This is about an interesting revelation I had over the holidays. I love myself a good movie. It’s usually something I prefer to get into at night after a shower but not necessarily with hopes of unwinding. It began as a way of diver
ting all the tension from a hard day, but gradually it took more importance than that. I don’t remember enjoying movies before university as much as I do now. Art was not something I was raised with- it was a priceless healing stone I discovered later in life, that continues to be very therapeutic. Getting back on track with the topic- I love myself a good movie. However I realized recently that I had missed out on what people I know called ‘classics’. This was to be blamed not only in the lack of such a culture growing up, but also because of my own biases. But that began to change.
Until about a month ago, I didn’t dare watch movies from a different decade because I somehow judged the past so harshly. They were cave people with black and white recording devices the size of buildings, lacking a sense of humor or creativity. Without even visiting the imaginative portal of the past, I had already made a faulty generalization- the correct term which as a psychology student, I should know by now, but forget! The change happened when I was influenced by a friend who I truly admired for her diversity of appreciation. Like most people, she was shocked that I hadn’t seen ‘the classics’ but unlike most people, she didn’t stop to ridicule. She ended up making me a list for me to catch up. And man oh man am I grateful!
I have yet to finish the list of recommended movies, and I have consciously put aside the horror movies for another day. It may come as a surprise to most people that my childhood was not sprinkled with enough fairy dust from Disney movies. I hadn’t watched Lion King until I was 20 years old, and some other Disney movies I hadn’t watched at all. On the list were the movies Mulan and The Little Mermaid. It came as a shock to me how feminist ideas were pushed in the form of Disney movies as early as 1998 (Mulan), and I’d like to think it changed some little child’s mind about her strengths and capabilities in a dick-centric society. While I did think The Little Mermaid was cute, and admired the evil fabulousness of the sea witch, it didn’t do much to me. I realized that I couldn’t go back and watch it at a time blanketed by a child’s naivety- and had I done that I would have had a more enchanting perspective of it, that would have Xerox-ed its way through the years.
Aside from Disney, I watched movies like Pulp Fiction and Fight Club which slapped me across the face for my shameful bias and showed me the existence of creative geniuses at a time not too blessed with current resources. These were artists who used equipment which now seem like cave tools to push forth their ideas. I never imagined drama and crime films of the past to be as beautifully twisted as they were. I learnt that the biggest wealth of these creators were not fancy equipment, but their minds. They took the effort to make something out of the passion they bore. I began to understand the impact left by our artistic forefathers. They were here first, laying incredible foundations.
I watched a Julia Roberts movie called Pretty Woman which instantly rocketed its way to become one of my favorite rom-coms. I did not expect a romantic comedy from before the year I was born to portray love between a rich guy and a sex worker so beautifully. There was a mixture of rawness and softness in the intimacy that I rarely have seen in modern day rom-coms. I also watched an extremely sad movie called Boys Don’t Cry about the unfortunate fate of a young transgender man and his girlfriend. Both these movies left me in shock because they were literally decades old and yet the themes they revolved around like classism, sexism and discrimination could not have been more representative of our time now. It was like holding up a mirror to the world today and it would show the same version of people only with retro fashion and an antique filter.
Essentially, my friend didn’t give me a list of movies. What she gave me was a time capsule that I immersed myself in over a few weeks. In a way I am grateful to have not seen the movies ages ago like most people did, because I immensely value
this experience I had. I never believed before in the phrase “history repeats itself” and after this blast from the past, I see some truth in it. I mourn for the lack of progress we have made as a human race- all the cloned sheep, visits to Mars and test tube babies don’t seem to compare with the fact that we haven’t learnt to love and accept people for who they are. It was the same problem 20 years ago and I dread that it will be in the next 20 years. While art has smacked me hard with this reality from the time capsule, it also showed me some nice things. There were geniuses out there whose minds worked in marvelous and awe-inducing ways that were similar to the brainiacs of this generation. And because of that I now have heightened admiration for the brilliance of our minds and the ideas it can generate.
Chamie is a psychology student at Monash who attains peace by bowing to the wonders of art, while tackling an unruly monster named Thesis. He values feedback as much as he values dessert.