Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
So it turns out there are actually three outstanding holiday movies--TRUE GRIT, THE KING'S SPEECH, and THE FIGHTER.
True Grit is, as I've said, very ambitious and philosophically pretentious. It makes broad claims about human nature, and it causes us to wonder whether everything we do is, finally, both insignificant and ridiculous. Its characters are sort of epic caricatures or not quite fully fleshed out human beings; they're not quite realistic.
The King's Speech and The Fighter are based on true stories, and the characters are both more modest and more complete. One result is that those two films are both more realistic and more enjoyable than True Grit. They're about families, friends, and a man's dependence on the love of a beautiful and loyal woman. Neither includes even one murder, although The Fighter is, as you might expect, full of violence. (And the gathering storm of world war is the background of The King's Speech.) They are, we might say, less about death and more about love.
The King's Speech and The Fighter have strangely similar heroes. Each of those decent and gutsy family men frees himself from being dragged down by the pathologies of quite dysfunctional families to figure out for himself who is and what he's supposed to do. Neither selfishly liberates himself from his familial responsibilities, though; each ennobles rather than runs away from the place him by birth.
Their backgrounds, of course, are radically different. The fighter grows up in a fairly squalid part of the Irish working-class rust belt; the king admits he knows nothing about such common people. The fighter's greatness depends upon his fearless and savvy use of his exceedingly powerful fists; the king needs all the courage he can muster to gain minimally functional use of his tongue. But both display the greatness that comes from displaying grace in public under pressure.
We actually are reminded that George VI was the last great English king. He proved classy and resolute enough to become a symbol of unified national resistance against Hitler. Kings had been reduced from rulers to actors, but the ruler--Churchill--still admired and was properly deferential to the actor who provided what the people needed.
There's a lot more to say about the fighter's complicated friendship with his crackhead half-brother, and the king's friendship with an actor/Shakespearean psychologist posing as a speech therapist. In both cases, though, the advice of the friend was indispensable, as was the different kind of endlessly supportive friendship of the woman who served the cause of his life's purpose.
Colin Firth has provided us a marvelously nuanced and sensitive portrayal of a real gentleman for the second year in the row. But the two gentlemen--the king and the cultivated gay professor in A Single Man--have quite different virtues and understandings of who they are. Both characters manage to be quite singular and quite credible.
Jeff Bridges also has two consecutive fine holiday performances. But the characters he portrays in Crazy Heart and True Grit are pretty much alike; both are quite memorable in that grizzled sort of way, but neither is quite credible.
These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.
We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.
Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.
For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.
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