Last weekend my wife, daughter and I finally went to see the new Star Wars movie (“The Force Awakens”). My wife and daughter absolutely loved the film. I felt the movie was only good, and I thought I without question got my $9.50 worth. The new characters, especially Han Solo and Princess Leah’s daughter Rey (played by Daisey Ridley) was a strong female lead character and Ridley had both the acting chops and physicality to put it all together. The visual effects were also top-rate. However, I earned the wrath of both wife and daughter when I dared state that I’d felt like I’d seen this movie before, and not once but twice. To me, there were far too many parallels between this movie (let’s call it #7) and two of the three first Star Wars movies (#4 and #6):
-Otherwise ordinary young adults living mundane lives on an out-of-the-way planet suddenly find themselves in the middle of a war-like conflict with the universe at stake
-These young people discover they have extraordinary powers, which they are unfairly asked to master right now to save their civilization.
– A big round extraordinarily large weapon in the hands of the bad guys is destroyed by a brave ragtag bunch of good-guy young people.
– The older, wizened hero (Han Solo, played again by Harrison Ford),who has already saved the good guys any number of times in his younger days, is called upon again to save the good guys. He succeeds, but in the process is sacrificed by the powerful but cold-hearted bad guys (Obiwan, #4).
-Cute droid is both comic relief and vessel carrying information which is the difference between life and death for the good guys.
It’s exactly the kind of Star Wars movie you would expect the new owner of the franchise (Disney) to deliver: Lots of action, spectacular effects, true to the canon of the franchise, entertaining, sets up the next sequel and is absolutely licensed to the extreme. You can purchase hundreds of Star Wars-related stuff, from the common (toys, DVDs) to mascara and diamond jewelry. What it isn’t: Innovative, risky, ground-breaking or mind-blowing. Which are the very things that made the first movie in 1977 life-changing for people like me.
In America, we love to think of ourselves as risk-takers and innovators, and tell ourselves we celebrate ground-breakers, mad geniuses, envelope-pushers, rebels. It all fits a very American image. We celebrate the myth of a person who stands up honestly for what’s right, who bucks the odds bravely fighting the status quo, or authentically shines light on injustice and unfairness. Mr. Smith goes to Washington. In reality, however, those who stand up, speak out or dare to be different are more often feared than loved, avoided more than embraced, and just plain a hassle to have around. Our country is still prosperous enough that if you’ve “got yours”, all you have to do is go with the flow and do things the way they’ve always been done and a reserved seat on the Gravy Train is all yours.
Of course it’s when you understand these realities but STILL insist on taking chances on people and ideas that your seat on the Gravy Train jumps the track. In the end, I guess, it comes down to whether it’s most important to keep your seat, or worth the risk to try to add more cars on the train even if it means you lose yours in the end. Over the years I’ve not been one to play it safe. I’ve pushed envelopes, exceeded expectations, took chances that worked, and took chanced that failed. I’ve had people believe in me, and I’ve tried to pay forward that belief helping others. I’ve tried to help others who found themselves on a rough path. I hit my own rough patches, but instead of getting a helping hand I found my seat had been taken away and my bags and I tossed off the train all together
I was reflecting on all this Monday night, swaying back and forth between anger and disappointment when I came across the following poem. It was all that was left by former NFL Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III as he cleaned out his locker in Washington for likely the last time. After a sensational rookie season where he seemed to have it all, RG3 lost his starting job in year 2, and didn’t even dress for games this season. “The Paradoxical Commandments” was written in 1968 by then college student Dr. Kent M. Keith:
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you’ll win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
I read it a second time, then a third. And I suddenly realized that while the pain, disappointment and anger were real, they weren’t what was important or lasting. At the end of the day, its about driving past what you perceive as your limits. It’s about doing something regardless of consequence because its right. It wasn’t about others, it’s about me and what I believe. I’m going to build even if others try to tear down. I’m going to keep helping people the best I can. I’m going to be frank and honest even if its not popular. I’m going to champion the underdog, the long shot and the remarkably brilliant because that’s where new greatness come from. And I’ll continue to think big.
I just saw a TV commercial for another new movie: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (I’m not making this up), which somehow combines the renewed interest in the Jane Austin classic and the gravy train that are zombies. Just checked: from 2001 to 2011 there were nearly 400 zombie movies made…and that’s BEFORE AMC’s top-rated “Walking Dead” series. Profitable? Could be. Safe? You bet. Innovative? Risk-taking? Revolutionary? Ha! JT
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