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Examining Pop Culture and Relating it to My Life By: Brittany Angrosina

Jersey Girl

For my first post, I’d like to introduce myself by sharing where I come from, Bayonne, New Jersey, which is a defining characteristic for me. My roots are embedded in Bayonne, since my parents and grandparents have always lived there. When I introduce myself to people here, at the University of Scranton, the first question asked is usually, “Where are you from?”. When I tell people I am from Bayonne, I always say I am from this small town in New Jersey, next to Staten Island and Jersey City. When they look at me all confused with their faces clearly saying I have no idea where that is, I usually say that its really close to Hoboken, New Jersey. You know, where that show Cake Boss is located. After I say that, people usually know exactly what I am talking about. Most people say “I love that show!” or “Are the cakes actually good from there?”. I did not know about this until recently, but I have come to find out how popular Bayonne actually is. The music video for Mariah Carey’s song, “Someday”, was actually recorded in Bayonne High School. There have also been a few other movies that have been recorded in the high school and the town itself. I recently came across this video clip, as I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline, that compiles a bunch of references of Bayonne in various movies, television shows, and audio clips.

Not only does my hometown have many pop culture references, but so does the state I am from. New Jersey is home to many legendary pop culture idols including Jon Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, and Meryl Streep. There is also a popular musical about four men from New Jersey, Jersey Boys. One of the things I like to do when I’m free is watch reality television, which my state is the main location for many of them. New Jersey is home to many reality tv shows, such as Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jerseylicious, and Jersey Couture. From these shows, people may get the impression that all people from New Jersey are Italian and our daily routines consist of going to the gym, tanning, and doing our laundry, better known as “GTL”. I can say, as a lifetime New Jersey resident, most of us are Italian, I guess that’s one stereotype that is not far off; however, we do more than spend our time at the gym, tanning salon, and laundromat. We work hard, and not just at the gym.

I have always wondered why, when I first introduce myself to people, they are always interested in where I come from. The more I think about it, though, it makes complete sense. It’s easy to see my hometown as just a physical location; however, it is so much more than that. It is a place that has defined me. I have experienced my greatest triumphs, saddest heartbreaks, toughest challenges, and happiest of moments in that town. Bayonne is not just the place I was born and live in, but it is where I went to school, learned how to ride a bike and later drive a car, met my dearest of friends and boyfriend, and, of course, where my family is. It is a part of what describes me as a person. That is why I wanted to make my first post about Bayonne. My hometown is usually the first thing I share with someone who I just met, and I wanted to share that with you, since we are meeting for the first time. In addition, I wanted to start off my story with how Higgins starts off his novel, Cinematic States – with his roots and his hometown of Belfast, Ireland. As the weeks go on, we will uncover more about who I am as a person, and how I am related to pop culture. Through this post, I hope you have gained an interest in Bayonne, as well as the state of New Jersey, as they both have many relations to pop culture, and I hope you learned an important aspect of my life.

"A Sister is a Little Bit of Childhood That Can Never Be Lost"

Family is the most important part of my life. My family gives me love, a feeling of security, and people to count and lean on. My family has shaped me into who I am today. Without them, I would have absolutely nothing. My family cheers me on, challenges me to be better, and believes in me even when I don’t. My parents are always there to guide and help me in anyway they can. They are selfless people who I owe everything to. Along with my parents, my two sisters play a huge role in my life. Sure, we may bicker at times, but they are the people I learn from, look up to, and are inspired by. Just like my parents, my sisters will always be there for me. Through our bond, you can get a closer look into my life. That is why I would like to dedicate this post to my first best friends, my sisters – Caitlyn and Sara.

The Kardashian-Jenner sisters are arguably the most famous siblings in Hollywood today. If we can look past all of the glamour and monetary value that many people define them with, I can see a strong family unit and sister bond that resembles mine. Watching the reality television show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, I can see the love and genuine care the sisters have for one another, and I can relate it to my own relationship with my sisters. I can honestly say my sisters are my best friends, and in the show, the Kardashian sisters make the same statement all of the time. The Kardashian sisters are so close that they even work together. Together, they opened and worked in the three locations of their store, DASH. In addition, they are always doing other jobs together, working together in the modeling, clothing and makeup industries. I plan on attaining a doctorate of physical therapy, and my younger sister, Sara, is planning on earning a masters in occupational therapy. The two occupations go hand in hand, and, one day, we plan on opening up our own outpatient office together. I believe it takes a special sort of bond between people to say they want to take a chance and start a business together. Nonetheless, the close knit bond the Kardashian sisters have resembles the bond I have with my sister, and if they were able to be successful in their business, and still love one another, I believe my sister and I could be just as successful one day. I could not imagine putting as much trust into any other person than my sister to go into business together.

Another pop culture connection I see between my sisters and other siblings is through the show This is Us. The bond the Pearson siblings, Kevin, Kate, and Randall, have resembles the strong bond I have with my sisters. In This is Us, viewers can see how close the Pearson siblings are because whenever one of them is in trouble or needs comfort, the other two of them are always there to give a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen to their worries. One example I remember is when Randall flies from New Jersey to California to support Kate when she was going to have surgery. If I needed my sisters ASAP, I know they would get right in their cars and travel to Scranton to be there for me. The Pearson siblings were raised watching football and grew to love it. It is something that they bonded over and keeps them close. I have a similar connection with my sisters. We also grew up watching football, and try, as much as we can, to still watch it together on Sundays, even when I am at school. We will always be Giants fans, even when they stink. It is something that keeps us close.

Gareth Higgins reveals in his book, Cinematic States, how watching movies comforted him while growing up during the Northern Ireland troubles. Going to see movies gave Higgins the chance to dream. He mentions he wanted a cinematic life because dreaming was easier than waking reality. Through the quick outline of his life, Colgan shares how music was his comfort during hard times. When he contracted a severe illness that almost killed him, Colgan notes his only comfort during this illness was a cassette his brother gave to him before he left for Africa. In the movie, The Seventh Seal, Antonius escapes reality and is comforted by Mia and Jof. They have a small picnic with some fresh milk and strawberries. In that moment, Antonius was no longer haunted by Death. Rather, he felt a sense of solace and relief in this moment of happiness. My escapes from reality and comforts in life, though, are my sisters. They help me get through my toughest times. If I am feeling stressed, I give them a call, and they know just what to say to make me feel better. They help me relieve my stress and give me a sense of happiness, even if it is only momentarily. My sisters are my best friends, and I cannot express how lucky I am to have them in my life.

Focusing on the Magis

I wanted to make this week’s post about giving back. This idea was inspired by the Skype call we had in class with Eoghan Colgan. Eoghan is a doctor who changed his career to be a musician but returned to medicine to support his family. While he was talking to the class, he mentioned how he feels he has to give back to the community because of the fortunate life he was given. Eoghan feels this guilt that those who were given a lot in life (as he was) need to give a lot more back to society. Eoghan mentioned if he became super successful from music that he would have these concerts and donate all the money to charity. He has always felt this burden that he needs to give back and do good in the world. Even as a medical doctor, Eoghan feels as if he could do more for the greater good in the world. The patients he treats are important and he gives them the best care he can; however, he still has this feeling of needing to do more. This feeling comes as a surprise to me. Any job in the healthcare field, I feel, must be the greatest way to give back to society. Eoghan has such an amazing purpose to live out every day. People’s lives are literally in his hands. I believe Eoghan is offering the world more than he thinks he is. I could understand how people with a more “ordinary” job feeling this sense of doubt that they are not doing enough and questioning what are they offering the world. However, I believe, Eoghan is giving back to his community in one of the greatest ways possible each and every day.

Sidenote: check out this video to hear Eoghan’s music. He’s pretty great! This is his most popular song that was featured in the show Reign.

Eoghan’s desire to do more good in society reminds me of the Jesuit value, magis – to do more or a restless pursuit of excellence grounded in gratitude. That is why Eoghan feels he has to do more in society because he is grateful for the life he has been given. The word “magis” is heard all over campus here at the University of Scranton. I learned what magis meant right away in my freshman year. Not only do I know what the meaning is, but I practice the Jesuit value of magis. I always try to do more to give back to the community. Through being a part of the Panuska College of Professional Studies, it is a graduation requirement to do community based learning throughout your time at the University of Scranton. Although it is required for me to complete 80 hours of service by the time I graduate, I have really enjoyed my experiences and they have not felt like a burden at all. I have volunteered at Saint Joseph’s Center in Scranton, spending time with the residents who have developmental disabilities and working with them on interactive art projects. I have also volunteered at the United Neighborhood Center and in the Leahy Clinic. I really enjoyed my time in both of these places; however, I really enjoyed working in the Leahy Clinic because it corresponded so well with my major. I worked with uninsured members of the Scranton community in a strength and conditioning program. Regardless of what the project was, all of my community based learning really gave me a sense of being able to give back to the Scranton community, fulfilling my desire to do good with the fortunes I have been given. I am grateful that the University of Scranton has given me these service opportunities to be able to share my gifts with the community I live in.

In pop culture we can see this same desire to give back to the community. I think that it is awesome that many celebrities use their public platform for the greater good of society. One celebrity whose music I love and who gives back an incredible amount to the world through her fortune is Taylor Swift. Taylor has donated over $100,000 to fans and families in need. She is known for her public outreach to fans as she has wrapped and sent many gifts to her fans. In addition to giving back financially, Taylor has worked with Scholastic’s READ Campaign to promote literacy in schools. She has also made several visits to hospitals to visit sick children.

Giving back to the community I live in is a huge part of my life. My parents have raised me to always give back to those less fortunate than I. I remember going to a local soup kitchen with my dad every Thanksgiving and Christmas to drop off turkeys he bought at the grocery store so that those who couldn’t afford one could still have a good meal on both holidays. In addition, my mom works in a church, and I have volunteered many times at their food pantry that serves the town we live in. It feels so good to give back, and I try to do it any day in any way I can. Like I said earlier, I was inspired by my class’s Skype call with Eoghan Colgan for my post this week, and I hope that it has given you guys another good look into who I am.

Peace in Suffering

A few posts ago, I wrote about my family and how important they are to me. I want to further some thoughts on that post. The highest value I hold in life is my appreciation for my family. They truly are the only people that will be there for me no matter what. However, I cannot give you a look into how important my family is to me without sharing with you how those who are now gone have a major influence on me, even in the present day. Death is a too familiar experience for me for how young I am. By the time I was fourteen years old, I had lost my grandfather, both of my grandmothers, my dad’s brother, and my mom’s sister, all of whom I was extremely close with. All of these people meant the world to me, and it hurt bad when they all left. With each time I had to face death taking away another person I loved so much, I often asked God why. Why me? Why did You have to take them away so early? As I was reading James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree, I was reminded of this feeling of “why” through the suffering of the African Americans on the lynching tree and Jesus Christ on the cross. As Cone mentions in his book, both Jesus and lynched African Americans asked the same question to God. Jesus asked God “why have You forsaken me”, while He was being executed on the cross. In his book, Cone accounts for the many African Americans who cried to God asking Him why must they suffer for their freedom. It is inevitable to feel this doubt in God when we are suffering. In the moment, we wonder what good could come from this suffering and why is God putting us through such pain. Experiencing death may be the hardest test of faith one can be put through. Many of the people I lost were too young and did not deserve to die yet. There was no reason why so many African Americans were killed because of the color of their skin. I can only imagine how hard it was to keep faith in God during that time period. To my surprise, Cone mentions many times that faith was actually what kept African Americans going. They felt their suffering was not in vain, and there was a purpose for it. They had such faith in God that they were willing to die to attain freedom they knew He would grant them. Although the losses I have experienced are no where close to the suffering experienced from the death of Jesus and lynched African Americans, I could relate to that feeling of being forsaken by God, wondering where He was in my time of need.

Although some of my loved ones are gone, I try to commemorate their memory. Some of the items I hold to have the most value to me are items that were given to me by someone who has passed away. I have saved birthday cards and personal letters written to me from my family members who are now deceased. When I was really young, my mom’s sister gave me this little pig keychain made out of these light pink beads. After she passed away, I would put the keychain on my backpack every year in grammar school. I still carry that pig everywhere I go as I now have it attached to my car keys, even all these years later. People always comment on it because I’m 22 years old with this big pig keychain. We laugh and make jokes about it; however, it means a lot more to me than just some little keychain. My dad’s brother passed away when I was fourteen. The month before he passed away, he wrote me a letter for my birthday. In the letter, my uncle expressed how proud he is of me and how I should always reach for the stars. Ever since he passed away, that letter has been hanging on my bedroom wall. Whenever I am feeling stressed or not confident in my abilities, I look to that letter. It is like a daily affirmation for me that I can do anything. Reading the letter gives me a sense that he is still with me, even if it’s not physically. Even though he is no longer around, he still encourages me to always do my best. Old birthday cards, letters, and a keychain may seem so small and somewhat worthless to others; however, they all mean the world to me because of who gave them to me.

This isn't exactly what my keychain looks like, but it's pretty close.

In pop culture, I can see myself and keeping the memory of loved ones alive through items they have given me in the show This is Us. The three siblings in the show, Kevin, Kate, and Randall, lost their father when they were just 18 years old. Even 20 years after his death, Kevin always wears this necklace his dad gave him when he broke his leg. That necklace was given to his dad while he was fighting in the Vietnam war and meant a lot to his dad. Randall was given the dad’s watch before he passed away, and he always wears it. When I watch this show, I can relate to them in losing an important person to death, but keeping their memory alive through the objects given to them by the person who is dead.

The living members of my family are just as important to me as those who have passed away. That’s why I wanted to further that conversation with you because it seemed like only half of my story was revealed in my first post about my family. I needed to continue it to make it more complete. The people who have died in my family mean just as much and influence me just as much as those who are still around today. Death is a hard thing to deal with and it really tests our faith in God. However, those little knickknacks I have from those who have died, keep their memory alive for me and remind me they are always with me in spirit.

Living Out Our Destiny

This week’s post is inspired by a movie I watched in class, Stranger Than Fiction. Harold Crick is an IRS agent who lives his life according to his wristwatch. As he is going about his daily routine, he starts hearing a British woman’s voice who starts narrating his life. The voice tells him that fixing his wristwatch with the time a stranger gave to him will result in his death. Harold, though, does not think the voice in his head is because he is schizophrenic, but rather it is just a narrator. Therefore, he visits an expert in literature, Jules Hilbert, and they try to determine if Harold is living in a comedy or a tragedy. Jules tells Harold he cannot control the plot, and he should just accept his impending death, enjoying the time he has left. When Harold stopped worrying about counting the number of steps he took, times he brushed his teeth with his toothbrush, or the time it took to put his tie on, he began to live his life, as he started learning to play the guitar, dating Ana, and developing a friendship with a co-worker. Harold comes to realize the voice in his head is actually an author named Karen. Karen learns that Harold experiences everything she writes about, and she is reluctant to kill him at the end of her novel. Jules reads a draft of her book and says that Harold’s death is what makes the book a masterpiece. Harold reads the book, says it is beautiful to Karen, and accepts his fate. Because Harold’s watch is three minutes fast from the wrong time given to him from a stranger a few days prior, he arrives at the bus stop early, and gets hit by a bus as he was trying to save a young boy who falls in front of an oncoming bus. However, Karen cannot finish the sentence saying Harold died. Therefore, Harold wakes up in the hospital, severely injured, but alive. Harold learns that fragments of his wristwatch got stuck in his arm and saved his life. Karen notes that Harold needed to die unexpectedly, but Harold sacrificed himself, knowing the bus was going to hit him. Therefore, his wristwatch was the one to tragically die.

Here's the trailer for Stranger Than Fiction if you are interested in viewing the movie.

The story about Harold Crick demonstrates how we have no control over our fate, but life has a funny way of working itself out. Karen is a real person who experiences writer's block, but I make this connection of Karen narrating Harold's life to God narrating my life. He writes out our stories, before we are born, and we just play out everything that has already been set in motion. We can make all the plans in the world, but anything can change at any time. This whole idea makes me think of the saying about how if a man makes plans, God will laugh at us. All these little decisions we make, and actions we take, throughout our daily lives could set us up for major life events, just as Harold fixing his watch was supposed to lead to his death. I do believe that I have a destiny that I am living out. Fate has led me in different directions throughout my life. If fate had not taken over, where I was at the right place at the right time, I feel that my life would be so much different. One example of fate stepping in involves me attending the University of Scranton. When I was a high school junior, I was searching for schools that were close to home in New Jersey, as well as ones that had a full 7-year physical therapy program. I remember coming across the University of Scranton, and thinking to myself, I don’t want to go there. It is a little far from home, it seemed like a place that was cold all year, and I did not think I would be happy there. Originally, I wanted to go to Philadelphia for college. I had a bunch of Philadelphia schools on my list, and, at this time, Scranton was not on my list. It was not until I went to a college fair that I realized Scranton was a real contender for me. While my parents and I were at a college fair, my dad pointed out the Scranton table. I told him I did not want to go there, but he went up to the table anyways. I was thinking what is he doing wasting our time, but I followed him anyways. I was listening to what the woman had to say about the school, and I picked up one of their brochures. As I was scanning the brochure, everything was sticking out to me. The beautiful campus, the nice dorms, etc. Everything seemed better than what I first imagined. I looked more into the school, and fell in love with it. Now, as a senior getting ready to graduate, I think how fate really stepped in. If my dad did not just walk up to that table after I explicitly said I did not want to even hear what Scranton could offer me, I would not have the amazing college experience I have had. I love it here so much that I am going to continue my education here to earn a doctorate in physical therapy. I am a big believer that fate will always put you on the path you are destined to be on, even if you have other plans. I trust that fate will put you where you need to be. You just have to trust it and enjoy the ride.

Everydayness of Joy

This week, in my theology class, I watched the movie Life is Beautiful. I have seen this movie before in high school, but it was shown in different contexts each time I saw it. In high school, the movie was used to educate my class about World War II and concentration camps. We saw the evil of Nazi Germany, and it shocked us. Even in living in a country that has been defined by so much violence, as explored through my theology classes’ unit on race in America, my high school classmates and I were bothered by what happened to the Jews during World War II. Reading ‘Rejoice Always.’ How Everyday Joy Responds to the Problem of Evil, by Adrian Walker, made me realize that it was a good thing to see such an evil as a scandal because it meant that we did not yet lose the ability to recognize it as what it was, true evil. We recognized the actions of the Nazis as horrific, regardless of how prevalent violence may be right in our own backyard. During that time in my life, evil was not common enough to become normal to me. As Walker points out in the introduction, "evil never quite managed to complete its colonization of the normal". Another point Adrian Walker brings up that stuck out to me was about questioning God on why He ‘allows’ us to suffer. Similarly to Walker, I too find myself questioning God in how He gives ‘permission’ to evil in the world that he created. I am always trying to make sense of innocent suffering. Adrian Walker points out that God gives all of us humans freedom, and through this freedom is where evil is introduced into the world. She brings up a point that really made me step back and think for a minute. Instead of automatically putting the blame on God for why there is evil, put the blame on the person who freely chose to harm another. It is their fault, not God’s. This was an interesting point Walker brought up, and it is something I am going to try to work on myself.

So, how do we deal with this evil in the world? That is the different approach my theology class took this week as we watched Life is Beautiful. The main character, Guido, embodies joy. He was a Jew in Italy during the era of fascism. Guido and his son, Joshua, are captured by Nazis and brought to a concentration camp. However, Guido does not want his son to be afraid or know what is really happening. To protect Joshua from the racism and fascism while they are stuck in the concentration camp, Guido creates a game for his son to play. Guido tells Joshua he can gain points by hiding, and he will lose points if he cries, asks for his mother, or wants food. If Joshua can gain 1000 points, he will win first prize – a tank. I did not look at this movie as an example of finding joy in everyday the first time I saw it. I did not think about how Guido made some fun out of such a horrifying experience for his son. I think it is amazing how Guido preserved Joshua’s life, not letting him fully understand the evil that was right in front of his face. Guido never let Joshua see his pain or worry, as he was always joyful in front of Joshua. Even as Guido was caught by a Nazi soldier and was about to be killed, he was still playful in front of Joshua. As Joshua was peeping through a little hole in his hiding place, Guido was being silly with his son as he was funnily walking with the Nazi soldier behind him. As I reflect on the movie, I think about how it was incredible that Guido was able to preserve Joshua’s innocence with so much evil surrounding them. Guido demonstrated a true resistance to evil. He made life beautiful in such a horrific time because he found joy in everyday with his son.

Here is a clip from Life is Beautiful that shows how Guido tried to protect his son from evil as he incorrectly interpreted what the Nazi solider was saying.

Looking into pop culture can really help us to see life in a different way. Evil puts doubt into my mind about God and the world. However, reading Adrian Walker and watching Life is Beautiful helped me approach evil in a different way. I will always try to rejoice everyday, as evil will always outweigh the good. I will try to embrace the everydayness of joy, refusing to embrace the burden of the world’s sins. Christ is love and love conquers all. Instead of blaming God for the evil in the world, I will try to understand that innocent suffering does not happen in vain. I will try to find God in all things to help me find something good in everyday. Every day that passes by may seem mundane, but if I learn to slow down and examine moments throughout the day, joy will present itself.

Mindfulness

This week in my theology class, we talked a lot about being more attentive in our lives. My professor read a passage in class that stuck out to me. It was about how one can become a good doctor. The passage mentioned if one studies artwork, their diagnostic skills will improve. Studying art will train the person to become a better observer. The passage suggests to look around the patient’s room. Are there flowers or cards? If so, who are they from? These visual clues can help a doctor better understand their patients, and allow them to have improved diagnostic abilities. Through observing all the little details that surround us everyday, we will gain the art of perception that allows us to understand visual cues in a more effective way. Often, culture dehumanizes us, as we are always worried about making use of time. America is such a fast paced country, always worried about how to make money and what tomorrow will bring. We forget to live in the here and now. For some people, if they could take a pill substitute instead of eating actual food, they would do so just so they do not have to stop being productive. However, art humanizes us. It shows us that we are not machines. There is art and beauty in cooking and sitting down at the dinner table eating with those who we care for the most. When we take time to enjoy art and life itself, we are sustained.

In the movie, Arrival, this idea of being attentive and living a contemplative life is present. The main character, Louise, is a linguist who is needed to interpret the language of the aliens who landed in America. Everyone besides Louise wants to rush this process. They want to see if the aliens have weapons, and they want to know what their purpose is. However, Louise just wants to talk to them first, taking the time to understand what they are saying. Louise taking it slow so that the aliens and humans can know each other actually turns out to be the best thing because they come to learn the aliens are not there to harm anyone but to help humanity. If they rushed this process, like China wanted to, warfare would have broken out. This movie demonstrates how not rushing life leads to happiness and peace. Taking the time to understand the aliens helped unite the world. To relate this to the real world, slowing down our busy lives can lead to a more enjoyable experience of life with a clearer understanding of everything that makes up the world.

Here is the trailer for the movie if you’re interested in watching it yourself.

In a psychology class I took, we talked about the art of mindfulness, the ability to be fully present and aware of where we are and what we are doing. To practice mindfulness, the professor taught us to meditate to learn to become more attentive. I would like to share this with you, and if you are willing to, let’s try it.

Here is a video for some background music that can help you relax as you try to meditate. The song goes on for a very long time, but soothing music as this can help you to relax.

Let’s take a minute to be silent. Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes and just breathe. Release all of the tension in your body, both physical tension in your muscles and tension from the thoughts in your head. Inhale through your nose and exhale out through the mouth. Sometimes repeating a mantra (a specific word or phrase) will help keep distractions out of your mind. Keep your eyes closed, inhaling and exhaling for however long it takes you to fully relax. For me, it takes about 3-5 minutes. As your meditation goes on, you will notice subtler sounds, maybe a bird outside chirping, footsteps outside in the hallway, other subtle noises you would not notice if you were wrapped up doing a million things to keep busy. When you are ready, slowly come back to reality, opening your eyes and stretching your body.

Didn’t that make you feel great?! I learned this meditation technique in my psychology class, and I have been using it ever since when I feel overwhelmed and stressed. This technique has allowed me to become more mindful by taking a few minutes every day to slow down, free my mind, and listen to noises I wouldn’t notice otherwise. Being mindful increases our capacity to take in the world, learning and understanding little details and behaviors we would never realize without taking the time to stop. I understand that it is difficult for us to slow down, but taking the time to do so will be beneficial to really be able to experience life. Being mindful is an important quality that I have gained over time. I hope that maybe you too will try to be more aware of your surroundings and try to live a contemplative life.

Racism Found Worldwide

This week I want to further the conversation about race in which I touched on a few weeks ago. In my theology class, we examined the issue of race in America through examining movies such as Malcolm X, BlacKkKlansman, and I am Not Your Negro, as well as reading The Cross and the Lynching Tree. From Cone, Baldwin, and Lee sharing the stories of lived experiences of many African Americans, as well as their own personal experiences, I learned more about the struggles African Americans faced being black in a white America. These shared experiences allowed me to grow in empathy and better understand the struggles African Americans have faced and continue to face today to be seen as equals to whites. This past week in my theology class, we expanded on the conversation of race. We looked into how racism, discrimination, police brutality, and people hating the police are not exclusively American. Through watching La Haine and reading The Heart of the Leopard Children, I learned more about these worldwide issues and grew more in empathy by understanding their struggles more.

Here is the trailer for La Haine to introduce you to some ideas I will be talking about.

La Haine gives a visual example of racial and cultural volatility in France, specifically in the low-income areas of Paris’s outskirts. The movie portrays the social problems in France that are very similar to America – run down housing, drug use, a high concentration people from immigrant backgrounds, and high unemployment rates. Just to clarify, America and Europe are opposite in that in America the rich live in the suburbs while the poor live in the cities. For Europeans, the rich live in the city and the poor live in the outskirts of town. It is flipped, but the idea of a bad and good neighborhood is found in both places. La Haine takes its audience through a twenty-four-hour period following the lives of three men, Vinz, Hubert, and Sayid – a Jew, an African, and an Arab. The three men demonstrate France’s immigrant populations. One of their friends, Abdel (an Arab) was beat by police while in questioning. He was in critical condition after the brutal attack and riots broke out. Throughout the movie, it is clear the immigrants who live in the outskirts of Paris hate the police, constantly calling the police “pigs”. The poor people of France are sick of the police, and they want to get rid of all of them. The problem of police brutality, that is evident in America, is shown to also exist in France. In one scene two policemen go too far with their questioning of Hubert and Sayid. The policemen choke them and say very inappropriate things to Hubert and Sayid while they were in custody. Just like many minorities in America, the immigrants in France feel the police cannot be trusted. They are targeting immigrants, and they will brutally mistreat them. Additionally, the media wants to exploit the riots to increase ratings. As demonstrated in the film, the immigrants are shown as violent and dysfunctional. Through watching La Haine, it is evident that minorities are usually found in poor areas which leads to racism, discrimination, and a constant battle with the police.

Here is a clip from La Haine that demonstrates the police brutality found worldwide. Side note: just add subtitles to the clip (look towards the bottom right of the video for the CC button) and change them to English (again on the bottom right the button next to the CC one) to know what the men are saying.

La Haine is in black and white. This monochromatic color scheme takes away from the preconceived idea about how Paris is a beautiful and happy place. It may be a great place for a foreigner to visit for a week, but for its residents, especially the poor, it is nothing glamorous. America is similar to France in this way. On the outside looking in, America may seem like this exciting place where everyone is happy, free, and prosperous. However, when one looks on the inside, they can see the hate within the country with plans to build a wall to keep immigrants out, the struggles of all immigrants who want to make a better life for themselves, and sadness from families being separated. There is nothing exciting about a black and white picture which was used to represent the seriousness of the issue at hand. Although the film was set in France, watching this movie can certainly be related to the United States.

The Heart of the Leopard Children also examines immigration, feelings towards the police, and racism. The main character of the book is a Congolese immigrant who has been arrested for killing a police officer. This main character also lives in the outskirts of Paris in a large housing project. As he is locked up inside the cell, he feels like a caged animal, searching for a way out. Discrimination is found early in the book. The narrator mentions how when he was a kid a local baker would give him and his friend, Drissa, candy and would tell them how cute they were. However, as they have gotten older the lady no longer thinks they are adorable as she started to give them dirty looks. All of a sudden, they became foreigners, delinquents, and illegal workers who the baker lady was now suspicious of. It seems like for this woman, as the narrator and Drissa grew up, they were no longer humans. She dehumanized them because they were black and attached all negative stereotypes to them. Another example of racism in the book is found on page 23. A policeman starts to narrate the story from his perspective and says, “If everybody would just stay where they come from, we’d have way less problems”. This reminded me of President Trump and his immigration laws and plans to build a wall to keep immigrants out. This ignorance seems to be worldwide, and it is a horrifying thought. Through reading the book, it is clear that the people who live in the outskirts of town do not care for the police, similar to the people of La Haine. Police brutality is also found in The Heart of the Leopard Children. The narrator discusses a few occasions where the police were beating on him while he was in jail. The police dehumanized him as the narrator mentions how the captain was no longer afraid of him when he was handcuffed to a radiator hose on the ground, not even given the right to sit in front of the captain on a chair.

Overall, watching La Haine and reading The Heart of the Leopard Children helped me grow in empathy and understand that racism, discrimination, police brutality, and people hating the police are not exclusive to America. Discussing race humanizes us. It helps us create empathy. We have to take the time needed to understand one another and each other's perspectives so that we don’t make such quick and harsh judgments because someone is different from us. By understanding where they come from, we will be able to humanize the person we once dehumanized because of their cultural background or the color of their skin. As Toni Morrison wrote in The Origin of Others (2017), the human project is to remain human and block the dehumanization and estrangement of others. This is a project we should all aim to achieve in our lives. We must always welcome strangers. You never know, you may be entertaining angels.

Friendship

Although you can easily find a movie based on a romantic relationship, it seems to be harder to find one surrounded by a heartwarming, real friendship. It is hard for me to list movies that consist of an honest friendship, but I can think of a bunch that end up with a guy and a girl kissing in the rain. I do not know why this is so because friendship is something that is so natural and relatable to every human. However, this past week in my theology class, we watched a movie, called The Intouchables, which brought to life a depiction of a genuine, beautiful friendship. The Intouchables is based on a true story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy quadriplegic, Philippe, and his inexperienced caretaker from the Parisian projects, Driss. Driss applies to become Philippe’s caretaker; however, he does not intend to actually get the job. Instead, Driss applies to provide proof he is searching for a job so that he can receive government assistance. However, Philippe is captivated by Driss’ blunt personality and his indifference to Philippe’s handicap. Therefore, Philippe offers Driss the job. Driss accepts the job and moves into Philippe’s house. However, based on his previous experiences of a high turnover rate with caretakers, Philippe estimated that Driss would not last more than 2 weeks as his caretaker. At first, Driss was a little reluctant to complete assigned tasks to care for Philippe. For example, on his first day, Driss refused to put on Philippe’s compression socks because he said it was a woman’s job. However, Driss was forced to do it anyway. As time went on, Driss started to dutifully take care of Philippe, especially at night when he frequently suffered from phantom pain.

Here is the trailer for The Intouchables. You can see the genuine friendship between the two men in this video. Whenever Driss and Philippe are together, they have a great time, constantly laughing.

Philippe and Driss came from extremely different backgrounds, but regardless of their cultural differences, the two men genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. An example in the movie that demonstrates this is at Philippe’s birthday party. Philippe loves classical music. Therefore, an orchestra performs at his party. Philippe tells Driss to close his eyes and listen to the classical music to convince Driss that he should broaden his musical taste. However, Driss brings in a stereo and puts on Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland”. Just as he does numerous times throughout the movie, Driss livens up the house as a little dance party emerges from him playing that song. This scene demonstrates how even though the men are so different, they were able to look past their differences to enjoy each other’s company and become good friends.

Here is the scene mentioned above to give you a visual of how Driss brightens Philippe's life.

These two men were extremely unlikely to become friends considering their vastly different backgrounds. However, a true friendship between Philippe and Driss formed because they saw each other as a human, not worrying about where each other came from or what ails them. Although Driss is black and poor, Philippe does not see him that way nor cares about it. Although Philippe has lost control of his body from below his neck, Driss seems ignorant to this fact. Throughout the movie, Driss constantly forgets Philippe is a quadriplegic. Driss often gives Philippe his phone as if he can move his arm to grab it from him. In addition, Driss says things that make humor out of Philippe’s condition. By the two men seeing past these superficial aspects, they humanize each other. They both see each other as an individual, which is an important foundation of a friendship. As the movie plays out, it is obvious that both Driss and Philippe become concerned with helping the other better themselves. Philippe helps Driss find a purpose in his life and encourages him to support his family in a different way than pushing Philippe’s wheelchair all his life. Driss helps Philippe become confident in himself as Driss encourages Philippe to meet with a pen pal he had been talking to solely through letters. From watching The Intouchables, it is clear that it does not matter what a person can offer you in a friendship. What matters is what you can offer the person in order to make them better. Philippe offered Driss an opportunity to make his life better, giving him a job and a work ethic. Driss brightened up Philippe’s life, offering Philippe fun and an escape from reality. Both men needed each other in order to realize their purpose in life and help make the other a better human.

Overall, The Intouchables is simply a funny, heartwarming story about the development of a beautiful and strong friendship. It makes me think about the friendships I have and their importance to me. There is beauty found in the pureness of looking into someone’s soul to understand who he or she is and building a friendship off that, instead of making crude judgements by just looking on the outside. I think this movie provides its audience with a raw look into how we can humanize each other and make each other better through getting rid of stereotypes and previous misconceptions.

Grand Finale

This whole semester has been dedicated to analyzing pop culture and how it relates to my life. For my last post, I want to summarize all of the insights I have made through this class. Over this past semester, we have delved into some pretty cool movies. From this class, I have learned to better analyze the television shows and movies I watch on a daily basis. I have noticed myself picking up more of the little things in a movie that I normally would not catch before. Analyzing these movies has made me more aware of the world I live in, and has brought out some major themes I try to live out within my life. The Fischer King is a movie that demonstrates love in all forms. Love is found in the relationships between Parry and Lydia as well as between Jack and Anne. The Fischer King demonstrates how love can pick you up from your lowest point and place you on a mountain top. This movie made me think about my relationship with my boyfriend, and how the love we have for one another is so strong and could really conquer anything. The unit on race allowed me to grow in empathy by watching and reading about the lived experiences of African Americans. I come from a cosmopolitan environment where diversity is the way of life. Therefore, the race unit was meaningful for me to reflect on my upbringing and current life and how that differs from African Americans. The movie Life Is Beautiful reminded me to find joy in every day, despite all of the evil found in the world. Evil sometimes may seem banal because it is so prevalent in the world; however, this movie still shocks its viewers, showing that evil never quite manages to complete its colonization of the normal. Life Is Beautiful, along with the unit on race, made me question why we suffer and how God allows evil to exist in this world. Watching the movies Stranger Than Fiction and Arrival helped me think more about how precious time is and how I decide to spend my time. These movies made me realize living a contemplative life is one to aim for since being more mindful of my surroundings can help me better take in the present. In addition, they made me think about how I could best spend my time, living to my full potential. Finally, the friendship seen between Driss and Philippe in The Intouchables made me think about the strong bonds I have with my friends. This movie reminded me of how when one of us is down, my group of friends are always there to pick that person up. In addition, we know when to let someone go off on their own to take care of other things they need to. Overall, this class was really fun. I really enjoyed watching these movies and feeling like a professional movie critic. I hope through reading my posts, you got to learn a little about me. I also hope you enjoyed dissecting through the movies with me. As I continue life post-graduation, I will carry these analyzing skills with me.

All The Best, Brittany
Created By
Brittany Angrosina
Appreciate

Credits:

Created with images by Alex Perez - "Find the time." • Nietjuh - "love valentine romantic" • Larisa-K - "flowers background butterflies" • Kenrick Mills - "untitled image" • Bess-Hamiti - "flower lily lilium candidum" • pixel2013 - "tea lights candles candlelight" • Gabriel Santiago - "untitled image" • truthseeker08 - "hand united together" • minnick36 - "train yard transportation train museum"

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