Jesuits are known for two things: running schools and mind tricks that will blow your mind. (Well, alright, also the Inquisition.)
For example, instead of boring shit like memorizing the periodic table, we were made to watch films and discuss what they meant. And they meant pretty much just one thing: God wants you to be good, but how you live your life is ultimately up to you.
With Honors (1994)
Plot: Brendan Fraser is a bookish Harvard senior who is set to graduate with honors until bum Joe Pesci holds his thesis hostage. In exchange for each day of feeding and letting him crash, Pesci will give him one page of the thesis.
Pesci eventually teaches Fraser that there are things more important than grades. Things like experiences and memories and being a nice guy.
Sample Quote: “To drive free, to love free, to court destruction with taunts, to feed the remainder of life with one hour of fullness and freedom – one brief hour of madness and joy.”
The Lesson: There is more learning outside the classroom. Experience is your best teacher, and the only final grade that will matter is how you lived your life. Also, be kind to bums.
The Lie: Before that, he was a bum whose son hated him. In the end, Pesci died and was mourned only by four college students who will promptly forget him once important things like avoiding homelessness and making something of yourself come up.
Maybe the lesson should have been to go to Harvard and then be nice to bums that you meet. Humor their justification for a life that did not quite go as planned. That sort of thing.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Plot: Robin Williams is an English teacher who shakes up a private school steeped in tradition. He teaches his students to live poetically and to seize the day. Inspired by dead poets, the boys start thinking for themselves, defying authority, and saying “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.”
One guy, for example, acted in a Shakespeare play against his father’s wishes. The spread of communism in America was eventually thwarted with Williams getting fired from the school. As he leaves, his students perform one last act of defiance in his honor by standing on their desks and stuff. None of their lives are changed in the least.
Sample Quote: “Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all.”
The Lesson: Live extraordinary lives. Don’t let other people think for you. Follow your heart. Read the Classics.
The Lie: Remember that kid who was in a play even though his father forbade it? His father transferred him to a military school to keep him focused on getting into medical school. In defiance, the dude killed himself.
It was an existential solution, to be sure. But one must consider that at seventeen, your dreams and ambitions may change constantly. Had he waited just a few more days, the kid may have come around to thinking being a combat medic was a pretty cool job as well.
Also, one has to keep in mind that not everybody is going to buy your dream. It might even be a stupid dream, to be honest.
By some dark magick, the kid was resurrected and became a doctor years later. True story.
Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)
Plot: A truly ugly man with the heart of a champion falls in love with his cousin who is in turn in love with a handsome young cadet with the romance skills of a toadstool.
Cyrano agrees to woo his cousin by posing as the young dude because it is noble to stay in the shadows and help the handsome guy get the girl you love.
The hunk gets the girl but is killed in battle soon after they get married. Sort of like “A Walk to Remember” except instead of leukemia, you have the Spanish army.
Also, Cyrano sticks to his principles and refuses patronage by the powerful Cardinal de Richelieu because he would rather starve to death than be someone’s paid hack.
In the end, he is killed when a log is dropped on his head. Before he dies, he confesses his love for his cousin who has been in mourning for years over the handsome dude.
Sample Quote: “What’s that you say? Hopeless? Why, very well! But a man does not fight merely to win!
No, no. Better to know one fights in vain!”e
The Lesson: As long as you have your principles, you will never truly be a loser. It is noble to do stupid things like letting your rival get the girl. This only proves your love for her.
The Lie: As anyone who has ever been a “bridge” between high school sweethearts knows, there is nothing noble about being too much of a pussy to get the girl yourself. You may think you’re being a good pal, but you’re also half-hoping that the jock fucks up and drives your love sobbing into your arms.
In the movie, the handsome guy died, which would have been a pretty accurate definition of “fucking up.” Cyrano does what was expected of any pussy: he becomes the girl’s friend, reading her the newspaper in the afternoons and doing absolutely nothing.
Also, while principles are nice to have, waving them in people’s faces and reminding them that they don’t have them is pretty bad form. One wonders whether Cyrano got his reputation for being a fierce fighter by pissing everyone off with his holier-than-thou ways and giving him an excuse to duel. Geez, what an asshole.