Thoughts on "He's Just Not That Into You"

In young adulthood's answer to classic high school movies like Dazed and Confused, Mean Girls, and myriad others, He's Just Not That Into You follows the lives of several stunningly attractive people as they try to navigate the choppy waters of life and love. No real person's life is as full of attractive people as this movie's set. We're talking Jennifer Anniston, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Connelly, Bradley Cooper, Scarlett Johansson, and...ok, Justin Long isn't THAT attractive. But still, we're talking the '27 Yankees of current acting hotties. Brad Pitt COULDN'T have been in this movie, or the camera lenses might have spontaneously combusted. In any event, it's actually pretty well done, although we're asked to believe that, of all of the above actors, Long is the slick womanizer. Hmm....

But the point of the post is one of the subplots. In fact, the only plots are subplots. One of the plots, then. Jennifer Anniston and Ben Affleck are a long-time couple. They live together (and have for seven years), are in love, but Affleck doesn't believe in marriage. Anniston thinks that that's ok with her, but through a series of events, realizes that it's not ok. She ends up putting an ultimatum to Affleck: Marry me or get out. Affleck, put on the spot, gets out. He gets so far out, in fact, that he goes to live on a boat. All the better to give him the "wind-swept hottie" look. In any event, Anniston's father has a heart attack, and her brothers-in-law (her sisters are all married) prove to be no help at all. Just as Anniston is about to break down, Affleck shows up again, unrequested, to help with the dishes. This tiny gesture means everything. Anniston tells Affleck that he's more of a husband to her without the ring that her sister's bozos are for them.

And that's when it happens. Affleck moves back in, and quite a touching scene, proposes to Anniston. Freed of the obligation to marry, Affleck feels moved to do the thing that Anniston always wanted. This happens in real life, too. When you feel the pressure to do something, the desire to do it fades. Freed from that pressure, the desire can thrive. Christianity is like this. When we feel the pressure, i.e. "What would Jesus do?," we become afraid and stressed. When the pressure is removed, i.e. "Jesus came to save sinners," the "what would Jesus do?" stuff starts to happen naturally. The homeless we felt guilty about not feeding get fed. The prisoners we felt guilty about not visiting get visited. The "good works" we never felt like we could do, by the grace of God, get done.

Thoughts on ANTZ and Individuality

The 1999 film ANTZ was Dreamworks' entry into the computer animation market. They tried to get in on the market created by Pixar, but couldn't equal the quality, neither of animation nor of storytelling. In any event, ANTZ is the story of Z (Woody Allen), a worker ant who isn't happy with his lot in life. He's frustrated with the mentality of the colony, that any single ant isn't important, it is only the colony that is important. General Mandible (Gene Hackman doing his best Crimson Tide), plans to "save" the colony by destroying the worker ants completely, leaving the soldier ants alone and in charge.

ANTZ is a hymn to individualism. When Z tells the worker ants to stop digging (they've been tricked into digging a tunnel that will open into a river, flooding the colony), they respond, "On whose authority?" He says, "On YOUR authority! Think for yourselves!"

Christianity these days seems to be caught in a netherworld between the supposed rugged individualism of evangelicalism: "It's just me and my relationship to my God", and the supposed hive-mind communism (in the non Red-scare sense!) of the "emergent" church: "We discover God only in our discoveries about each other." It seems that there is Scriptural warrant for staying away from either extreme. When the rich young man asks what he must do to inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:16), he is asking a very individualistic question. Jesus responds with a thing he must do. So, eternal life is to be inherited by individuals. Indeed, God knows the individual hairs on our heads, does he not (Psalm 139)? Yet, Paul cautions that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). In other words, let's not get carried away by individualism, let's focus on the things that make us all the same: Our need for a savior.

Z decides, in the end, that to save the colony he needs to be true to himself. ANTZ seems to come to the conclusion that both indiviualism and communism are necessary. We can learn from each other. We seem to need to learn from each other. We don't feel fully human without each other. Maybe that's ANTZ's best insight, transposed from ant to human: We don't feel completely human when we're lone rangers. However, it's our complete humanity from which we so desperately need saving!

Indeed, it seems fitting to close this post by quoting Elwood Blues: "And remember, people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there're still some things that makes us all the same. You. Me. Them. Everybody. Everybody." (The Blues Brothers, 1980) Elwood goes on to sing, "Everybody needs somebody." Amen. Somebody to love us.