Fifteen Minutes of Fame, (Plus Some)

April 25, 2009

Pixar’s The Incredibles is a movie which has had me thinking quite a lot over the past couple of years since I first watched it. Relaxing in my family’s living room, the lights all off, the covers drawn up around me for warmth, my fingers buttery from the popcorn, my mind was racing from the adrenaline rush of action-adventure mayhem. Then suddenly, my mind was racing from something else. The movie features one theme which has always baffled and impressed me: personality hierarchy.

There are several moments throughout the movie that feature characters saying that, either people can be allowed to exercise their true potential, and shine above the rest, or everyone should remain on the same playing field, because then, people’s feeling don’t get hurt. The arch nemesis, Syndrome, as he “monologues” to his once-revered hero, states that “when everyone is super, no one will be.” This is a powerful statement to make, I think.

Sometimes, some people are better than others. And this is okay. He cooks better, she swims faster, and this is okay. We don’t all have to measure up the same in the things we do collectively. Let people have their talents count.

This rant comes from a feeling I’ve had all my life. As a child in elementary and middle school, I used to be on a bowling league. And at the end of every season, the people who ran Ficco’s Bowl-A-Drome would purchase an award statuette for every little-league bowler. Everyone. Everyone got a trophy. Just for participating. So when I finally started getting good, really good, to the point where I started winning trophies that read “Third Place”, “Second Place”, and finally “First Place”, I wasn’t too excited. Why should I have been? I mean, I’ve been getting this dumb plastic things for years. Sure, these newer, bigger ones have a niftier thing on the malleable, metal plaque than “Summer 2008 Participant” engraved on ‘em, but by then, I was jaded. It’s like, even if I don’t do all that well, it’s okay, I’m going to get something. So why bother trying?

I would try anyway, just for the mere satisfaction of doing the best I possibly could. But at the ending ceremony, as I went up to receive my statuette, I would think of how best to dispose of the mockery. In the end, I would just give the damn things to my mother, who got more enjoyment out of them than I ever could.

I’m not saying that people who excel always need gratifications separate from the rest, or gratifications at all. They should always do the best they possibly can, regardless of whether or not they’ll receive glory. But let’s not dish out praise whenever we see an opening. Let’s work for our 15 minutes of fame, and avoid making compliments into trite platitudes.

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