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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Behind the hero on the screen

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson


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It's ironic that Hollywood filmmakers can describe the human condition so vividly with so little understanding of it


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Which of the following quotes does not belong with the others:


It is not what I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.

With great power comes great responsibility.

It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done before.


Literary mavens will quickly identify the third quote as different from the first two for several reasons. First, it was written in the 19th century, where the others were written in the 21st. Second, it is a line from novel, where the others are lines from motion pictures. And third, it is the only one of the three not spoken by a Marvel Comic superhero.


On a more substantive level, however, all three have very much in common.


The first of the three is spoken by Bruce Wayne in his guise as Batman, explaining away his public playboy persona as a device to conceal his secret identity. The second is spoken by Peter Parker, aka Spiderman, explaining why he is walking away from the woman he loves in order to protect her from the enemies that would try to strike at him through the people closest to him.


The third quote is the closing line of Charles Dickens's classic A Tale of Two Cities, in which the heretofore-undistinguished Sydney Carton expresses his love for Lucie Darnay by taking the place of her husband, Charles, and suffering death by guillotine so that Charles might live.


All three quotes issue from heroes who not only do great things at personal risk, but who sacrifice life, love, and reputation for a higher ideal. From a brooding moralizer like Dickens, we expect nothing less. From Hollywood scriptwriters and producers, however, we expect anything else.

FOLLOW THE MONEY
As the Oscar season descends upon us, its worth reflecting that Hollywood is known as Tinsel Town for good reason. Glitz, superficiality, and immediate gratification have become synonymous with the land responsible for most of today's entertainment industry. Revolving door marriages and divorces, infidelity, and recreational drugs are only the most obvious symptoms of a culture that glorifies the pursuit of pleasure and the deification of personal autonomy.


Predictably, the film industry can be counted on to turn out major motion pictures that are thinly veiled propaganda pieces. Such unmemorable productions as Brokeback Mountain, Lions for Lambs, and The Good Shepherd may have curried favor with Hollywood politicos eager for the promotion of "alternative lifestyles" or government conspiracy theories, but the movie-going public has shown considerably more enthusiasm for traditional good versus-evil-stories in which good triumphs in the end. (For the record, haven't seen either Brokeback Mountain or Lions for Lambs.)


If box office receipts are any indication, audiences have demonstrated far greater enthusiasm for classic heroism. The musings of a couple of culturally conflicted cowboys on the open plain can hardly compete with such memorable moments as the President of the United States (played by Harrison Ford) throwing an international terrorist out the cargo hold of his plane in Air Force One or Kevin Kline's presidential impersonator cutting government pork at a cabinet meeting to save funding for an orphanage in Dave.


That Hollywood did in fact release such movies as Batman Begins, Spiderman, and Air Force One, however, reveals an insight into Left Coast Culture that is at once obvious and surprising.


What is obvious is that money trumps ideology. When all is said and done, filmmakers would rather see increased revenues than the spread of counter-culture ideology. Fair enough. But what is truly remarkable is how well they understand the nobility, the selflessness, and the heroism of personal sacrifice that are so often at the heart of successful moviemaking.

MANKIND'S INNER HERO
Once upon a time, heroism in Hollywood was the norm. But we don't have to go all the way back to Humphrey Bogart's "the problems of three little people don't add up to hill of beans" speech in Casablanca when he gives up Ingrid Bergman. When Helen Hunt refused to abandon her family for Tom Hanks in Cast Away, when Kelly McGillis refused to abandon her Amish community for Harrison Ford in Witness, when Robert Redford emptied out of his life's savings to rescue Brad Pitt in Spy Games, the positive resolution of their inner conflicts provided some of the most powerful emotional climaxes in modern cinema. And let's not forget this year's biggest hit, The Dark Knight, in which Batman takes the blame for murder to allow Gotham City to keep its illusion of hope.


Perhaps the culture of make-believe that turns out movies of heroism is incapable of believing in either real heroism or the values that turn ordinary people into heroes. Why else would they persist in churning out so many ideological flops in between traditionalist blockbusters? One almost feels sorry for the creative geniuses that can portray such compelling drama on the screen but seem incapable of applying it to the reality of their lives.


The classical philosopher Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato describes the human condition thus:


And so [man] finds himself truly in the midst of a raging battle, in which all the matters of the material world, whether good or evil, serve as trials for man. Poverty confronts him on the one side and wealth on the other… comfort on the one side, and suffering on the other, until he faces a battlefront before him and behind. But if he will be valiant and prevail against his adversaries on every side, then he will become a Complete Man.


Movies can remind us of the moral battles we face constantly in our own lives between what we know and what we feel, between what is right and what is pleasing, between rising to each new challenge or abdicating struggle for the line of least resistance. We rejoice when silver screen heroes emerge triumphant from their inner struggles, for they remind us that we too can emerge triumphant. But we despair when they fail, for they remind us how easily we too can fall prey to our inner demons.


It's ironic that Hollywood filmmakers can describe the human condition so vividly with so little understanding of it. Perhaps they should watch their own movies - the ones that audiences go to see.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis, MO, where he also writes and lectures. Visit him at http://torahideals.wordpress.com .






© 2009, Rabbi Yonason Goldson