Sunday, May 23, 2010

Perceiving Me, Perceiving You

The entire Powell family is down with a cold right now, which resulted in a lazy afternoon at home rather than the planned moving sale. Since I had nothing better to do (and needed some time to relax) I turned to Netflix and found "World's Greatest Dad" starring Robin Williams. It is a movie aboutLance, a teacher at a private school (and unsuccessful writer), who writes a suicide note in order to make his teenage son Kyle's death as a result of a "freak accident" (let your imagination take off, or just watch the movie!) look as if he had hanged himself. The suicide note is a hit, inspiring students at the school to look into themselves and change their lives. Seeing the impact of his note, Lance writes a journal he accredits to Kyle, which becomes a huge success at the school. Lance's poetry class is overbooked with students, and Kyle, who - to say the least - was a total jerk, becomes a hero with a large fellowship posthumously, based on the persona delivered by the journal and suicide note his father wrote.

In the progress, it seemed to me that Lance has described the person he wanted Kyle to be, while the students were able to identify themselves with different aspects of the persona Lance created. When Lance admits to the scam in the end, the disappointment can be clearly seen in the students' and faculty members' faces. Their little world of a perfect, troubled young hero a la Werther (see "The Sorrows of Young Werther"/"Die Leiden den jungen Werther" by J.W. von Goethe) was shattered, and the grim reality of their own lives set in again.

Analyzing the the movie's premise, one can see that it is nothing but an exaggerated depiction of daily life. Oftentimes we are perceiving people the way we want them to be rather than the way they really are. We love them for what we see in them whether it is truly there or we just imagine it because we want it to be there so badly. On the other hand, many people are going through life taking on disguises only to please people. I wonder how much effort is wasted in creating these perceptions on whatever end, and how this energy could be used to more effective ends? What would happen if people simply sat down, looked in a mirror and asked themselves: "Who am I?" Would it make them happier? What if people didn't go through life trying to change people to fit in their narrow-minded world view but accept them for who they are? Would it make the world a better and happier place to live? Would it help our society to be more productive and less depressed? Questions over questions... Unfortunately, we might never have a real answer for it, because it seems like an unachievable utopia.


  1. I saw the movie yesterday and saw parallels with what the book "Die Leiden ..." did to people in Europe 200 years ago. So, I looked for reviews that mentioned Goethe. Your's was the onle one.
    So i think your review is very valuable and hits the core message of the movie.

  2. Thank you very much for your comment! I really appreciate the response.