I can write reviews as late as I want; I'm an adult.
I'm honestly perplexed by this. I think _both_ of those interpretations _were intended_. I came out of that movie understanding completely that the way Evelyn treated her family was completely not ok and that almost all of her problems were at least partially her own fault. She was supposed to simultaneously be pitied but also recognized as the cause (at least partly) of all her own problems. This juxtaposition is _why_ it was such a great movie. It accurately captured the truth of most people's reality: lots of things in your life suck and a very non trivial part of that suckitude, but not all _is your own fault_. The movie is a redemption story in that, through the whole thing, she slowly (_very_ slowly_ comes to realize this and and the end begins the path to healing her relationships and her own problems. Nothin is fixed at the end of the movie, but it's brought to a place where it _could_ be fixed. Yes, life is hard a lot of the time, and yes that sucks, but that being hard _is not an excuse_ for not doing the things that matter and taking care of the things that matter. If you just choose to wallow in "life is hard and it's not my fault" then things will get even worse, but if you actually try, you can't control everything but you can keep the things that matter the most. I think this was the _very_ explicit message of the movie (surrounded by a whole lot of multi-verse sillyness of course)
The fact that this movie showed such an unvarnished look at what is many people's reality was why I loved it.
A few years back I worked for a manager who happened also to be a Presbyterian minister. Not long before he left that role, he told me I sometimes reminded him of Jesus Christ, on account of how reflexively I inclined to self-sacrifice. It's not the only time the tendency's been mentioned, but it was by far the most striking, not least because it was like most of his compliments somewhat backhanded: he had for a while developed a theme with me that I should be more ready to look out for myself and less willing to be taken advantage of - not the first time I'd heard that, either.
I've thought a lot about that since and concluded he was right, because I have had a lot of hurt out of that tendency; the thing about being willing to be taken advantage of is that you get taken advantage of, and the thing about those people who are happy to do so is that they rarely can be bothered to stop. Whatever you'll give, they'll take, and ask for more besides.
And now, this past week and literally today, I'm discovering that I've really learned too much on that score. Because of that desire to avoid being misused, I've helped create and left to fester a situation of deeply wounded feelings on both sides, to the point where I'm not at all sure the best I can do will be enough to even start patching up the hurt but I still have to try. It's not all my fault, not by any means, and I'm not the only one who could and maybe should make a start at trying to fix it, but I'm the only one who's developed the perspective to be able to, and that means I'm the one who has to. And that's going to hurt, too.
The thing is, my old boss the reverend was right. There does come a point where I have to look out for myself, because no one else is going to. What I think he left out and I forgot is that that doesn't mean I can't or shouldn't look out for other people. And yeah, that costs. And yeah, I should be able to rely on other people as much as I've tried for most of my life to make sure others can rely on me. And yeah, I rarely can, because a lifetime of abuse makes for a kind of person that easily draws and hardly notices more of the same, and that's me all over, and it doesn't feel any better to know that underneath it all is a person who'd give the shirt off their back even if it means freezing to death. It's hard to stay kind when it feels like all that comes of it is pain. It's hard to even want to. And right now I really don't.
I'm going to anyway, of course. I can't deal with everything that's wrong right now, but I can deal with what's mine. That starts with what will probably be the hardest and most complicated apology yet in a life that's been full of them, and the hope that it's not too late for an apology like that to be enough of a start - that, and the hope I don't fuck it up on account of feeling that everything I've ever been able to do for the people around me has never led to much of anything coming back my way - which is true, but misleading, because I learned early that it's too dangerous to ever trust anyone enough to ask for what I need, or let on how or why I'm feeling. And that's on me, 100%.
So I appreciate you posting this, because even though I neither know nor care about the movie, your opinion of it has done a lot to help make things come clear for me. I'm glad you're out here doing God's work. It hurt to read, but it should've, and that means it counts for something. And so on Monday I'll say the Aviator's Prayer - the real one: "Please God, don't let me fuck this up." And then I'll try to remember for long enough how to be the person I am rather than the one I've let myself become. Maybe that'll give us a way to actually talk with one another, and maybe that'll be enough.
And either way, I don't like that that was the last thing I thought of to try, when it should've been the first. However it comes out, maybe it'll help me do better next time. I couldn't do a hell of a lot worse.
Beautifully and insightfully written! We may never have the answers, but you've posed the pertinent questions in an interesting and helpful way. Your use of that movie to illustrate these moral issues was masterful. Very well done!
>If these two things seem like they are in conflict, it’s because they sort of are. Someone might say “Listen, if the second thing about understanding people sometimes might not have the resources that make it easy to be good is true, it’s true of you sometimes as well”, and they’d be right. And someone might say “Listen, if you should handle your stuff, that means that other people should too. You aren’t special; you aren’t especially strong” and they’d be right too.
Basically you are describing grace for others and standards for yourself; I also try to use his as a guideline, and I think it's simple to reconcile--it's the only way to counter the natural bias to cut yourself slack and hold others to account for any slight.
What bothered me most about the movie was that the mother/daughter emotional conflict, which underpins the entire story, was so thin and unconvincing. I’m supposed to care about this teenage girl’s nihilism phase? Pixar movies have more psychological and emotional depth! But I think you’re right in pointing to Evelyn as also being difficult to get on board with. Audiences/critics were so dazzled by the visuals and directorial style (which I did like) that they apparently were unbothered by the under-cooked character arcs. And then of course the diverse casting gives the movie woke brownie points.
I think the simplest way to square the circle is to say that you have the moral authority to forgive someone, but you can't really forgive yourself. The whole point of Grace is that it's not deserved, that you can't trade for it because it's not really extending Grace if you benefit from it, and if you're the person receiving your own Grace, you're benefitting from it.
I also think this posture works in that we're all naturally disinclined to excuse someone else's offenses, and heavily inclined to excuse our own, so we simply can't be objective about our own shortcomings. We can excuse someone else because we can see parts of them clearer than they can.
I did not get the first synopsis nor the second synopsis. Actually I got both synopsis, all at once. That is to say from a film standpoint I found it confused and a jumbled mess. One of the worst movies of the year that I could never share with my mother or kids for visual reasons. Michelle Yeoh is a great actress who deserved an Oscar, just not for this everything.
Congrats on the new job.
This is very true. I have been depressed enough to be hospitalized over it, and I recognize now that a big part of it was just a desire to be pitied and get a retribution of sorts. For at least some types of mental illness, the depressive, neurotic sorts, I really do think the answer is what the The Last Psychiatrist proposed, which is to stop thinking of yourself and just act.
This is hard to see while you think your pain is justified, but it really all falls into place when you stop seeing it as just, and start seeing it as garbage to take out, or meaningless mental weather to just bear for a while.
Though to be fair, the way out for me did involve spirituality, in that I did have something I cared about more than myself, but I wasn't manifesting that.
What is the religious stuff that gets you out of your conundrum?
Thank you for this! I didn't like the movie (hate is a strong word). I didn't watch it closely, I must admit. Once I realised that the main character was a narcissist sociopath with princess syndrome, I disengaged.
The "high-brow concept" was, to me, middle low-brow at best. The multiiverse trope has been done to death, and it's just a crutch for lazy authors to begin with. SFX are a sign of laziness in movie-making. Some of the acrobatics by the male lead were entertaining, though; and the sets were mostly good.
I'm not sure EE is holding Evelyn up as a role model (though her becoming a God could suggest different). I feel like the movie is just emphasising the relationship between Asian mothers and daughters, and I agree the resolution didn't feel earned.
I think visuals carried the movie, and a realistic portrayal of Asian family dynamics secured its critical credentials.
I think theres vastly simpler ethic to improve the world then that: "treat children better then you were"
I havn't seen the movie, but a mother hiding what instincts of disowning she picked up from china or whatever, may fit that.