Saturday, July 06, 2013

31 Day Film Challenge, Day 6: A Film That Reminds You Of A Certain Event

Like yesterday, I found today's prompt for the 31 Day Film Challenge really difficult.  I can think of dozens of songs that remind me of certain events in my life, but I had to think long and hard to come up with a film that did the same.  (I'll just refer you to my explanation from yesterday as to why I think that is.)  For one thing, it's really difficult to determine what counts as an "event."  Things like weddings and graduations and births of children and the like-- that is, most of the things that we mark as "events" in our lives-- are only privately "eventful."  Of course, there are plenty of films about historically, and therefore generally, "eventful" events, but choosing one of those films seemed contrary to the spirit of today's prompt.   However, when I finally did arrive at my selection for today, I definitely had one of those aha! moments.  It seemed immediately apposite and it made instantly clear to me what the film-to-event association was supposed to accomplish.   

The problem is, making that association explicit was going to require some serious finesse. So here goes, with all the finesse of which I am capable.

My pick for today is the 2004 comedy Saved! (starring Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin), which reminds me of my first couple of years in college.  Saved! actually takes place in a high school, but it's an evangelical Christian high school.  My first two years of college were spent at a Christian college, which was small, denominational, residential and evangelical, so it might as well have been a high school.  The film is meant to be a parody, I think, though like all great parodies, the ring of truth in it is deafeningly true.  Saved! tells the story of a student who gets pregnant and subsequently becomes ostracized and demonized by her cohort for her wicked ways.  While not exactly an identical experience-- for the record, I was not and have never been pregnant-- my similarly wicked ways in my first two college years got me similarly ostracized and demonized.  In fact, they got me kicked out of the College.  (Technically, I "dropped out," but only after having been given the option of dropping out or being dis-enrolled.  It was pretty much one of those you can't fire me, I quit! situations.)  My last few months there were some of the most miserable times of my entire life, before or since, and that place very nearly broke me as a person.  But I was young enough, resilient enough, and stubborn enough to survive it, so now when I look back on that time I think of it as deeply formative instead of wretched.  I am aboslutely positive that, for better or worse, I would not be the person I am today without that experience. 

At the same time, I wouldn't wish that experience on my worst enemy.

To be fair, I also had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends in my first couple of years of college, as all new students do.  Even though my memory of those years and that place is troubled, it is not wholly negative.  I think what I would say at this point in my life is that that place and those people provided me a sort of demonstration-by-counterexample of the kind of person I wanted to be.  Not in every way, of course, because I really do believe that most of them were (and, I trust, still are) genuinely good people.  But, to be honest, many of them were "good people" in the way that your viciously racist, but otherwise kind and generous, grandparents are good people.   It's been almost 20 years now, so I think the intervening shifts in moral, cultural and political sensibilities make it far less likely that I would have the same experiences today as I did then.  (In fact, as someone who interacts every day with young college students just like I was back then, I'm quite positive that my students have it much easier.)  Still, the short-sighted and overly-confident judgment, the lack of compassion, the blind insularity, the group-think, the pettiness and the real meanness that I experienced as a very young and very naive 17- and 18-year old, which is funny in a film but not at all so in real life, is something that I will never forget.  I don't harbor any resentments about it anymore, but it took a long, long time to get to that place. 

For the record, I went on to have more than my share of really great college experiences, and even a whole lot of extra ones in graduate school, so I don't feel like I missed out on anything in the grand scheme of things.  In fact, my terrible two years at the Christian college were probably, in the end, a net gain in terms of life-experiences. They provided me a host of really tough, but really invaluable, lessons.  I'll never forget the feeling I had driving away from that place, after having been kicked out of college and my home, on my way to Boston, with everything I owned in my car, with seventy-five dollars to my name, with no one to call for help and with a totally dubious plan that amounted to not much more than chasing after someone I thought I might love.  What a monumentally stupid 18-year-old thing to do.  But that was the beginning of learning who I was, what I could accomplish, what I could survive and how to get by in the world on my own. 

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, after all.

No comments: