Let’s Go to the Movies!

A lot of articles on our website look at therapy and various topics, but for this one, we’re going to have a little fun.  I like movies that I can connect to as a man.  I have a unique insight into how your creative juices and inspiration–as a man–are created or driven by visual images.  Any guy willing to admit that the last few scenes in Toy Story 3 brought tears to your eyes?  Or the scene in Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner’s character Ray finally got to meet his (spoiler alert…) dad and ask his father, in his prime, to play catch.  That one gets me every time.

Can you think of movies that speak of a man’s transformation?  If you’re sitting in a counseling session, you’re there because either you or someone you know is longing for change and growth.  Today’s man is challenged by the ever changing definition of what a man should be.  My father’s generation might say that John Wayne was his ideal of a man.  In the 1970s, Bruce Jenner was my idea of what a man should be–and how that has turned out!  Today, we have views of manhood that are so different.  Men struggle to define what being a man is?

Al Bundy and Homer Simpson are not who I would consider Men of the Year candidates.    But there are movies out there that break the modern dysfunctional stereotype of manhood.   The movies I’m going to share are merely a subjective list.  These are films that moved and impacted me. Your list might be very different.  At the end of this article, please comment and I would love to see your own list of what movies have inspired you to a higher standard of manhood.  Read on and I hope you enjoy this edition of Mike’s take on film.

First, let’s take a look at the world of football in the cinema.

“Rudy”  

scene from Rudy

I love football movies.  The first one I think I cried at was “Rudy” starring Sean Astin.  I didn’t discover this gem until well after it had come out on home video.  This is based on the true story of a boy becoming a man and never giving up on a dream despite so many obstacles thrown in his way.  I still get goosebumps when I watch the film, and I tear up when the crowd begins chanting, “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy” and he finally gets to go in at the end of the game fulfilling his dream.  Remember Jerry Goldsmiths rousing score and when his family sees the fulfillment of Rudy’s dreams as he takes the field?  This movie is simply wonderful and a great illustration of never giving up.

“Remember the Titans” 

denzel washington in remember the titans

The first football movie that was inspiring to me.  I loved the theme of racial reconciliation through adversity.  This is a journey I have been on for awhile now.  I related to Coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) and his challenge to embrace change while being an example to his football players and more especially, his little girl.  Something about football movies means some great music and the theme of Remember the Titans is instantly recognizable to me.  The soundtrack of some classic songs added an element of nostalgia.

“Facing the Giants” 

Christian movies have struggled for years to compete with mainstream Hollywood.  These movies struggle because they don’t have star power, or a big budget.  People that aren’t religious or spiritual think the films are too preachy.  The qualities of these films have been mediocre at best.  That began to change with “Facing the Giants.”

Not only was it a great story about High School football but it was the first film that I recall that presented the Gospel and a strong life changing message within the context of the story.  You can feel the genuine love and encouragement the movie cultivates within you. You don’t often find this level of faith-driven emotions in film.

My favorite part was the Death Crawl, a grueling exercise in endurance.  I recently watched this movie for the first time in a couple of years and unexpectedly choked up during the scene.  The football player, Brock, doing the crawl represents us and the player on his back reminds of the heavy load that we often carry as men in life.  That “load” is probably different for everybody.  How many times have we given up or not given our very best because we’re tired or hurting?  Or we felt the load was too much to bear?

The other person in the scene with Brock is his Coach.  The Coach was next to him every step of the way.  The Coach is active and not just standing on the sidelines observing.  At one point, the player cries “It hurts!”  The coach says, “I know it hurts! Keep going!” The coach reminds him of his need to give it his very best.  Not when things are easy and going great but when it’s difficult and painful. If you’re a believer in Christ, our coach is God.  There are moments in our life where it would be easy to give up and throw in the towel.

God doesn’t give up and I believe He is in the trenches with us in tough circumstances. His encouragement cries, “I’m with you. Don’t quit, keep going!”  Because He knows how much better we are by not quitting.  Setting this example as men, fathers and husbands demonstrates that struggling and living a life of perseverance will not go unnoticed by the younger generation.   The results of our struggle if we keep going will far exceed our hopes and expectations.  If you haven’t seen the film, watch it and see how the Death Crawl plays out.  The end result of what the young player went through even surprised him.

A Man’s Man of a movie.

Finally, a look at what I think epitomizes the best qualities of being a man in the movies.   These films have made me laugh and cry.   My top three:

Gladiator:

Russel Crowe in Gladiator

Russel Crow starred as Maximus Decimus Meridius.   He was Rome’s version of Chuck Norris.  You don’t mess with Maximus.  He showed extreme courage in the face of losing his family and defying an Emperor.   Some movies have quotes that people remember and this film is full of them.

Favorite quotes:  “On my command, unleash Hell.” and  when Maximus was confronted by the Emperor, he chillingly replied, “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” Movie lines don’t get much better that that!

To Kill A Mockingbird

caucasian man next to an african american man in to kill a mockingbird

This bestselling novel by Harper Lee was published in 1960.  In the movie version, Gregory Peck played Atticus Finch, a lawyer, and widowed single dad.  From the website www.artofmanliness.com, this description of a man who lived with integrity every day:

“In Maycomb County, Atticus was known as a man who was “the same in his house as he is on the public streets.” That was the standard he lived by. He did not have one set of morals for business and one for family, one for weekdays and one for weekends. He was incapable of doing anything that would broach the inviolable sanctity of his conscience. He made the honorable decision, even when that decision was unpopular.”  He chose to defend a black man and many people felt that was the wrong choice.  In Atticus’s mind, as long as he knew he should help someone, popular opinion didn’t matter.  He responded back to his detractors,

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions, but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” 

“Dances With Wolves”

kevin costner with a wolf fom dances with wolves

This Oscar winning film was an illustration of a man being transformed.  Starting off at point A and by the time the movie ended, he was at point B and a very different man.  The journey that he experienced where he believed Native Americans were savages, and even had wanted to sacrifice himself as a hero to embracing and accepting a new people as equals.  That’s the power of man being willing to look at life through a different lens.

Lieutenant John Dunbar played by Kevin Costner at the height of his acting career grew leaps and bounds by the rugged serenity of his new surroundings. Not to mention a really cool pet wolf and faithful sidekick, his hoarse.  Likewise, echoes of his transformation were mirrored by Rodney A. Grant’s character Wind in His Hair.  He disliked Dunbar but over time slowly accepted him and at the end proclaimed him his friend.  I cry every time I see the scene as Dunbar and his wife “Stands with a Fist” leave the camp and Wind in His Hair sits on a horse high on a rocky ledge crying,

“Dances with Wolves. I am Wind In His Hair. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?”

Who grew the most, the soldier or the Native American?  Perhaps they were both transformed.   Have movies encouraged or motivated you to be open to growth? Are they simple forms of escapism or do they challenge us to look deep within ourselves and strive to be living our very best? Movies have been a great form of self care for me. I enjoy escaping for a few hours.  But as the credits role, I have to return to real life.  These men are both real and fictional. They share a common value such as courage to do what’s right. They may stir motivation within us to embrace change and to live life differently within ourselves.  Films with a message call us to life of intentional integrity.   It’s integrity of how I strive to live my life when I have my final curtain call that will determine how I’ll be remembered.  Not what movies I like.

If you are looking to elevate your game, find hope and meaning for transformation in any area of your life, I can help facilitate that journey of becoming intentional in manhood.  Contact me at Armstrong Family Counseling today.

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