think is good/wholesome/productive. And these are just the big-ticket items. We do it with little things too.

We cut our hair the way others are doing it. We wear the clothes that others are wearing, in the sizes that others are – or seem to be. We say the things that others are saying. We watch the things that others are watching. We don’t admit that we like Star Trek unless we’re with other Star Trek fans. We don’t like to share our political/religious/whatever views unless we know we’re in a group where those views are already accepted. We don’t care for conflict or confrontation, but we particularly don’t like the feeling of being excluded. Excluded could mean that you’re not part of the tribe, and not being part of the tribe could mean that you’ll be ejected from the village and left to die under a bridge.

But the fact is that there is a way-to-do-things for each of the seven-odd billion people on the planet. Most of the time, those ways to do things are correct and good. The differences between us make life more interesting, and the unique perspectives we each bring to the table are important and valuable. Unless we’re actually hurting someone, the only “should” in our lives should be to live exactly as we please without regard to anyone else’s opinions. We should build Rockys for ourselves without worrying whether others will like our creation or not. We should honour others’ building rather than the outcomes; outcome-judgment is for math tests and engineering and surgery, not for the stories we write or the paintings we like or the shirts that we pick (or, you know, the partners that we create out of spare parts).

Look around at your naysayers – the real ones, the ones you imagine, the ones you expect – and tell them, with a condescending look of indignation: “I didn’t build my life for YOU!”

The Thing I Like About … [mild spoiler]

Minority Report: the part where he confronts the guy who killed his child.

In Minority Report, John Anderton is a man whose job at the Pre-Crime Division allows him to see when people are about to commit a crime; he then goes to arrest them before anything bad can actually happen. He’s a tortured man, suffering from the intense grief of losing his son, and when the events of the film lead him and his friend Agatha to the man who admits to killing the little boy, Anderton understandably contemplates removing this child-killer from the gene-pool.

If he kills the man, then the pre-crime system he has supported for so long will be vindicated. If he kills the man, then his son’s death will be avenged. If he kills the man, then some measure of justice will be done.

If he kills the man, then he will be a killer.

He points his gun at the man … and places him under arrest.

Are we glad that he’s going to allow the child-killer to live? Is anyone ever glad that child-killers are alive? Do we think Anderton would have been justified to blow the guy away … or even torment him in endless creative ways? – probably.

But we’ve watched the struggle too. We’ve seen Anderton’s self-destructive grief and the loss of his marriage. We’ve seen the pitfalls of the Pre-Crime Division, and all the ways that Anderton’s response to this man can affect it. We can see how important it is for Anderton to feel that he has a choice; we agree with Agatha that he has more choices than just to be at the whim of his sadness and anger. We see all the layers and ramifications and interconnectedness of Anderton’s current decision. And in that moment we’re capable of being better people … and of wanting that for Anderton as well.

At the end of the day, it’s not really about the child-killer. It’s about Anderton, about what kind of man he is and what kind of man he can be, about decision and free will and making difficult choices, about letting go of his crippling pain and finding the happy memories on the other side of it. It’s not about the evil he faces; it’s about his choice to face that evil with goodness.

At the end of the day, it’s not about anything that’s ever hurt us (or our loved ones).

It’s about us.