The Empowerment of Film

Tonight I ended my day the way I usually do, by relaxing in front of a random array of Youtube videos. Whatever catches my fancy. Being the movie buff that I am….film trailers first up on the docket. Seen it, seen it, chick flick, not interested, sci-fi, never heard of that, yawn….wait! What’s that?? Apparently, it’s a love story between two young people, one of whom is dying. I don’t know much more to the story but having read some Shakespeare, I have an idea where it’s going. One thing makes me want to check it out to hopefully feel inspired: The female lead wears OXYGEN!

This is a big deal to me because it’s the first time I have ever seen a main character – a young person no less – who wears oxygen in a film. It is curious that such a simple thing as identifying with a fictional movie character could empower me so much. Obviously, I have not seen the film (Released June 6, 2014), yet I imagine I’ll feel inspired similarly to the way a young Down Syndrome kid watching Chris Burke (“Corky” from Tv’s Life Goes On) would.

But why am I surprised? I’ve done enough film study to know that what goes up on the screen is a reflection of society’s- or a group in society’s- dreams, goals, views, fears, humor, history. It’s a way for us to take our lives, roll them around in our minds and express it visually. The beauty of visual story telling is that it allows underrepresented groups to be seen and heard. It’s comforting to know people will empathize with your story, because, after all, there is something extremely soothingly palatable about a box with moving lights and sounds.

My point is this: Over the decades different ethnicities and identities have gained power and respect by voicing their….well, voice. “I am unique! I am a person of worth! I deserve respect and common decency afforded to every other American!” Throughout the 20th Century it seems film has not only been a tool to gain national acceptance but also a yardstick by which to measure how much further a group has to persevere. African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics all had periods when they were not respected in Hollywood. While it’s never perfect, many doors seem to be opening for those groups.

This is why I am so thrilled about this new movie, The Fault In Our Stars. Finally, oxygen has it’s day! I can’t wait to roll my tanks into the theater, puff away and take out my Kleenex: I hear it’s a tear-jerker.

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