Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thrust Into the Limelight

I have had an extended break from school before my final push towards completing my degree and graduation.  I have taken the opportunity to engage with one of my loves: movies.  We discovered a local library that has a pretty good selection of blu-rays that they loan for free.  Many of the movies are current and I would generally have to pay for them at Blockbuster or Redbox.

Last week, I watched a film called "My Week With Marilyn."  It was based upon Colin Clark's memoir entitled "The Prince, the Showgirl and Me."  I would be very interested in reading the book, but I think the film did a very good job of depicting the character of Marilyn Monroe.  Michelle Williams did a phenomenal job portraying Monroe and I was captivated by the fragility and lack of self-esteem of Monroe.  As I watched the film, my heart broke for this young woman who seemed lost in a search for her own identity.

Marilyn Monroe was first married when she was 16 years old and her life was marked by countless failed relationships with men.  Her alleged affairs with the Kennedy brothers, both John and Robert, have been the subject of much talk and gossip about the starlet.  It seems that Marilyn was constantly trying to find out who she was and she constantly battled the expectations of those around her with what she felt inside, who she truly was and was called to be.

As I watched this film, broken hearted at the knowledge of Monroe's future fate, I couldn't help but think of Michael Jackson as well.  Although there are probably countless people who can be similarly categorized, he was the first one who came to mind, and particularly, his song "Childhood."  If you are unfamiliar with the song, it was featured in the movie "Free Willy 2."  Here are the lyrics:

Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for the world that I come from
'Cause I've been looking around
In the lost and found of my heart...

No one understands me
They view it as such strange eccentricities...
'Cause I keep kidding around
Like a child, but pardon me...

People say I'm not okay
'Cause I love such elementary things...
It's been my fate to compensate,
for the Childhood I've never known...

Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for that wonder in my youth
Like pirates in adventurous dreams,
Of conquest and kings on the throne...

Before you judge me, try hard to love me,
Look within your heart then ask,
Have you seen my Childhood?

People say I'm strange that way
'Cause I love such elementary things,
It's been my fate to compensate,
for the Childhood I've never known...

Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for that wonder in my youth
Like fantastical stories to share
The dreams I would dare, watch me fly...

Before you judge me, try hard to love me.
The painful youth I've had

Have you seen my Childhood...

Considering his checkered past and the fate that would befall him many years later, the lyrics are just as heartbreaking as the story of Marilyn Monroe.  While I wouldn't condone some of MJs questionable behavior, hearing these words and knowing a little of his story, it's hard not to feel some amount of sympathy for this man-child.

In many ways, Monroe seemed to be such a similar character and personality.  She was a child trapped in a woman's body, she was a little girl who found herself to be a sex symbol.  She was thrust into the spotlight where everyone idolized her for her body and her good looks.  She never really had the opportunity to grow up.

Some might say that she chose the life that she lived, as did Michael Jackson.  I would agree, but it seems that our culture has a way of idolizing fragile human beings, some of who are not prepared for what is to come once they are thrust into the spotlight.  The public eye will do all kinds of things to people, young and old, rich and poor.  Some people are so enamored with the attention, like it seems Marilyn was, that they would do anything to please those who are watching.

At one point in the film, Colin, the main character, offers Marilyn the chance to run away with him and leave it all behind.  She tells him that she can't, and that's the end of it.  There is no debate, no questions, she just decides that she can't give up the fame and glory to which she has become accustomed.  She didn't, and it destroyed her.  Michael Jackson didn't either, and it destroyed him.  And in some ways, we were accomplices to that with our tendency for voyeurism and idolatry.

Unfortunately, this kind of voyeurism and idolatry is not relegated simply to those who are in Hollywood.  We pretty much do it with anyone who becomes "famous."  Athletes, politicians, public figures of any kind, pastors, etc.  We have a very high shelf that we like to put people on and any time that they fall off of it, the fall seems to be far and fast.  We seem to mete out grace as long as they are fulfilling our own desires, but the moment that they fail to do that, they have failed us and we run far and fast.

Those thrust into the public limelight will come and go, but how will we respond to them?  Will we allow ourselves to be captivated by their godlike qualities and abilities?  Will we fall victim to the culture that surrounds us and idealize people who are just as fallible and broken as the rest of us?

I've pretty much turned the corner of time and my window of opportunity for "fame and fortune" is most likely behind me.  But I have the opportunity to mentor and teach those who come behind me, my children, my friends, young people who I interact with.  Will I take the opportunity to pass on what I know in hopes that they would enter into any potential fame-filled future with caution?  I hope so.  The past is littered with a wake of bodies that have been sacrificed to fortune and fame, cast aside and abandoned, left useless along the way, but the future can be marked differently.  While I am not naive enough in thinking that this will stop, if we can prevent just a few from following this same path, we will have succeeded, at least in their lives.

1 comment:

  1. Jon: I watched "My Week with Mariyn" last week on my flight to Romania and had many similar thoughts, especially since my son is one who has received overnight fame through the phenom of the internet. Mike and I were commenting the other day that George is very much an 18-year-old boy who displays flashes of something bright and beautiful when God chooses to use him. WE are trying very hard to help him stay grounded and let him enjoy his teen years in the downtime. George mentioned that he is getting together with you next week. WE appreciate your interest in him and your mentorship! God bless.