It’s been a low stretch for American pride lately. This is an opinion I don’t think you will find uncommon in the country, though you may find some variation as to what exactly is the root of that depressing streak. Dishearteningly, we’ve seen the national question change in the past year from “How do we prevent a divide among the population” to “How do we move forward with this unbridgeable divide among the population.” All one has to do is swipe left enough times on an iPhone to find a new reason to despair for the Earth’s cocky young experiment-turned-infante terrible. Maybe it’s growing pains. Maybe it’s human nature. Maybe it’s a historical aberration, a minor tremor that only feels like an earthquake when you’re standing on its epicenter.
The movies have long been a chronicler of American history, though one that nearly always reflects history as her people wish it had been. The re-evaluation of many films where certain voices are absent or marginalized shakes America’s confidence in her own story. And yet, while there’s much to criticize, there’s much to find hopeful in America’s movies. While our leaders, to put it mildly in too many situations, fail to find the means to express inclusivity, the movies are slowly portraying more diversity. Comicbook movies may rule the land, but even they often confront the fallout of their actions and their mistakes on the way to saving the day with two-fisted righteousness. The daylight puts our foolishness on display, but in the dark we still yearn to be heroes.
I write this amidst the purple mountains majesty, having traveled here from my home in the amber waves of grain. I’ve been fortunate to visit America sea to shining sea over the years. I’ve probably even been to the fruited plain, if I knew what the hell that referred to. America and Americans are my kin. I don’t always agree with my kin. I don’t always even like my kin. But it’s a deep connection that cannot be denied, and today I’ll take some time to remember the positive aspects of that connection, and remember we’ve found a way forward before.
What movies speak to your view and experience of America? Is it found in our expressions of our better selves like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Or when we criticize ourselves in something like Us? Or is it found somewhere else – maybe among hopeful, road-tripping puppets in The Muppet Movie? I’m especially interested to hear from our international commentors.