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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    More than one kind of happy ending

    Lillie Kilburncolumnist
    Lillie Kilburn
    columnist

    At Gallagher Theater this weekend, a film that proselytizes and indoctrinates will be showing. Many students will see it. Many students will be influenced by it.

    The film is called “”The Devil Wears Prada.””

    Why is it dangerous? Films like “”An Inconvenient Truth”” openly declare their messages. However, more playful films can convey messages more covertly – and when we’re not aware of those messages, we’re less able to resist them.

    The hidden message of “”Prada”” is one shared by many other heartwarming romantic-comedy-type films. It’s a message we’ve heard so many times we may hardly be aware we’re hearing it.

    In “”The Devil Wears Prada,”” a girl must make a choice between a career in the glamorous fashion industry and one as an unglamorous, poor writer. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you know which one she chooses.

    That’s right. She gives up the lucrative, sophisticated job at the fashion magazine and is hired as a writer.

    “”It’s time for Hollywood to recognize alternative lifestyles – of all kinds.

    How did we know how this movie would end? Because we know this message so well: Rich and famous equals morally bankrupt, while poor equals honest and moral and good.

    This is the template for innumerable movies. Think of “”The Family Man”” or “”America’s Sweethearts”” or “”Garden State”” or even “”It’s a Wonderful Life.”” There are dozens of films that follow this pattern.

    In “”Chicago,”” the outcome is the opposite – Roxie chooses to be famous – but it’s obvious that she’s sold out and chosen the evil choice, as Roxie always does.

    In “”Die Hard,”” we know Bruce Willis is the hero because he’s wearing blue-collar clothes – jeans and a wifebeater. The villain, of course, wears an Armani suit.

    And it seems to be a prerequisite for romantic comedy films that they take place in a quirky small town in which all the inhabitants are like one big, loving, extended family.

    Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising that rich people in Hollywood films are almost always selfish and shallow and unpleasant, while poor people are heart-warming and simple and honest. That’s because poor people in America wildly outnumber rich, New-York-penthouse-living people, and films are there to make us feel good.

    The point is, in reality neither rich high-fliers nor small-town families have perfect lives. Yet, Hollywood prescribes only one way of life as correct: having a family and settling in a small town is right, whereas choosing to be rich and famous is inherently wrong.

    The U.S. is famed for its culture of individualism. We implore one another to “”be ourselves.”” Yet our films consistently portray one way of life as right and all other ways as wrong.

    Some people aren’t nurturing. Some people find more happiness in being good at their jobs, or being respected, than in having a family. The point is that we are individuals, so the right choice depends on the person who’s choosing.

    Few ways of life are inherently evil or good. It’s possible to be a fabulously wealthy model and also have a family and be kind and friendly and give thousands of dollars to charity. It’s possible to work at Wal-Mart and be selfish and cruel and shallow. It’s possible to have no children and be a generous person, just as it’s possible to have kids and then be an abusive parent.

    Every time we walk into a film and know how it’s going to end before it’s even begun, we’re showing how indoctrinated we are. Every time this happens, we lose a little more of our capacity to understand subtleties and the wide range of choices possible in life.

    It’s time for Hollywood to recognize alternative lifestyles – of all kinds. This isn’t just about stereotypes. This is about understanding that there’s more than one kind of happy ending, and there’s more than one kind of good and bad.

    As newly hatched adults, we should watch Hollywood’s formula films with caution. Movies are entertaining – that’s their purpose. However, their morals should not be extrapolated to real life.

    If only real life were that simple.

    Lillie Kilburn is a sophomore majoring in psychology. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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