“The Death of Normal” / The Power of Perspectives

Those wishing to hold national office in these United States will find it increasingly useless to argue for normal, to attempt to play one minority against the next, to turn pluralities against the feared “other” of gays, or blacks, or immigrants, or, incredibly in this election cycle, our very wives and lovers and daughters, fellow citizens who demand to control their own bodies.

Regardless of what happens with his second term, Barack Obama’s great victory has already been won: We are all the other now, in some sense.

A brilliant post by David Simon about what he feels was truly groundbreaking about last week’s election: the disintegration of “normal” as more and more voices begin to come into play in the US political process. Go read it, then come back.

The idea of “the other” has always fascinated me, and it comes as no surprise to me that breakdowns of last week’s voting show that on the whole, the denser the population of an area the more liberal that area tends to vote.

Why? Simple in my mind, the more people you’re around, the less you fear the other. Being exposed to a variety of perspectives different from your own, and realizing each and every person behind them is a human being is about as big a catalyst for growth as I can think of. As “the other” becomes known, they become human, they become relatable to, and they become real. It’s easy to be a dick when you’re anonymous, Youtube is proof of that. But when you actually see others, and are actually seen by them, understanding emerges. It may not be agreement, there’s plenty of people whom I know and deeply disagree with, but I can at the very least begin to understand where they’re coming from, and once I have an idea of where someone is coming from, it’s much easier to see them as human beings.

So what’s all this have to do with film? Easy.  PERSPECTIVES.  I believe in perspectives, more perspectives = better informed decisions.  That’s what being liberal means to me.

It’s also why I love cinema– because of its amazing ability to give viewers NEW perspectives: on themselves, on others, on the world around, and on those feats of imagination that only exist in celluloid. Not only that, but it’s able to package and deliver those new perspectives in an EMOTIONAL context.

The corner stone of modern hollywood cinema, the CLOSE UP is one of the best delivery mechanisms for emotional perspectives that I think we’ve found yet. We’re literally wired to feel in ourselves what we see in others.  In most day to day life we have to buffer than resonance, and dampen it to survive.  We walk by the homeless person on the street, ignore the shouting match between our neighbors, and don’t blink an eye when a parent scolds their child.  Some of that is our biological wiring – strangers can be danger!  But in the movie theater, we’re safe.  We can drop all that.  We can fully merge with the other up there on the screen.  Our self is forgotten, even if temporarily, and we become our Self and experience things we never would otherwise.  That’s profound to me.  And literally millions of us are already doing it, everyday.  It works best with a really big screen, in a specially dedicated space that’s nice and dark and gets a bunch of selves together in the same place in the same moment (the theatrical experiences still matters!).   It makes “the other” into US, one scene at a time.

  • Create a character the audience can identify with.
  • Put that character through the full range of human experience, the good, the bad, the godly, the seedy, whatever.
  • The audience, if even only in a way that is a sliver as powerful as the “real” thing,  gets to experience that perspective without ever having done it, been there, or suffered through it.  Wisdom can be transmitted without the harm.

Movies let us practice being human.



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