One of my recent favourite movies has to be The Martian, a sci-fi film about an astronaut’s solo attempt to stay alive on Mars after being assumed dead during a dust storm.
An group of astronauts are on the mission to explore Mars. A sudden dust storm attack separated botanist Mark Watney with the rest. Presumed dead, the crew returns back to Earth without him. He wakes up after the disaster, alone.
While gathering any possible resources to increase his food stock, Watney has to find a way to contact NASA for assistance. He begins his journey on the vast and unfamiliar land to find a way home.
The themes of the movies are
Man Against Nature (survival)
Triumph Over Adversity (perseverance)
These concepts recur during the following scenes:
Watney constructs a potato farm to increase food supply.
He manages to contact NASA with an old abandoned probe.
Crops are destroyed from an accidental explosion, cutting off his only food supply
China offers help with its booster, Taiyang Shen, when NASA’s supply probe exploded from the lack of preparation.
Crew is determined to return back to Mars for Watney despite risking their life.
Another film that holds the similar theme of Triumph Over Adversity is The Maze Runner. The story, too, is set in an extreme environment that pushes characters’ limits to overcome disasters. Thomas arrives to a glade where a young boy, food supply and weapons are sent over every month. Outside the glade lays a maze infested with nocturnal Grievers (spider-like creatures) who are eventually the driving forces behind the boys’ journey to escape the trapped world.
The Martian would be a better projection of the theme Triumph Over Adversity for its prominence of a character trying to overcome multiple hurdles as the story progresses. Both movies can easily put characters into their survival instincts in their dangerously atypical world. Martin allows audience to grasp the theme with just one character (Mark Watney), while Maze Runner concurrently offers complexity of relationships between multiple characters. As such, The Martian is more direct in conveying the idea of human perseverance.
I decided to touch on social inequality in the context of the current Singapore we’re living in right now. It can never be devastating as compared to the book (thankfully), but social stigmas will always be present. How honest are we to be inclusive in our society?
From my personal experiences, I realized how humans tend to categorise and classify ourselves to fit in a certain persona. We feel more included when we recognize as the same trait. Here is my list of relevant fictional and non-fictional characters portrayed as such:
Literature or fictional characters:
To Kill a Mockingbird – Atticus Finch, a lawyer who defended a black man who was accused of raping a woman in the town. He is also stern father of two, instilling righteous moral values to his children throughout the story.
>>Relates to me because: I tend to be interested in the topics of social differences and sometimes feel the need to reach out and help the underprivileged.
The Breakfast Club – Allison Reynolds is a quiet girl with weird habits. She decided to join the weekend detention where she meets other 4 students with very different personality traits. The character gradually becomes comfortable in her own skin as she acknowledges and accepts her flaws.
>>Relates to me because: Like Allison, I identify myself as an introvert in a group of friend. We feel uncomfortable to share our opinions in a new environment, but gradually open up as time goes. I used to contain myself to making friends who share similar background with me. Enlarging my social circle made me realized that it’s okay to be different 🙂
The Black Hen (Kalo Pothi) – During the ceasefire in Northern Nepal, Prakash struggles to find back his sister who joined the Maoist army. He travels out of his village to search for the black hen (gift from his sister) that was sold away by his father. He is convinced that by getting back the hen would encourage his sister to return home.
>>Inspires me because: Prakash’s devotion to protect his family is incredible, knowing that he’s only 12. When he tries his best to gather (or even steal) money to buy back the hen, it resonates with my desire to help ease my family finance.
Wolf of the Wall Street – Jordan Belfort is a wealthy stockbroker who built his company in the Wall Street through the world of fraud and corruption. His success is shown through many trial and errors with perseverance, which allowed him to open his own firm – Stratton Oakmont.
>>Inspires me because: Belfort’s ambitious character in thriving towards his goal, to build wealth in his case. Courage to believe in myself is a thing that I am still coping with.
12 Years A Slave – Solomon Northup was kidnapped by mistake to serve as a slave in the 1800s. After 12 gruelling years working at a cotton plantation, he was finally freed.
>>Inspires me because: He did not give himself up in the 12 years of slavery, working hard to make sure he survives from the abusive owner. Based on the true story, the real Northup became active member of the Abolitionist movement to end slavery. I believe that standing up to my own beliefs would help me to stay rooted to who I am.
Jim Carrey – As a child, he had to quit school and worked as a janitor with his family.
Stephen King – At 16, he struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. He eventually quits when it almost took over and ruined his career as a writer.
Jay-Z – He started selling cracks on the streets as a teen. Those tough years later inspired some of his rap songs.
Oprah Winfrey – The philanthropist hosted The Oprah Winfrey Show that rises the awareness self-improvement, LGBT community and helping the underprivileged families.
Keeping Up with the Kardashians – In stark contrast, KUWTK is a reality show that documents the super rich Kardashians family everyday lives. This part of the current pop culture reflects honestly of the privileged group of the social class.
>>Inspires me because: They highlight the fact that everybody has to start from somewhere. It doesn’t matter how and where you begin, as long as you work hard.
People I know and known of:
My parents who moved to Singapore to work and eventually settle down with little saving.
A Malaysian friend who travels up to 4 hours per day to study in Singapore
Children from ABCs and Rice, a Cambodian school that provides students with free education and food.
A Karang Guni from my neighbourhood working for 30 years.
Living Amid Graves and Bones: The Philippines’ Cemetery Slums – documentary about one of the poorest community in the Philippines
>>Inspires me because: They work hard to be who they are now/ to provide the best comfort they could have for their loved ones. Also, these people remind me to be humble and grateful as I work towards my goals in life.
The idea sprouted from the book To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a modern American literature which talks about social injustice in the 1930s. In a small town called Maycomb, a black man (Tom Robinson) was accused of raping a white woman. The lawyer who defended him was scrutinized by the residents for siding a negro. The book discussed income disparity and racism which were rampant social issues during the 20th century.
I decided to go with the character Atticus Finch, a lawyer who stood up for the defendant Tom Robinson. He is a righteous and loving man, someone who sees equality in everyone – including farmers and domestic helpers who are of lower social class.
The monologue is an excerpt from Atticus’ emotional speech when he attempts to defend Tom in the court:
I thought of this to be an intimate and genuine speech, an encouragement empowered with clips of people with different lives we may relate to.
The title ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a metaphor as to destroy one’s innocence and purity. They are represented as the green nature. Also, it is a common space for everyone to enjoy, an equality of all humankind should own.
The last clip was filmed during my trip to Cambodia. The students would recite motivational songs every day before school ends, as the school hopes to instil confidence in them to work hard and build a brighter future. One of them is a song called I Know I can by Nas:
I know I can
Be what I wanna be
If I work hard at it
I'll be where I wanna be
I know I can, I know I can
Be what I wanna be, be what I wanna be
If I work hard at it
I'll be where I wanna be, I'll be where I wanna be