Thursday, August 10, 2023

Replaying the Past Decade as a Scripted Rise of the Underdog Movie

Ripples within a water surface
As someone who lives for and through movies, it will come as not much of a stretch for me to assume that life may be an epic movie itself. I have written a few posts on films and filmmaking and have previously compared teaching to directing especially in relation to content, theme, and pacing so why not expand it all and include the rather tumultuous past decade of ours.

It is merely meant as an exercise, a thought experiment of sorts and not meant as disrespect nor parody and certainly not mockery. Various issues mentioned here have been a source of pain and suffering and I think this needs to be acknowledged and stated explicitly, especially in these volatile, excessively politically correct times of ours.

No harm nor ill will is intended but rather an open and flexible mind with a certain amount of playfulness is requested. I have refrained from using actual names, but it should be clear enough to most readers who it is referred to in each of these situations. It is recommended to distance oneself and to view and consider these issues and matters from a different angle and perspective and to allow for thinking outside of the box albeit there may or may not be some social and political commentary or asides embedded here.

So here it goes, starting off with a rhetorical question: What if the past decade were a scripted movie? What would be its genre, and would you consider it badly or rather well-scripted, sloppily, or carefully constructed? And more importantly, what would be its theme? I will not dive into my personal life with its unprecedented level of drama and upheaval including moments of comedy and irony, both of the intentional and the unintentional kind, but rather I want to look at more national and occasionally global events from and through this prism.

Leaving aside any potential author, be it God, the universe, evolution, regression, or just randomly strung and woven moments of sheer luck mixed with karma, let us look at certain groundbreaking and shapeshifting events. Most of my outlook is focused squarely on what has been going on in North America, and more precisely United States, but again, these do or did have worldwide ripples, effects, and repercussions.

I put the starting point a bit further past the needle of the decade, namely the historic moment in which a black man became the first American president eerily materializing a statement or wish made forty years earlier by another presidential candidate. What should have been a moment and occasion of joy and celebration for everyone was unfortunately marred by certain people who strongly objected to this. Add to it, a personal background and dimension for a man with distinguishable hair who was made fun of and did not take it lightly and who then started his own push and drive toward the presidency.

A given amount of order was then upturned by chaos. This is not necessarily a political statement, but we suddenly had a reality show host with practically no political experience really and actually become the president of a global superpower. Other previous presidents may not have been seen and considered as being up to par and standard for this distinguished and noble position, yet all this pales immensely in comparison.

Whoever penned this movie not only liked upheaval and dramatic unexpected twists and turns but also favored the noted underdog. In this case, a brash person who spoke before he thought and promised what people loved to hear was quickly propelled to power. When people claimed that it was a stunt or a belated and long-in-the-works prank by the man on the moon, then it did not seem as far-fetched. For the longest time, I was asking myself if this was indeed an elaborate you-have-been-punked show (and part of me is still waiting and hoping).

The events did not go as planned. From the first African American president, the glass ceiling was to be broken with the first woman president. Instead, what trumped was a media circus act mixed with elements of wrestling mania. In retrospect, there is an element of irony if not comedy here. It is certainly a case of innovative writing as no one would have expected it to turn out this way, including the elected man himself who could not have dreamt this up even in his wildest dreams.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, a comedian who played a teacher who accidentally became president of his country and tackled corruption actually decided to run for president. He must have been inspired by the reality show host’s success and must have asked himself, why not, if he can become president, so can I, and what have I got to lose anyhow. And against all odds, or perhaps because people wanted someone new and different and chose the underdog, he was elected.

But the plot thickens. This ex-comedian who was not a career politician and only played one in his show, took this job most seriously even more than a serious-minded politician would. But suddenly, he was faced with one of the biggest moments of crises in world history since the Second World War. The ruler of his powerful neighbor who was generally considered strategical, practical, and even rational, had an unexpected change of heart. His character arc went downhill or berserk, and he acted on purely emotional impulses, grounds, and desires instead of the strategy and reason he was known and lauded for.

The stage and conflict were set between David and Goliath. What should have been a quick military operation of a few days and an overnight win for Goliath turned into a long-lasting and ongoing war. In fact, the novice, the one with practically no political experience ended up being much more up to the task than perhaps anybody else in his country or in the world would have been. What this David lacked in experience and stature, he made up in courage, and again the underdog seemed to have the upper hand or at least has been able to resist in remarkable ways until now.

But that is not where the plethora of underdog stories end. We also have a convicted criminal, addict, and ex-con turning into a saint but more importantly, sparking and becoming the name and the face of a worldwide movement toward much-needed and lacking justice and equality. The burning issue of climate change is not addressed and handled by seasoned experts nor politicians and statesmen who have been decrying it for years as inconvenient truths or upcoming and impending global disasters but instead, we get an emotional hot-headed emotionally unbalanced teen who does not mince words and chastises world leaders for their lack of action and their hypocrisy.

And what about those voices who had not been heard since what amounts to time immemorial? Apart from ethnic minorities, women also rose to the occasion with a movement of resistance that was rather ironically started by a group of privileged Hollywood actresses purporting to represent and speak for all women across the globe.

The pendulum seems to have swung to the other side as women and those who view and define themselves differently have gained a sense of empowerment and have come back resoundingly, their voices even overpowering and drowning those who up to now believed themselves in power and control.

The tables have turned, and some of the victims started using the power of victimization to become the new bullies and perpetrators in this cycle of control and domination. A quasi-biblical lesson and a reminder that we should not judge lest be judged by others and that the first will indeed end up coming last. Religion that considered itself the standard bearer of morality has been upstaged by others who similarly judge, point fingers, and punish but merely not in the name of religion. 

As if these conflicts were not enough on their own, why not throw in a global pandemic for good measure? This is the ultimate lesson of humility for those who think or thought they were in control of things; they were and are not. It was an equalizer of some sort where everyone was touched and affected in one way or another through suffering and ordeals – although even then there were different levels and degrees and certain malpractices and injustices would be revealed in the process.

At the same time, the script underscored the fact that despite some battles still ongoing and the immense amount of pain and suffering both in the past and the present, all things considered, we have weathered various storms, at least for the time being, and largely thanks to innovative science and actions. Although there are clouds on the horizon, we should have the strength and resilience to face the looming challenges but that is the subject and the theme of another movie (the sequel?) yet to be made.

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