i spent a couple of hours last week watching a few classic movies on youtube (God bless youtube!). it started out as a bit of marlon brando stalking because…well…lemme show you…
i rest my case.
anyway, what started out as marlon brando stalking turned out into a brief obsession with classic movies and i ended up watching “a streetcar named desire” (highly disturbing), “on the waterfront” (brando won his first oscar for this one) and sidney poitier in “guess who’s coming to dinner“. “casablanca” is loading in another browser window as i type.
in case you thought denzel washington was the first african-american to win an oscar for best actor, that honour actually belongs to mr.poitier, for 1963’s “lilies of the field“. i’ve never really watched any of his movies. i’ve only heard of him through academy award shows and oprah. i know that the one movie i did watch wasn’t his best, but it was great all the same and it showed just how charismatic he is both on and off screen. lovely stuff.
there was a scene in the movie where poitier’s character, dr.prentice, confronts his father when the latter voiced his disapproval at his son’s impending marriage to a caucasian girl. what followed was a speech that would definitely be the nightmare of any father in the world…
“you listen to me! you say you don’t want to tell me how to live my life? what do you think you’ve been doing? you tell me what rights i’ve got or haven’t got, and what I owe to you for what you’ve done for me.
let me tell you something. i owe you nothing. if you carried that bag a million miles, you did what you were supposed to do…because you brought me into this world and from that day you owed me everything you could ever do for me, like i will owe my son, if i ever have another.
but you don’t own me. you can’t tell me when or where i’m out of line, or try to get me to live my life according to your rules. you don’t even know what i am, dad. you don’t know who i am, how i feel, what i think. and if i tried to explain it the rest of your life, you would never understand.
you are years older than i am. you and your whole lousy generation believes the way it was for you is the way it’s got to be! and not until your whole generation has lain down and died will the deadweight of you be off our backs! you understand? you’ve got to get off my back!
dad. you’re my father. i’m your son. i love you. i always have and i always will. but you think of yourself as a colored man. i think of myself…as a man.“
i can only imagine what would happen if i pitched that to my parents!
there are a couple of points raised in this short excerpt from the movie. first – it is a parent’s obligation to care for his or her children. i would agree that it’s morally correct to do so, it’s one’s responsibility to do so, but an obligation? if it were an obligation, there would be no choice for someone but to raise a child and yet children, infants, newborns continue to be abandoned, abused, neglected every day. no, it’s not an obligation. it’s a choice.
so i don’t agree with dr.prentice on this one. his father chose to give him the very best he could. therefore his father had every right to offer advice and expect him to obey because, well, he owes his mailman dad much more than he could ever repay. at least some respect is in order. i kind of find his charming, eloquent speech rather offensive at some points.
second – our parents’ generation expects us to think the same way and adopt their values unquestioningly. i have to admit that there are times i’ve felt that my parents are like this. work hard for the family. others above self. don’t get fooled by the liberal westerners who are egoistic and hedonistic. it’s true that the only reason i have such a great life now is because my parents saved every penny they could and are still saving every penny eventhough the need to has diminished the moment my sister started working and i became indebted to malaysian taxpayers. they frown at people who take gap years to travel and teach mongolian kids english…things i’ve seen people do and emerge from it all with no regrets.
anyway, this part of the movie really stuck with me last week. on one hand, i agree that i am my own person and the times i live in now are very different yet somewhat similar to the times my parents are used to. however, they have proven time and again that their extra 40 years of experience have contributed to their wisdom and since i am a child that they chose to keep and raise the best they can…i do owe them respect and obedience.
as for whether i’ll consider marrying someone of a different ethnicity or cultural background even if it means enduring the rubbish some members of society will doubtlessly throw at me? probably. but i know for sure that i will spare my parents the heartbreak of hearing the dr.prentice speech. i don’t have that kind of insolent confidence!