Throughout our Jesuit education at the University of Scranton, many of the Jesuit ideals have been implemented into our classes. Some of those ideals include being men and women for and with others, cura personalis, finding God in all things, and discernment. Before learning about these, it was relatively simple to decipher what each of these meant, however, the term “discernment” was always up for individual interpretation. I went on to learn that this Ignatian discernment was essentially the ability to decide and judge well, based on one’s internal spirituality and beliefs. This concept is one I do not think about often, but plays a significant role in all aspects of my life. It is interesting to look back and reflect on what makes me the individual I am, and how I decide what to do in life.
Perks of Being a Wallflower
One form of media that I related to in a lot of different ways is a movie called The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). The main themes that resonated with me include friendship, love, music, and life transitions. The film depicts the life of Charlie, who has recently been released from a mental health care institution and is about to begin his freshman year of high school. Charlie is nervous to begin his high school career, as he is rather shy and has difficulty making new friends. Two older students at the high school befriend him, and this begins the journey of his struggles and triumphs as he goes through life. One thing I found especially interesting about this movie is that it shows the not-so-glamorous side of high school that no one really talks about, despite the fact that this is the more realistic side of things. The decisions that Charlie is left to make truly show his character and how he is managing to get through the high school years of his life so that he can be who he was meant to be.
In the beginning of the movie, Charlie struggles to find his place at his new high school and attempts to meet new friends among the sea of other high school students returning for the academic year. He imagined that this would remain a problem and that his high school experience would be a continuation of his lonely days prior. However, once he met Sam and Patrick, some of these worries were lifted. Charlie’s newfound group of friends have helped him through some of the tougher times he has had in his early high school career thus far. They were shown to be extremely supportive and encouraging during these trying times. Having a support system like this in any context would be extremely helpful, especially for a shy student who is just trying to reintegrate into a new student body.
“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn't stop for anybody.” - Charlie
I can relate to some of Charlie’s feelings in terms of my own experience transitioning from high school to college. Making new friends was one of my main concerns as I was preparing myself for the next chapter of my life: college. However, thanks to Scranton’s New Student Orientation program, I was able to meet some people with the same major, and we have remained inseparable ever since. As a new first-year student here at Scranton, I knew I wanted to get involved, but I did not want to overwhelm myself with too many responsibilities as a new college student. Luckily, I was able to become a member of some occupational therapy-related clubs and organizations on campus. Additionally, my involvement in Campus Ministries retreats and the Center for Service and Social Justice have helped me grow both personally and socially. I have since become a part of many different “friend groups,” if you will, and meet many new and amazing people here on campus. And honestly, I do not think I would be where I am today if it were not for my support systems both here at school and at home, as well. My family and friends encourage and support me in everything I do, and I will be forever grateful for that.
The Power of Love
Throughout the entire movie, Charlie was shown falling in love with one of his new friends, Sam. She helped him through his first kiss and his feelings about what it really means to love. Another significant character who helped Charlie through his transition into high school was his English teacher and mentor, Mr. Anderson. When he was having difficulty defining love and seeing its importance in his life, Charlie turns to Mr. Anderson who helps him clear up this confusion. He says, “We accept the love we feel we deserve,” and this resonated with me even after the scene was over. I feel as though people, in general, give themselves a lot less credit for being the awesome unique person than they deserve. This quote further highlights this common misconception that seems so prevalent in today’s society. This could include not being yourself in a relationship or even just assuming that you deserve less than you actually do. I also feel that it is essential to surround yourself with people who love you, not necessarily in a romantic way, but simply as a person. This little bit of love and caring can go a long way in an individual’s feelings of self-worth or confidence.
I, personally, used to struggle with confidence issues or just not feeling like I was doing my work well enough. However, I have been able to overcome this by surrounding myself with people I know who care about me and my overall well-being. Last year, I went on the Manresa retreat through the office of Campus Ministries, and my whole outlook was drastically altered. The entire weekend, I was made to feel so important and reminded of my self-worth, which is exactly what I needed at that point in time. I am incredibly grateful that retreat came when it did, as I left that weekend with a whole new positive attitude. More recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Search retreat, also run through the office of Campus Ministries. This gave me another chance to explore my faith on a deeper level, and truly see the infinite love I was surrounded by every single day. My favorite part of this retreat was reading all of the Palancas, or letters, from my friends and family that truly highlighted this sense of unity and unconditional love. I was able to share this love with the other retreatants, as well as my existing family and friend circles, which was an amazing feeling, as well. I absolutely loved these experiences and am excited to see what else is in store during my time here at Scranton and beyond.
"Love is shown more in deeds than in words." - St. Ignatius of Loyola
Music and the Media
On more than one occasion throughout the movie, music played a role in building up Charlie’s confidence and helping him to feel comfortable as the person he is. One of my favorite scenes is when Patrick took Sam and Charlie home from a party and a song began playing on the radio. Sam told Patrick to turn up the volume so that it could be heard for miles. With this adrenaline pumping through her veins, Sam stood up in the back of Patrick’s pickup truck and let the wind flow through her hair, taking in the sensations of the tunnel through which they were driving. This song, which they later found out was called “Heroes”, by David Bowie, became an important factor in Charlie’s sudden burst of confidence. The movie was also filled with various songs that truly exemplified the high school party scene, some of which included “Come On Eileen” by the Dexys Midnight Runners, “Temptation” by New Order, and “Low” by Cracker, to name a few. Another impactful scene for me personally, was towards the end when the group of friends were again driving through the aforementioned tunnel and “Heroes” came on the radio once again. This time, Charlie climbed through the window to stand up in the back of Patrick’s pickup truck. As the chorus of the song was coming up, Charlie stood and exclaimed, “And in this moment, I swear, WE ARE INFINITE.”
This was a great moment for Charlie as his confidence levels and sense of self took a complete 180-degree turn from when he started in high school. This is inspiring to see, as we would not have guessed that Charlie would have made this much progress from seeing some of the experiences that he had gone through. As I reflect back on aspects of this movie and its relevance to my own life, I cannot help but think of the importance of music for me personally. Last year, I led the Connections retreat for first-year students, where I had to give a witness talk and pick a song that was associated with this in some way. My talk was about my personal experience as a first-year student, and how I was able to be more comfortable as a student here at the University of Scranton. My associated song of choice was “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World, and I can honestly say that this song is still relevant to my life today as I wil; be a senior soon. The most relatable part of this song is the line “…you’re in the middle of the ride; everything, everything will be just fine.” I feel that the journey of college, that I am currently in the middle of, can positively influence someone. As I listen to these lyrics, I know that even after this college journey, everything will be alright as long as I continue to work hard and put my best foot forward in everything I do.
Any life transition that one may experience will present with challenges. Charlie was forced to transition into a new high school from the familiarity of the mental health institution, where he was previously staying for his depression and anxiety symptoms. This transition would mean having to meet new people, getting used to a new set of classes, and establishing a balance between one’s school and personal life. For Charlie, this transition became problematic and detrimental when he began to engage in risky behaviors with drugs and alcohol. There are ways however, to ease this transition process and cope with any pressures from those around you. For instance, making a list of goals and organizing everything you need to do will help keep everything in order, and hopefully help to decrease stress levels about the transitions in your life.
Beginning college is also another time of transition in one’s life. For many beginner college students, this can be a difficult transition, as it involves new schedules, more personal free time, and many times, moving away from home for months at a time. Personally, my transition was not as bad as expected, because I had a good group of friends going into school that I had met from orientation a few months before. One challenge I faced, however, was adjusting to the new and heavier workload that came along with being an occupational therapy major. My fall semester of freshman year, I was taking 18 credits, while trying to continuously meet new people, work out at the gym, be involved on campus and get the recommended number of hours of sleep. This was also difficult initially because I was 3 ½ hours away from my home on Long Island and missed my family and friends from high school. As the weeks progressed, I became more accustomed to my dramatically changing schedule and utilized campus resources if I needed to, including a tutor and an academic advisor. I would not have been able to get through this transitional time in my life if I did not have support and encouragement from family and friends consistently. I am glad I decided to be involved in the things that I was, as this gave me the opportunity to meet people that I would not have otherwise met. With all of the different niches to be involved with on campus, I had to discern which of these was for me. All in all, I am thankful for the chances that Scranton has given me, and I cannot wait to see where these decisions will take me in the long run.
"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." - Maria Robinson
Now that the major themes have been discussed, I want to talk about a particular character who I feel I relate to the most, out of all of the characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Sam. Samantha Dutton, or Sam for short, is the stepsister of Patrick and the love interest of Charlie throughout most of the film. She and Patrick met Charlie at a football game, and chose to befriend him to allow him to feel more welcomed into this new high school environment. Sam showed qualities of friendliness, sweetness, strength, and intelligence. I would like to think that I, like Sam, would be the person to befriend a stranger to help them better find their place among their new surroundings. She always did everything in her power to give Charlie the best friends that would allow him to break out of his shell upon entering high school. Similarly, I have loves being involved with Campus Ministries retreat leadership teams, as I have had the opportunity to help other students meet others and ease their transition into college. As mentioned earlier, I was a leader on the Connections retreat for first year students. This past year, I became a director of this same retreat, where I led and instructed a group of upperclassmen on how to best lead small groups and facilitate discussions about various topics, including the first year of college, faith in the college environment, among others. These experiences have allowed me to help others find their places in their new Scranton environments, just as Sam helped Charlie.
Another aspect of life that Sam and I hold to higher importance is that of relationships with others, including family and peers. One similar relationship that we have in our lives is that with our brothers. Although Sam and Patrick are technically step-siblings, they share a bond as if they were actually biological siblings. I have an older brother and I can honestly say that we have not always been best friends, but our relationship has definitely become stronger as of recently. In the past, he and his friends would tease me and try to avoid me in the hallways of our middle and high school, as one would expect from an older brother. However, I feel that we now have more in common and possibly more to talk about, especially when we are catching up about the months that I am away at school. I would like to assume that he misses me when I am away, mostly because I serve as partner in video games and will drive him to and from the local bars, as I have a car, but am not yet 21 years old. Sam and Patrick are closer in age, but my brother and I are only about 2 years apart. Despite the bickering that is inevitable in a brother-sister relationship, I am thankful to have him to turn to, as I know that he will always be there for me, similar to the sibling relationship between Sam and Patrick.
I would never have thought to relate my life to that of a character in a movie. However, going through a movie like Perks of Being a Wallflower and seeing the resemblances of the various aspects of my own life from another perspective was interesting. As a whole, this film describes a time in one’s life where there are many changes going on, with the topics of high school, relationships, and mental health, among others. I have never before watched a movie with the hopes that the content would change me as a person. I still do not have this mindset while watching movies, but I can honestly say that I will think about myself a bit more while watching films. When Dr. Olsen told us to think about how the characters’ decisions influence their overall outcomes in the film, this also got me thinking about my own decisions. It is true that one’s decisions will have a great influence on how their life will turn out in the end. It is a little strange to think about how my decisions have gotten me to the point I am at today, whether that be in relationships, educational opportunities, or even decisions that have not happened yet. I am eager to see how my continued decisions will impact the person I become in the future.
Reflecting back on this Parables in Pop Culture as a whole, it is interesting to see how relatable aspects of my own life are to different forms of media. I also found it fascinating that many of the films we have watched are films that I would probably not have picked out for myself. Despite this fact, I appreciated each of the films, and texts for that matter, and the stories that were told. No matter the language, year, or storyline, each movie had some relatable content, evoking various emotions and thoughts within each of its viewers. Before this class, I never would have thought about my own life resembling that of a character in a movie. However, there were many times when I felt strong connections to a character or an experience on the screen. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to watch these various films and see components of myself in a different light, that I had not thought about before. I can say with confidence that Dr. Olsen has helped open my eyes to the influences of media in the world around me. With these novel perspectives, I can truly see the world, and myself, from a new point of view that I have never before been able to see.
Created with images by Tyler Nix - "untitled image" • FotoshopTofs - "music sheet notes music" • Joshua Hoehne - "untitled image"