YoaHTs: “Thing” #70 – “Buddy Movies”

Ever wonder why we LOVE buddy movies? I didn’t, until today. I mean, I knew that I was one of billions that will rush to see a good buddy movie. I’ve always known that they’re a gold mine for Hollywood. But I never really thought about why they draw the public over and over. However, today, while watching a promo for the new Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart film, Central Intelligence, it occurred to me that something important has been lost on us. 

Buddy movies are entirely formulaic, requiring very little intellectual investment. They are predictable, and generally full of sophomoric, slapstick humor. Yet, we go in droves and Holywood keeps churning them out, year after year. Full disclosure: I can’t wait to see this one. 

Obviously, our need for humor is an important factor, but I believe it is more profound than that. In fact, I believe the answer is so deeply rooted in our DNA that we should truly understand it. 

Every day life should be a buddy movie

The core theme in every single buddy movie is that opposites can learn to be friends, and in the face of a challenge, even teammates. It’s that simple. Two people, who approach a problem from completely different perspectives, still have the same goal: to solve the damned problem. In the beginning, they don’t understand one another. Hell, most of the time, they really don’t like each other. But by the end of the film, they have struggled together and that recognition, that common experience, destroys the bar that keeps them apart. 

It seems like such a simple thing, doesn’t it? But the one thing that complicates it is that many don’t seem to recognize what the common goal is. It doesn’t matter where you begin. It matters where you choose to go. 

I was in Dallas last week. From the safety of my hotel room, I watched news casts as the events unfolded. I saw solidarity as the police protected and supported the protestors. I saw people of every race protecting children together. I saw a sudden, innate, collective  reaction to keep people safe in the face of a terrifying experience. 

People became buddies. All of a sudden, people forgot they had differences. They shared the same need to be safe. Hundreds of different people became buddies.

It can be done, but in order to do it, we have to be honest about the problems that have brought us here, to this place in history. Everyone has to be intellectually honest. Neither side of every conflict can remain intractable. Neither can dig their heels in and say “we don’t have to understand,” because that is patently not true. The “other side” means the middle is at arm’s length. If everyone simply reached out, think of how much stronger the bonds could be. 

Year of a Hundred Things – “Thing” #92 – Humor

I still remember feeling it break. The pain shot through my chest as though at once all my ribs had cracked. It was the last 30 seconds of the video, a clip of my dad taking my brother’s hand, and laughing about some now lost but undoubtedly sarcastic remark as he said, “Goodbye, son.” Donny Hathaway’s “I Can See Clearly Now” played as the clip slowed and faded into the last image in the video. I felt it break a little more. He was finally in a place where laughing was all he’d ever do, and while I was sure that only my ribs kept my heart from coming apart, I found peace knowing that humor would save me. 

My father loved to laugh. In fact, he is the only grown man I’ve known that could watch cartoons all day. And he was funny. His entire face participated when he told his family stories, especially those involving his cousin Steve. They were two boys who should never have been left unsupervised. For the last half of my father’s life, he suffered through numerous health problems and a lot of pain, but he laughed at whatever he could. And he taught us that humor heals. 

So, in the days that followed his passing, and even now, seven years later, we laugh with him, retelling his stories. My sister and brother are so very much like him in their ability to shake off life’s challenges and find mirth in everything. I’ve spent years trying to emulate them, and I think I’ve finally gotten close. 

The old song says, “Laugh, when your heart is aching.” It is a prescription I highly recommend. 

Daddy, this one’s for you.