Movies have always been a big part of our culture, not only reflecting our tastes and attitudes but transforming them as well. Whether consciously or not, we tend to emulate the way the performers look and behave, even adopting their speech patterns and the words they use. Films often become so ingrained in our memories that a single line of dialogue can trigger not only a wave of emotions but bring to mind the entire story, immediately allowing us to visually recall the actors and the title.
By simply hearing the words ”Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” the ending scene of Gone With The Wind starring Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh immediately comes to mind, and when hearing “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” who can ever forget Humphrey Bogart speaking that line to Claude Rains in Casablanca as they walk off into the mist? One of the best phrases of all is “You can’t handle the truth,” shouted by Jack Nicholson to Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, an expression that has actually become part of our everyday vocabulary. You hear people say it all the time.
Speaking of which, how many of us really can handle the truth, especially when it comes in the form of criticism whether well-intended or not? Who wants to hear about their faults, for as Charlie Brown once said to Lucy when given a list of his flaws, “those aren’t faults, those are character traits.”
There’s a saying that “honesty is the best policy,” but people really don’t want to be critiqued even when they ask for your “honest opinion.” What husband in his right mind would be truthful when asked by his wife if the dress she’s wearing makes her look fat. Of course she is only looking for approval and a compliment, assurance that she still looks good to her spouse and lover.
Another area where truth can cause trouble is when bursting someone’s treasured bubble. I was once at a Christmas Party given by the company for which I worked, and during small-talk with a fellow employee’s wife, she said how much she loved wrestling. She actually believed that it was for real and that the good guys and bad guys genuinely hated each other. I laughed and gave several examples of how it was fake, things like pulled punches, pratfalls, phony tears and screams, self-inflicted cuts, etc., all of which she deftly countered with her own arguments. You know how difficult it is to change someone’s opinion, but after exhausting all the usual illustrations I smugly presented the clincher guaranteed to prove my point. I asked her where the wrestlers went after the match ended, to which she answered “the dressing room.” I then asked if she thought those arch enemies continued fighting in private out of view of the fans, especially since they travel together from city to city and wrestle five or six times a week.
I could see the wheels spinning in her head and enlightenment dawning, for after a few seconds of silence she turned and walked away never to speak to me again. My self-satisfaction quickly evaporated when I realized I had spoiled her enjoyment for no reason other than to show off my sagacity. For what? Who did it help…no one, least of all me since I felt like a villain and a fool.