Reality Bites

Yes, reality bites. And you know what? As each day passes and I see more and more people of my and the upcoming generation taking all the riches that our American world has to offer for granted, I start to seethe.

After watching the movie, Reality Bites, I was compelled to write the below. If you haven’t seen this movie, it is basically a monument to the drowning cynicism and complete arrogance of the early nineties.

It is slacker personified.

reality bites poster

The last time I saw this movie I was 18 and I thought it was profound and edgy. Now, 8 years or so later, I am just watching this train wreck of my generation’s pop culture with my mouth hanging open. It is not cool to abstain from being a productive and hopeful member of society! Why did we ever subscribe to this ridiculous way of thinking?

To be fair, the movie is a parody of sorts on just this kind of thinking. It is pointing the finger at itself as much as anything else. However, in the midst of the sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek fun, a real message starts to come through. Try as they might, they weren’t able to escape the sense of entitlement and the too-cool-for-school cynicism that marked the early nineties…and only gathered strength as the years rolled on.

The characters in this film are an inherent contradiction. Through all their artistic pessimism, sharp wit and clever lines, they are still filled with hope. Hope for the future and full of ideals they try to pretend don’t exist for fear of losing their put-upon edge. Hope born from irrepressible youth and  dreams, near tangible in their clarity. To quote a different movie, they are,  “Hope dancing in stiletto heels…

The invincibility of youth is a powerful drug that rockets you to the highest highs and keeps you company through the lowest of lows. It is a beautiful ride, filled with dizzying drops and heart-stopping inclines. The comedown, however, can be a terrible thing. If you haven’t been paying attention, if you haven’t learned to look outside your self-centered bubble; it will give you a nasty, but nelife isn't fair mugeded wake-up call. It sneaks up on you around 24 or 25, give or take a few years contingent upon your personal level of maturity, and where you are in your life. The comedown is being forced to look at your future as it relates to reality. Remember when your parents repeated ad nauseam that, “Life isn’t fair.”? They were right. Again. Get used to the idea now, because it becomes a louder litany for every year you gain. Nothing is what you thought it would be and life is even harder than you knew it would be.

Let us review…

Love.

Love is not patient, easy or kind. It is usually fleeting, risky and painful. You can invest your heart over and over again, and more often than not, it is returned with a negative balance. The true love story ends with Romeo and Juliet. They were two ignorant star-crossed lovers that weren’t old enough to know anything about life. If they had actually been able to realize their dream of being together, they would’ve most likely ended up poor, ostracized, arguing about money and loathing the sound of each others chewing. Don’t get me wrong, kids, I’m not saying love it is an impossibility; I’m saying that love isn’t a certainty. It’s not a given. It can be work, like anything else. The only people that have to love you, are your parents – and even then…

Life.

Life (adulthood) isn’t just difficult because you have to work hard, pay constant bills, care about people who hurt you, let tightly clutched dreams go, or take responsibility for hurting people that you care about. Those things are just bit players on the stage of life.

It is the moments in between that shoot your hair with gray and line your face with wrinkles.

Looking in the MirrorIt is looking at yourself in the mirror every single morning and reconciling what is inside you, with what you see. It is in the fading but still visible scars that tell a story about a mistaken, drunken night. It is the very first time you fall in love with a child, protect them with all you have, then one day realize you may never see them again. It is facing your mistakes naked, with a cold and unforgiving eye. It is real cynicism, borne from life experience, that you fight with every bit of the child left inside you, because somehow you know that letting it take over would be like daily taking a little arsenic with your morning coffee. In the beginning, there are barely noticeable symptoms akin to a general unwell feeling and then, one day, you die a terribly painful death.

It is the final, full acceptance that you absolutely will die, anytime and anywhere, for no reason at all. It is the death of one or both of your parents. Learning to live in a world where the people who made you no longer exist. It is caring for your elderly at a nursing home and knowing that it could very well be you, sitting alone in a darkened room refusing to shower one day… if you’re lucky that is. That is when life is truly hard.

The heroes in this life are not the cynics, the artists and the empty, all-too-human, glittering celebrities we worship. The heroes are the people who take these harsh realities of life and turn them into a positive, even when it seems impossible. The people who find a reason to smile through adversity. The Gandhis, the Nelson Mandelas, the Martin Luther Kings of this world are the people to exemplify.

Or the everyday hero. My personal favorite.  The woman who still finds steel in her soul that allows her to smile and be gracious through the funeral of the only man she ever loved. The mom who loses her child but stays strong for the remaining ones. The fathfunny-pictures-cat-says-thank-you-to-his-fireman-rescuerer who goes to work every single day at a job he despises just to feel fulfilled when watching his children reap the rewards of all that hard work. There is such nobility in willing self-sacrifice.  The bottom line these days is so much more centered around instant gratification or the pursuit of happiness. The simple but moving stories above are becoming less and less, fewer and far in between. The people who turn their constant worries into valid causes, that look at obstacles as an exciting challenge. . . these are the people who inspire and shame us all. The heroes rise above the pain of reality and do something about it.

Not so are the people who embrace the cynicism, wearing it like a security blanket for all the world to see. Making jokes about hard working men and women struggling to feed their families, as if what they do is somehow less because they accepted the daily rat race or because they weren’t “cool” enough to get some job painting pictures for a living. You know, we can’t all be artists. Who would be there to appreciate that piece of work then? I think every self-labeled artist should profusely thank the average man and woman every day, because without them, all they’ve accomplished is putting some color on canvas or words to music that no one looks at and no one listens to. If we didn’t go to the movies, read books, drink wine, or attend museums… well, then where would the artists of this world be?

So, to abstain from the rat race, to pursue culture, to be an artist is all well and good – great even! – but don’t for a second believe that it makes you better in some way or that you are nobler somehow. We all come from the same Earth, we all will return to it and we all make a difference in some small way. And I tend to believe that the humble, rough farmer does a great deal more than the Picasso’s of the world.

I am not one of these heroes I mentioned. I am somewhere in between. I would like to say though, I do hope to be one someday…

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Family Life, Movies, Philosophy, Random

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: