“These Celebrities Changed our Lives Forever.” Really?

A week or two ago I saw this headline: These Celebrities Changed our Lives Forever.

Really?

If that’s true, shame on us. But please let this be hyperbole.

I glanced through the “A” list of Hollywood big shots who wouldn’t have even made the “C” list of people who have changed my life forever.

Media has the biggest ego of them all. It’s as if they exist for the people can be happy. It’s as if they speak and we, in a collective gasp, can awaken from our effortless slumber to once again feel alive again.

Well here’s the shocking truth about celebrity: they, those A-listers, need us. We don’t need them.

Some of the masses might act as if their life means nothing unless they are sitting in front of the TV or reading the latest gossip blog, but everyone knows the secret – celebrity is a hollow shell, propped up by an endless cycle of ads and media conventions which tell us all how terrible our lives our. If only we could own the car that celebrity A has! If only we could live in the house that celebrity B has. If only we could have the problems of celebrity C.

So let’s be very clear here. Some celebrities may have moved us, but they haven’t changed us. Some actors are remarkably talented, and they have the means to, for an hour or two, delve deep into our hearts and make us think about the larger issues of humanity. But they don’t change us. Two dimensional celebrity figures do not have the power to change us.

But three-dimensional humans do have the capacity to change others.

My wife changed me.

The birth of each of my kids changed me.

My parents changed me.

My pastor changed me.

My friends have changed me.

These are the true celebrities in our lives, not worthy of worship, but worthy of a hearty “thanks” for what they have done for us. How they have molded us, moved us, and forced us to challenge everything we know about ourselves.

So, sorry Hollywood promotion blah-blah blog, I won’t fall for your trap. But I will turn off the TV and spend some more time with the people in my life.

Here’s hoping others follow suit.

Two recent films I have loved which show something about me as a writer.

I don’t make it to the cinema too often these days, but recently I was able to watch a couple different films which, remarkably, I really liked. Actually, that says a lot. I tend to be picky about my films having had my fill of the big blockbuster, really-cool wannabe, super-hero sick to my stomach, Hollywood vapid reality films which clog the projectors these days.

I was extremely encouraged in the last couple months about the trailers for films up-coming here in Malaysia and I was not disappointed. As I think about why I liked both of these films, I realized that it reveals something tangible about me as a writer.

What films you ask? “The Book Thief” and “Saving Mr. Banks”.

First, “The Book Thief”. I have not read the book, but my daughter was assigned it as an English book and she actually liked it which made me think it has some potential. I became more familiar with it through some of my students, one of whom used a passage from the book for an oral interpretation – a good one for that matter. Everyone was intrigued by Death being the book’s narrator, and as it was set in Germany during the WWII era, I, as a history buff, was naturally drawn to it.

What I enjoyed about the movie, besides the riveting setting, was the bare-nakedness of humanity on display. I’m a sucker for sentimentality that is genuine and gripping; this movie had that. Who couldn’t root for the beautiful young girl who had to deal with such heartache and pain, only to find the happiness and joy of life. It struck a human cord which most Hollywood movies never touch.

However, the second movie, “Saving Mr. Banks” immediately rose into the upper echelons as one of my favorite films of all time. Let me make a disclaimer, I have always loved “Mary Poppins”. It is, in my estimation, the best Disney movie ever made. If it doesn’t make you smile, then you don’t deserve to smile. So when I heard that Disney was making a movie based on the contract negotiations between P.L. Travers, the writer of Mary Poppins, and Walt Disney, who had promised his kids that he would turn it into a movie, I was hooked at first glance.

The movie did not disappoint on any level. It was cleverly put together in a way that showed the moving childhood of P.L. Travers in Australia, interspersed with the delightful tale of Walt Disney trying to woo the rights from her. It is magical. As one critic put it, “Saving Mr. Banks” is a treasure. I found myself with moist eyes much more in this movie than in “The Book Thief.” The humanity, heartbreak, and emotion on display spoke to me on many levels. You can have your big bang blockbusters any day of the week, but I’ll take the Sherman brothers pounding on the piano trying to convince Travers that they will love her character as much as she does.

I can’t tell you how much I loved this film. I shall go see it again this weekend.

It is precisely the type of story that I strive to write. Gripping, human, emotional, enchanting, inspirational, and just down-right awesome.

Thank you, Hollywood. I don’t say this too much, but thank you for two films which display humanity how it should be.

Keep it up and I might come to the cinema more often.