Friday, August 13, 2010
The Other Guys
Fanfare for the Common Man...?
When Aaron Copland wrote his 1942 masterpiece, "Fanfare for the Common Man," he probably wasn't thinking about Will Ferrell or Mark Wahlburg, the stars of The Other Guys. But this offbeat buddy-cop comedy, regardless of its sexual innuendos and gunplay, may just be a film that celebrates what Copland was going for.
The premise of The Other Guys is that, while movies are usually made about hot shot police heroes like the ones played by Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson, there is a more interesting story to be told about the people behind the scenes.
In this case, it's Dectectives Allen Gambell (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Wahlburg) - both stuck behind their desks doing paperwork for the "heroes" instead of being out in the field.
Hoitz remains there out of punishment for accidentally firing his weapon at New York Yankee Derek Jeter (and costing the city the World Series). Gambell is there because no one trusts that a bumbling fool like him should be running around New York with a loaded gun (and because his wife, played by Eva Mendes, tells him he should remain safe when he goes off to work each day).
But (spoiler alert) when the hot shot cops (Johnson and Jackson's characters) die in the line of duty, it falls to the other guys in the office to pick up the pieces. This means that Gambell and Hoitz start down a hilarious path toward finding the white collar criminals that have recently caused so much havoc across town.
Behind its comedic premise, though, is a fanfare for everyday people.
Too often, the world concerns itself with the goings-on of the rich and famous. From sports icons to celebrities and from politicians to newsmakers, we seem to care less about our neighbor next door or our colleagues at the office than about the seemingly "important" people out there.
Some might say that everyday people are just not that interesting. The Other Guys begs to differ - especially when we learn the backstory of Gambell and Hoitz (and get a chance to meet Gambell's lovely wife). This shows us that the lives of average, ordinary people just might be more interesting than those of presidents and popes.
This is how God sees us. And this is how we are called to see one another.
In the Scriptures, Jesus does not befriend Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and an important person to know during Jesus' ministry on earth. Instead, Jesus befriends Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza (see Lk. 8:3)... in other words, an average person (a woman no less) in the Galilean world who was married to a court servant.
Jesus also reminded his disciples that "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich and famous to enter the kingdom of God" (Mk. 10:25). He extolled their worthiness (despite their lot in life) by proclaiming to them, "Blessed are you who are poor... hungry... when people hate you" (Lk. 6:20,21,22). He was reminding them that "the other guys" are so incredibly loved by God.
He also reminded them, "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt should lose its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything..." (Mt. 5:13) This is a critical point for average, ordinary folks like us. Yes, we are probably "the other guys," but we shouldn't try all our lives to strive to become the rich and famous... for us we do, we might lose our taste and then we're no longer good for anything.
When Gambell and Hoitz tried to be just like the hot shot "heroes," things went out of control. But when they remained true to who they were - and when they were proud of the simplicity God had given them, they became true heroes.
This movie (especially in the closing credit sequence) also reminds us that it was the rich and famous and the high and powerful in society that caused our economic crisis - while "the other guys" suffered. From the recession to the oil spill to political scandals, the worst things that are happening in our world are mostly brought on by those "important" people.
Sadly, this is a theme that has echoed and been repeated through the ages (think the Crusades, Napoleon, the First World War, to name a few) - and even into our own faith tradition. While Julius Caesar and the emperors of Rome were thought to be the saviors of the European world in the first century, it was actually a simple Mediterranean Jewish peasant from Nazareth who actually saved the world.
Unfortunately, this theme continues into today. But the recognition that "the other guys" are just as important as the high and mighty starts with us.
It is up to the average, ordinary people reading this blog to start concerning ourselves with the other average, ordinary people in our lives. It is up to us to care more about our neighbors, our colleagues, and the other people we meet at the store, at the restaurant, at the movie theatre, at the repair shop, while walking around the city or driving along the highway. It is up to us to focus our attention more towards those kinds of people in our lives rathan than the latest updates about whatever celebrity or newsmaker we're following on Twitter or television.
Changing our world's focus is actually up to us. We are the ones guilty of making the celebrities so powerful. Let us start focusing our eyes on the people right around us because getting to know those people will be more a hundred times more rewarding than anything we see on TMZ.
Two thousand years ago, a group of twelve apostles starting doing just that - caring more about the "other guys" than about Caesar, Pilate, or Herod. And when that happened, look at the great things that followed. Now imagine if twelve hundred, twelve thousand, or twelve million people today starting doing that same exact thing.
That's where miracles can happen.