High Noon – Men and Boys

September 24, 2009

Through a lifetime of loving westerns, I had never seen High Noon, perhaps because both my parents were more John Wayne than Gary Cooper – fans, I mean – and I didn’t get around to Mr. Cooper myself until recently.  In any case, it was not what I expected.  I expected a fairly standard, if high quality, shoot ’em up western.  Instead I got a wonderfully rich examination of what makes a man rather than a boy, of what makes a woman, and of duty.

These have all been on my mind for quite some time, partly because I met and got to know a few men who were noticeably different from other men of my acquaintance, who held a different kind of maturity and centeredness, and who seemed perfectly comfortable interacting with me and other women.  I had been so used to guys who were charmingly boyish – and rather unreliable, as well as awkward in one way or another around women (worshipping, on the make, ignoring) – that I had stopped considering the possibility of other options.  And then suddenly there they were.  I must say, it was very sexy.

So, I found myself completely fascinated. 

Gary Cooper’s Kane, who has just married Grace Kelly in her first major film role (manner of speaking), has only some initial hesitation about where his duty lies when a killer he sent to prison is set free and returning on the noon train, bent on vengeance.  His new wife’s begging, threats, and eventual departure don’t sway him, because he knows he is right.  He’s not belligerent or angry or defensive about it; he’s  just quietly – and regretfully – certain. 

Can you imagine marrying Grace Kelly and then finding out moments later that you’re likely to be shot to death before you have a chance to – well – enjoy it?  What might a boy do in that situation – run away with her, and hope the bad guy can’t find them?  Take her off to the barn and shag her, quick before the train comes?  Whine?  Drink?  Lash out?

Fortunately, there’s the “boy” character in the film (Lloyd Bridges as Harvey), and the wonderful Katy Jurado (as Mrs. Ramirez) to point out to all of us – and to Mrs. Kane in particular – the difference.  Mrs. Kane eventually sees the light – and the beauty of a man who knows what he requires of himself and holds to it.

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Kung Fu Panda and “The One”

May 24, 2009

I wasn’t intending to see this movie, but then someone I respect recommended it highly.  And then, it was on HBO, making it all so easy.  (Thank goodness for that!)

kfpWell-executed and entertaining, it nevertheless fell neatly into my “The One” movie category.   In these movies, the character destined to be “The One” is some kind of underdog or even goofy-off, though often with a secret passion.  Someone – a fairy godmother, a master, a mysterious man in sunglasses – lifts the poor sap out of obscurity by designating him or her as “The One.”   Next comes a process of transformation, followed by the final testing – which “The One” invariably wins – and “The One” is placed in the duly earned spot of honor.  See The Matrix, or Star Wars, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer – or Kung Fu Panda.

In Kung Fu Panda, Po is a big, goofy panda with no kung fu training.  He is chosen by the old turtle master as “The One” to defeat the fearsome Tai Lung, a big, muscular, orange-eyed white tiger with evil in his heart – who, incidentally, has been training his kung fu for his entire life.  Po goes through about 1 day of training, and he destroys the tiger.  Why?  Well, because he’s “The One,” and because he believes in himself.

It’s such a seductive idea.  No matter who we are, how goofy we are, how little we’ve worked at becoming what we truly want to be, there is always the chance that someday someone will recognize our true worth and point to us as “The One,” destined to save the universe (or be a princess, or whatever).  And, in fact, there’s no real reason to work at things, because those poor slaving saps are always the ones who THINK they’re going to be “The One” and end up getting passed over for the goofball panda.  In fact, not only do they get passed over, they end up BOWING to the goofball panda.  Why work your ass off when you know the only result will be having to bow to the goofball?  You NEVER get to be “The One” by working your ass off.  How much easier – and better, more legitimate – just to wait for the mysterious master to notice you and pluck you from the crowd?

Oooooh, ouch.  How self-defeating is that? 

Anyone else susceptible to this?  I know I am.  It took me quite a while to recognize my internal knowing of when and where I was “The One” – and despite finding that, I still occasionally find myself waiting.