Do you remember that scene in the film Fried-Green Tomatoes when Evelyn Crouch (Kathy Bates) has an epiphany in the Winn-Dixie parking lot? Do you remember how she plows her car into the rear-end of a VW Bug driven by a couple of insolent teenaged girls? In the next scene, she tells Ninny Threadgood (Jessica Tandy) “I never get mad, Miss Threadgoode, never, the way I was raised, it was bad manners. Well I got mad, and it felt great.”
Evelyn found her personal power in a big way.
I recollected this movie scene yesterday as I was driving somewhere. No, I did not crash my car into anyone — but I was in a downcast mood, re-playing in my mind a recent situation where I felt like I was being treated like a doormat. Just remembering this story made me feel a bit more empowered.
One of my quirky habits is that I often pop into my DVD player a favorite movie for no other reason than to fast-forward to certain scenes. In retrospect, I think I do this when my emotional state requires it. For example, I have noticed that when I am in a light-hearted mood or need a little push towards that mood, I will watch the “Midnight Margarita” scene in the film Practical Magic. And when I am in a mood of righteous indignation, nothing resonates with me more than the scene in Much Ado About Nothing when Beatrice (Emma Thompson) rages at Benedick (Kenneth Branagh):
“Is he not approved in the height a villain, that
hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O
that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they
come to take hands; and then, with public
accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour,
–O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart
in the market-place.”
I would prescribe to anyone feeling like an underdog to watch a good horse-race movie. (Seabiscuit comes to mind) and whenever you wonder if good will ever triumph over evil, then any splashy, epic blockbuster will fix you right up. (Imagine Luke blowing up the Deathstar). And I was recently reminded (at Just Nous) how the final scene in The Dead Poet’s Society is just what the doctor ordered whenever you find yourself wanting to “flip-the-bird” at Authority.
What is the reason for this? I think it is part of human nature that we crave stories. Certainly, stories are vehicles by which we transmit the values and belief systems of our respective cultures. These stories can be told in many forms — word, writ, music, performance, and images — and in many venues — from oralizing around a campfire to a 3-D film at the local IMAX.
But I think stories also serve us on a personal, individual level. I think stories have healing, transformative power.
I am reminded of the character Ed Chigliak (Darren E. Burrows) in the 1990’s television series, Northern Exposure. Ed, an indigenous Alaskan, is a young film-maker. He is also a shaman-in-training for his tribe. In many episodes, viewers could find Ed counseling his friends, usually Dr. Fleishman (Rob Morrow), by reminding them of scenes from films. That was Ed’s “medicine” which he practiced with great effect.
So what is the application for us today? Broadly speaking, every human is part of the story-telling process as listeners or viewers. In particular, we, as creatives, are also part of the story-crafting process. Whenever we write a bit of prose or poetry, compose or perform music and songs, snap a photo, or paint an image, we become engaged in a transformative act for ourselves and for our audience. Stories, by any means, are catalysts by which we all can experience transformation.
Now THAT’S powerful medicine.
ljg © 2012