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Parables in Pop Culture Hallie mallozzi

INTRODUCTION

TV Shows, movies, and music. They shape the way we feel and the way we think. In high school I saw these things all as private experiences. I never told my family what music I liked or what shows I binge watched. On the flip side, I never thought much about what my sisters and parents were interested in. It wasn't until I came back from my first year of college that I started sharing myself with my family. It was a slow progression to start opening myself up to the people I love most. While at school my friend Ethan, who my mom now calls "an old soul", showed me this song. The song was Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass. One summer day while I was in the car with my mom, I played the song. Her face instantly lit up with joy. For her the song, written in 1972, brings up memories of her youth. After that day, my mom showed me more music she listened to when she was growing up. Now the song is more meaningful to listen to because it reminds me of my mother and brought out a genre of music I never would have found by myself. By sharing the music and shows we like with people we love, our worlds are expanded and our relationships are strengthened.

PARABLES & POP CULTURE

Although we may not be aware of it, what we watch and what we listen to shapes us. We like certain shows and songs because they teach us how to live. A parable is a "metaphor extended into a narrative for the sake of transformation." Movies, TV, and songs have parables weaved into them through the underlying messages that come across. Being able to share what movies and shows you enjoy is important because it reveals what ideas you connect to. My sister Liz and I always watch shows like Gilmore Girls and This is Us together. After an emotional or heart-felt scene I always look at Liz because I know she will be tearing up. Although we never think about why we like these shows, I think it is because we see ourselves in the characters. When Randall in This is Us flies across the country to be at his sister's side for her surgery, me and my sister relate because we know we would do the same for each other. Although on the surface we watch shows because of cliff hangers and what's trendy, it is the deeper messages and our ability to empathize that keep us watching.

Siblings Randall, Kate, and Kevin in This is Us

Making Meaning out of Reality TV

One of my favorite traditions is watching the reality game show Big Brother with my family. Each season takes place over the summer and everyone in my family gathers to watch it. The show takes place in a house where contestants are closed off from the outside world as they compete for half a million dollars. Each week someone comes into power and someone goes home. Contestants partake in both physical and mental competitions while also creating alliances with others. Considered a game of human chess, Big Brother is different then other reality shows in that it never pauses until someone wins. The contestants live together and develop relationships with one another while also competing against them. As the summer goes on, you start to see each player's true character. This relates to the Parables of Jesus in that you can learn important lessons about human relationships from the contestants and their actions on Big Brother.

Contestants on Season 20 of Big Brother

A Half a Million Dollar Decision

On Season 16 of Big Brother, contestants Cody and Derek made a strong alliance from the very beginning of the show. As the season went on, the two worked together to eliminate other players. Both worked hard to end up in the final three but it was obvious that Cody had made enemies along the way while Derek remained a fan favorite. Once there are only three contestants left, those left compete in the last Head of Household competition. The winner gets to then decide who he or she wants to sit next to on finale night, where the jury of eliminated contestants vote for who should win the half a million dollars. On this season, Cody won the final Head of Household competition. This put him in the position to choose between his alliance member, Derek, and Victoria. If Cody chose to go against Victoria in the vote, he would have won the prize money. However, Cody made the moral decision to bring Derek to the finale, despite knowing he would lose, because of their strong alliance. To Cody he would not be in the position he was in without Derek. I was very moved while watching this because it made me wonder what I would have done if I had to make that choice between money or morals. Although I know in the end I would have chose friendship over wealth, it still amazes me at how Cody gave up half a million dollars so easily. The friendship between Derek and Cody can remind us of the importance of staying true to yourself and those you love. Being able to find value in others rather than material items is an important lesson brought out by Cody's decision to forfeit the money. As I go through college, I hope to take this parable of friendship and loyalty with me.

Kanye West's "Blood on the Leaves"

Since its release in 2013 I have listened to and been a fan of Kanye West's "Blood on the Leaves." It wasn't until I was showed Billie Holiday's 1939 song "Strange Fruit" in class that I realized West had taken parts of Holiday's song to use in his. West uses clips from Nina Simone's version of "Strange Fruit" in his song. After this realization, I listened to both songs, focusing on the lyrics of both. West's "Blood on the Leaves" incorporates Simone's track with his own lyrics that deal with the dangers of fame, love and drugs. Before I use to listen to Kanye's song naively ignoring the lyrics, not even bothering to know what he was saying. Now as I listen, Simone's voice gives me chills as she sings about "bodies swinging in the Southern breeze." Now knowing the context of the song and hearing the original version, I can correlate this to what we are learning in class. Although "Blood on the Leaves" talks about fame and drugs, it also deals with the nation's history of racial inequality. Kanye West incorporates the notion of lynching into his song for the same reason we are learning about it in class: to keep the awareness of America's black history alive. As Winston Churchill once said "those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it." Kanye honors Simone and also reminds listeners of the past horrors African Americans faced in his song "Blood on the Leaves."

Comedy and Tragedy in Stranger Than Fiction

As we began watching Stranger Than Fiction in class I realized that I had in fact had seen it before. I don't recall where or when I saw it but I'm guessing it must have been a very long time ago. It was really cool to watch it a second time because I was able to pick up on the small details weaved throughout the movie. The first time I watched it I instead just took in what was on the surface without thinking about the deeper meanings of the story line. In my defense, I was probably only a kid when I watched it. Re-watching it now what I thought was interesting was the idea of whether Harold Crick was living in a comedy or a tragedy. I related it back to my own life. Do I live a comedy or a tragedy? I'd like to believe I live a comedy rather than a tragedy in the sense that I'd like to see the glass half full rather than half empty. However, it would be naive to rule out the tragic parts of life. To relate this idea of comedies and tragedies back to theology, why does God allow there be tragedy? Comparably, why do authors write about tragedy? Although it is rash to say Emma Thompson played God in Harold Cricks life we can make the analogy that certain features of her character mimicked Godly qualities. In the movie, the tragic parts of Harold's life only heightened the joyous aspects in the end. Although it is only a movie, I use a similar idea to justify suffering. I have internal conflict when I think about why God would allow harm to the innocent. However, I have faith that He is doing it for a higher purpose. So although life has both comedic and tragic elements, I believe they work together to make life more rich and meaningful, as seen through Harold Crick's life.

The Power of Love in Life is Beautiful

What is so striking about Life is Beautiful is the contrasting switch between comedy and tragedy throughout the film. The beginning half of the film, which follows Guido's efforts to court Dora, was filled with humor. Although there are small details that foreshadow the darker times to come, it was overshadowed by the comedic overtone. However, in the latter half of the film, that took place in the concentration camp, comedy acts as a form of relief. Watching the movie in class it was evident that when the room went silent it was due to the heaviness of a scene. On the other hand, we erupted in laughter when Guido did something comical. This switchback between heaviness and lightness of scenes emphasizes the idea that life is a mixture of comedy and tragedy as seen in Stranger Than Fiction. Personally, I did not originally feel engaged with movie until Guido and his family got to the work camp. It was not until they got there that I began to question the name of the film. Why would a movie about a family torn apart due to the evilness of humans be titled Life is Beautiful? I did not understand this until I reflected back on the movie as a whole. The most beautiful scenes of the film were stemmed from love. When Dora sacrifices her freedom to try and stay with her family demonstrates this deep rooted love. Although she could have been free she would not have been with her family, making life incomplete. The measures Guido took to make sure Giosue and Dora stayed safe touched me most. Whether it was the game he created for Giosue or risking his life to let Dora hear his voice, Guido put his wife and child before himself. The main message of the film is that despite the inherent evil of the world, love can still prevail. The strength and endurance of love for one another is what makes life beautiful.

Arrival, Sliding Doors, and the impact of our actions

Today's discussion in class based off of the movie Arrival reminded me about thoughts I had after I watched the movie Sliding Doors. Both movies shed light on the relationship between our actions and time. In the movie Sliding Doors, the viewer is able to watch two versions of protagonist Helen's life go by simultaneously. What makes the versions different is based upon one small occurrence: whether Helen makes her train. Although it is something that happens to people everyday, Helen's life is completely different depending on whether she makes this train. This reminds me of Arrival because Louise, who can see into her future, chooses to make the choices she did despite suffering loss. In Sliding Doors, Helen could not choose between the two versions of her life. However, both movies pose the question of what actions would we redo or take back if we could. Most people wonder where they would be if they went to college somewhere else or majored in something different. Although these are the bigger factors that impact what direction our life takes, it is the small choices we make everyday that shape us the most. Small choices we make during the day, like who we decide to eat lunch with, add context to our life. For me, although one of my most important decisions was to attend the University of Scranton, it is what I choose to get involved in and who I choose to surround myself with that shape my experience at college. Just as in Sliding Doors, I am sure that I have made minute decisions that have unconsciously redirected the course of my life. However, I hope like Louise I would choose to keep my path through life the same despite possible loss.

The Intouchables and the idea of human dignity

While watching The Intouchables, I related to multiple character in regards to different aspects of their personality. One character I related to was Driss's replacement caretaker. This semester I have started my nursing clinical rotation at an assisted living facility. One struggle I have had there is the communication aspect. In the classroom, we learn about maintaining a professional rapport and using clinical protocol. Although we learn about caring for the emotional needs of a patient as well there is a balance that is needed to make sure physiological needs are met too. It is difficult because you can not obtain this balance from studying, instead it comes with practice . Since this semester had been one of my first experiences interacting with patients, I struggle with doing the tasks required of me while also not imposing on the patients, who sometimes do not want me to be there. This is how I relate to Driss's replacement; he was trying to do the task that was asked of him, feeding Philippe, while also not trying to mess up. This created an awkward experience that made Philippe feel less human as a result. While Driss contrasts the other caregiver in that he does everything unconventionally, it makes Philippe have a greater sense of dignity. Philippe defends Driss by saying he is the only person that gives him no pity. While not everyone consciously gives Philippe pity, it is the calculated actions and reluctance to be candid that makes it seem that way. Driss says whats on his mind and does the first things that come to him. Although it would be unconventional and probably illegal to act like Driss in a real life clinical setting as a nurse I think it is important to hold some of the traits he instills. Driss sees Philippe as a human and encourages him to not let his disability set him back. As a nurse, I aim to uphold each patient's dignity just as Driss did through support and motivation.

Attachment As a Form of Suffering

The film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring brought to light the Buddhist idea of attachment as a form of suffering. Watching and discussing the film made me question whether attachment is a good thing or a bad thing. Before watching this film, I would have quickly answered yes. However after seeing the young boy grow up and self destruct because of heart break I wonder if attachment is worth the suffering. The saying "it is better to love and lost then to have never loved at all" comes to mind when debating attachment. Attachment brought out feelings of happiness as the boy was falling in love but it was when the girl left that the suffering began. When he realized that the girl was no longer his to love that the boy became destructive and killed her. Although an extreme case, in reality these feelings of suffering and heartbreak are common. Many people participate in destructive behaviors after a breakup or death of a loved one. To an extent I agree with the Buddhist idea that attachment is a form of suffering. However, I disagree in the sense that the movie and Buddhist tradition promote straying away from attachment. Attachment can lead to suffering in a variety of ways but it can also lead to happiness and a feeling of worth. Although no one wants to suffer, I believe the mutual feeling of attachment is important for everyone experience. Being upset after heartbreak validates that the bond one felt was strong. It is once you no longer feel grief over the loss that the attachment weakens. That is why losing a loved one is challenging because you will never fully stop feeling attached to that person. I think it is impossible to categorize attachment as either good or bad but I do believe it is a necessary component of life, along with suffering.

Spotify's Influence on Parables in Pop Culture

Today there are many ways to stream music. One of the most popular streaming services is Spotify. What differentiates Spotify from other services and makes it relevant when discussing the parable aspect of music is its connectivity. The ability to share music and follow friends allows for the sharing of music with one another. Before using Spotify, I used other services that made discovering music an independent experience. Although I would suggest songs to friends and vice versa it was overall an exclusive experience for just me. Spotify allows you to see what music your friends are listening to and explore their playlists. Although for some this can seem invasive, I personally enjoy it. It can be fun to make playlists for friends so they listen to them later. I realized that most of my friends listen to a variety of music. While we're together we will choose to listen to popular, crowd-favorite songs because we think that is what the rest of us want to listen to. However, since following each other on Spotify I have noticed we have started listening to a more diverse selection of music. Spotify also makes it easier to discover new music by both seeing what your peers are listening to and what Spotify suggests. The service provides an algorithm that will pick out songs specifically for the user. After taking Parables in Pop Culture and watching movies I would never pick out for myself, I appreciate the sharing component of Spotify. By listening to music that my friends and family enjoy I am able to branch out and discover artists and genres outside my typical scope. It also allows me to listen to music with others making in a much more enriching experience. Bono said "music can change the world because music can change people." The way we experience, and share music is important because it has such a large impact on how we feel about what we are listening to.

The Beauty of Re-Watching

Today in class, Dr. Olsen made a reference to the value of re-watching a movie or television show that we had already seen before. Dr. Olsen was getting at the idea that watching something over again after seeing it in full, helps us thoroughly digest it and pick up on details. Typically, I never have a strong desire to watch something over again unless it made me laugh or there is a large plot twist. Movies such as A Beautiful Mind and Adrift come to mind when I think about that mind-blowing feeling of finding out what you thought was not reality. In both movies, a main character who you become invested in throughout the entirety of the movie ends up not to be real but rather a hallucination of the protagonist. Specifically in Adrift, when I found out the protagonist's fiance and co-captain actually died in the storm I was heart broken but also felt a bit foolish. As I thought back, there were many instances where I could have picked up that the man was a figure of the protagonist's imagination. Although I never re-watched either film, I would be curious to go back and see if I can pick out the details I had missed during my first viewing. More commonly, I enjoy re-watching movies and TV shows because of that sense of familiarity. When leisurely watching Netflix in my free time, I typically choose comedies and chick-flicks to watch. The feel-good aspect is what makes it so easy to watch. After a bad day it is nice to be able to return back to shows and movies that you can rely on to make you laugh. At times the familiarity feels like being with old friends as you see the characters and their lives play out. Especially after taking Parable in Pop Culture I appreciate re-watching shows and movies because I can pick up on things I did not notice before.

The Alternative Happy Ending in Someone Great

Over the weekend, I watched the Netflix original film Someone Great. The movie sets out as the protagonist Jenny gets broken up with by her boyfriend of nine years. On the surface the breakup is because of Jenny's new job that is moving her across the country. As the film plays out Jenny goes through a grieving process with the help of her friends. This makes her come to the understanding that her relationship had deeper issues than the move. As I watched I hoped Jenny would reconnect with her ex-boyfriend and we would get the happy ending. Although Jenny does not get back together with her boyfriend and she is still not fully recovered by the end of the film there is still an uplifting tone to the ending. Throughout the film, Jenny's two friends stick with her as she ruminates over her breakup and upcoming move. Although the film focuses on Jenny, her two friend's personal issues are also incorporated. Together the three girls support each other as they spend one of their last days all living in the same city. The film ends with the girls coming to Jenny's rescue after finding her waiting for her ex boyfriend in their "spot." This scene was important because as Jenny realizes it is over with her former love, she also is able to appreciate all her friends have done for her. The closing scene of the girls walking away together promotes this alternate happy ending as Call on Me is playing in the background. Rather than rooting for Jenny and her boyfriend throughout the film, I should have been placing my hope in the friendship that Jenny has with her two friends. The girls don't place doubt in if their friendship will end when Jenny leaves. Instead, they have faith in the both between them. I appreciated this because this semester two of my best friends are studying abroad in Australia. Although I was worried about losing contact with my friends because of the distance, I honestly believe our friendship has grown stronger. Not seeing each other everyday makes us appreciate and miss each other more. Although most movies place the emphasis on romantic relationships, Someone Great reminded me about importance of friendships and how big of an impact it has on our lives. After watching the Someone Great I found myself thinking about the film days after. It is because of the reminder of how strong friendship can be that the film resonated with me.

T/RS 228 Reflection

In the beginning of this semester, Dr. Olsen started class out by saying he hoped that in the process of taking Parable in Pop Culture we would have a better understanding of ourselves. In the beginning I was thrown off by the assignments we had to watch and read. I had never taken a course revolving around watching and analyzing movies. It was difficult at first to watch movies like The Seventh Seal that are foreign and in black and white. However, I began to appreciate the films we watched in class because I would have never picked them out for myself. I never watch films that are historical, dated, or foreign on my own because I did not think I would enjoy them. However, films like Life is Beautiful and The Mission broke this stigma for me. Certain films we watched produced a visceral reaction in me that I carried into my life outside of class. Now I find myself interpreting lyrics of music and rewinding films to catch small details. Through my experiences in T/RS 228 I have been able to relate what we have learned about back to the parables of Jesus and my own faith. Seeing injustice in movies like Malcolm X and Life is Beautiful has made me question why God would let humans suffer at the hands of others. The Ignatian idea of seeing God in everything has helped me try to answer this question. Despite the discrimination seen in Life is Beautiful, Guido's love for his family presents holds a stronger weight in the film than the hate the Germans inflict. However, other movies such as The Intouchables have made me see God through the love Phillipe and Driss have for each other. Phillipe becoming paralyzed from the neck down poses the question why God would let that happen. However, Phillipe's relationship formed with Driss comes from his disability which I think is notable. Although at times we might wonder why God would let us suffer through something, as a Catholic I try to have faith that more good will come out of the bad. From watching movies that show hardship and after taking Parables in Pop Culture I have learned the importance of keeping faith in the love of God.

Credits:

Created with images by mohammad alizade - "untitled image" • sgcdesignco - "untitled image" • freestocks.org - "untitled image" • congerdesign - "passion cross good friday"

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