Yea, yea, 2016 has been an all around demoralizing shit show and it may get even worse come November. Some days I sit around, listen to my Bowie records, miss my Auntie terribly, watch my country split itself further and further straight through the heart, and wonder if we are either headed straight for zombie apocalypse or a second civil war. Our superheroes can’t even get along these days!
It’s a sign of the times.
You know what else is a sign of the times? I think I’ll call it a resurgence. Maybe a renaissance?
What do I mean? It’s in our art; something I have great faith in. It is in what we choose to create and show the world. Life imitates art, art imitates life and we can wield that power to create a better world. It’s happened before. It is why the word “renaissance” exists. Well, here I am, pacing around at 12:30 at night so jazzed, so refreshed, so hopeful. I haven’t even had any beers tonight but honestly, maybe I should crack one. My mind is so blown!
Within this past month I watched three things sitting here in my living room that have restored my faith in humanity, in the world, in life.
(I’m a lot behind on some of these, so don’t laugh.)
The Jungle Book (2016)
The Get Down
In that order, these changed my perspective around, made the world finally make sense again, and gave me hope.
The Jungle Book:
If you watched me watch this movie you’d be frightened to your core thinking you have never seen such a scary psychopath in your life before. I just kept yelling and crying. I wasn’t expecting what I saw. WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THIS MOVIE?!?! Scenes were heart tearing and sudden and powerful and deep, so deep. The story weaved in and out of this jungle like Kaa giving you just enough time to be walloped with the meaning behind what they were laying down then it moved right along to the next mind blowing concept.
And Mowgli doesn’t go back to live with man. (The elephants, oh man, the elephants…geeze louise…perfect.) Because we know that would just ruin him. Instead he pulls all of the animals in the jungle together and they live happily ever after?!?! Yes. Oh my god yes. Did the novel or the old Disney movie end this way? Both are so far behind me that I can’t remember. I don’t think they were like this movie a whole lot at all and if they were not, then bravo! Good, good call.
The there’s The Get Down.
Thank you Baz Lurhman. This had all of his revelry and joy with out the dark, tragic endings he had with all of his other movies. Just the right amount of Lurhman if you ask me. If I had to sum up this show in one word: Celebration!
This show celebrated music and art and self expression and ghetto kids from the South Bronx with out too much of that stereotypical, negative, tragedy line you mostly hear. YYYYAAAAASSSSSS! These kids faced adversity but they were smart and talented and full of life. And ain’t that the reality? As I watched the joy in this show build I kept expecting one of these kids, with all their running through back alleys and going to crazy parties, to get shot or to end up overdosed or with AIDS. I expected the “father figure of the ghetto” to be just another crooked politician lining his pockets, not someone smart and honestly out to get the best for his people with out crossing too many lines. Then I realized I expected all that negative because that’s what every show and movie about “these kids” taught me to expect and then I realized the message that sent and the message this was ending. Ok, so this show has a pretty mixed message, yes, just like the Bronx but still one celebrating the values of this place, time, and people. We could become outraged at the burning buildings and the closing of fire stations, at the poverty and the rampant violence no one bothered with because it hadn’t spilled over into their gated community. But we could also celebrate the art and the people with their beautiful mixed race and hard religion for hard times and pure, pure souls.
You expect a show like this to make our beloved character choose: white world or loyalty, a chance to escape poverty and violence or a fool’s errand, stay true to yourself or be actually smart, sell your soul, cash your check. For now, at least for now, this show does none of that. It revels in opportunity and values intelligence, grit, integrity, and talent. Our main characters stare into each others’ eyes at the end and vocalize their relief that they managed to keep one foot in both worlds with out getting torn apart.
I don’t know what season two holds, but don’t fuck this up guys, don’t fuck it up.
Now, Stranger Things is a bit, well, stranger.
A little dark – the way I like my magic – but those kids though! You fall in love and root for them. More so, you respect them. And didn’t you find yourself not giving up on hope? Didn’t you find yourself cheering on – wait – Wynona Rider? Yes! You did! I did! Caught me by surprise, too. Everyone one falls for it, for the truth, the unbelievable truth, shit so impossible you just couldn’t possibly believe, but you do.
And who is it to the rescue? Kids. (Well, mostly.) Smart, talented, soulful, wise, all-powerful kids.
I watched Jungle Book tonight and these two shows and one movie seemed to round out the trifecta (or would a third triangle out the trifecta??)
As different as these three were they all had this in common:
#1. Celebration of youthful wisdom. They were not naive, they new better than jaded adults. Life and aging can make us so stupid! These kids all had power and and immediately gained the respect and trust of us watching and the adults in the TV.
#2: Belief in magic, in each other, and in happy endings. Fuck cynicism. It’s not doing us any good.
#3: Rejection of the big machine, the politics, human nature, all the things we feel we are just too small to fight. The things we feel will never change, they change us. Yet, Mowgli seems to stop an apocalyptic future we actually know to be history: colonization, depletion of the worlds resources, industrialization. The Get Down starts by talking about the institutionalized racism in our country and how politicians corrupt it all, but these kids mange to do amazing things regardless. Pay no mind. And in Stranger Things a bunch of kids manage to defeat not only monsters, a deadly other dimension, but also an evil X-Files type secret corporation run by powerful, wealthy men.
I think this is it. I think we are heading toward shedding our pessimism, thinking it will some how protect our fragile hearts. We are heading towards having faith in ourselves and being all too willing, having all the power needed, to not just wish for a better existence, but to make it happen. I think that’s why all of these shows focused on kids and teens. They are going to rise up and make the change happen. They are going to be the change we all wish to see in the world!
“And these children that you spit on as they try to change their world, as immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through. Ch-ch-ch-changes!!!” ~D. Bowie
**None of the images in this post were mine.