Sunday Matinee #33 Election
Some want to be leaders. Some *are* leaders.
Welcome to R-Rated Movie Club, and thanks for being a subscriber! I can’t thank you enough for being here. Like other polls, today’s is open for one week and then we’ll look at results in two weeks. Please be sure to take it ASAP and be part of the discussion. Thanks, and here it is…
Audience Reaction Poll
Last week, I wrote about a favorite movie, Trading Places. While I’ve seen the R-rated version several times, it’s the “edited for television” version that we taped off TV that is most burned into my memory. It’s so weird watching it with nudity, F-bombs, and more explicit mentions of drugs and sex. I think watching it with my family some day is in our future, but there is part of me who wishes I could have that “edited for television” version. It would make things go more smoothly. Plus, I’m not sure that any of the R-rated content actually makes it a better movie.
On occasion, there have been officially-released PG-13 versions of R-rated movies (Deadpool and The King’s Speech come to mind), but all of these “edited for televison” versions only exist in our minds, the studio archives, and our fuzzy VHS tapes. That includes a lot of movies made for the theater with different footage shot with TV in mind, whether they are R-rated (National Lampoon’s Vacation) or PG (Ghostbusters).
Which makes me wonder, what would happen if studios made these other cuts available? Would that be better? Could it help more audiences find these movies?
Let’s see what you think. Take this month’s poll and let me know! Substack has a new feature that lets a poll stay open forever instead of the previous one-week limit, so in two weeks we’ll talk about the votes as they stand right now. Future readers, keep voting your heart out!
We’ll talk about the poll results right here in two weeks, and thank you.
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Quotes with Notes
Full Text: Matthew 16:13-20 (Revised Common Lectionary)
13th Sunday after Pentecost (August 27, 2023)
Sign up for a free course at EnterTheBible.org to learn more.
Context: This section of Matthew sees Jesus teaching the crowds and leading the disciples in Galilee, the poor northern region. Here, Jesus asks his disciples who people say he is, then asks who they say he is. It’s a moment of determining whether the disciples truly grasp the full picture of what is going on here.
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Election | 1999 Bona Fide Productions, MTV Films, Paramount Pictures | IMDB
Starring Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell
Written by Tom Perrotta (novel), Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor | Directed by Alexander Payne
Context: High school teacher Jim McAllister refuses to face a year of working with presumed leading nominee for student council president, Tracy Flick. The lengths he went to in order to stop her were terrible! Years later, he sees her again and he has to ask himself if it’s all water under the bridge… or not.
Jim McAllister: [narrating] You might ask if I ever saw Tracy Flick again. Well, I did, just once. I was down in Washington for a museum educators conference, and I stayed an extra day to do some sightseeing. After an inspiring morning on the Mall, I was on my way to the Holocaust Museum, when...
[Across the street he spots Tracy gleefully chatting with a member of congress. As she gets into a stretch limousine with him, it freeze-frames on her, all smug.]
Jim McAllister: I'll never know if she saw me. Probably not. But in that moment, all the bad memories, all the things I'd ever wanted to say to her, it all came flooding back. My first impulse was to run over there, pound on her window and demand that she admit she tore down those posters, and lied and cheated her way into winning that election. But instead, I just stood there. And I suddenly realized I wasn't angry at her anymore, I just felt sorry for her. I mean, when I think about my new life and all the exciting things I'm doing, and then I think about what her life must be like... Probably still getting up at five in the morning to pursue her pathetic little dreams. It just makes me sad. I mean, where is she really trying to get to anyway? And what is she doing in that limo? Who the fuck does she think she is?!
[Jim throws his drink at the limo and it splatters across the rear window. The limo screeches to a halt and a man gets out. As he shouts at Jim, the embarrassed teacher runs away.]
There are people who assume they should be given a leadership role. Then there are true leaders.
Jesus is a natural leader. He calls disciples and they follow. He teaches crowds and the listen. He riles up naysayers and they, well, naysay. Which is a word, apparently, because I didn’t get a red squiggly line under it when I typed it. Anyway, there’s no disputing that Jesus is a leader.
Then, he asks his disciples what kind of leader is he to them. Is he just a really nice teacher with really nice things to say? Is he Mr. Charisma, full of charm and infectious likability? Or is he something more? When he asks them who do people say I am, Jesus gives the disciples an “out.” They don’t have to answer for themselves, but just say what they heard others say. This way, if what they say is incorrect, they don’t have to take responsibility for it. People say he’s John the Baptist, but that is a contemporary of Jesus. We have seen them interact together. Others say he is Elijah the prophet, but he is from long ago, and though prophecy says he will return, that’s not correct, either.
Simon Peter gets brave (good for him!) and says, “You are the Messiah.” To be the messiah is to be the one who saves. In that time and place, it’s the emperor who is called “messiah.” Simon Peter is speaking treason. But he is also speaking his heart. He knows Jesus is more than just a nice guy. Jesus is here to save.
In Election, Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) wants to be more than just a nice girl. She wants to save the school by becoming student body president. She’s put in the work for years and years culminating in this election. In fact, it shouldn’t even be an election to her, because it’s a no-brainer; let’s just get this done. But the competition is more challenging than she anticipated. And that’s not just from her fellow student candidates. Or the teacher, Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick) who is over her act.
Her biggest competition is herself. Tracy ends up committing vandalism, lying, and cheating in an attempt to get her way for the election. I won’t tell you if she won, But I will say her efforts to be “messianic” come at a personal cost. Others don’t see her that way. And one has to wonder if she can still see herself that way when she goes to such measures.
In this scene near the end of the film and long after the events of the election, Mr. McAllister almost lets his feelings go, but becomes overwhelmed with a lingering question: “Who the fuck does she think she is?” Maybe he is Tracy’s naysayer. Or, maybe he’s a prophet, calling truth to power. Regardless, it’s a moment that reminds us to not only be mindful of hate in our hearts (when we’re angry, who burns - us or the person we’re angry with?) and to be wary of false messiahs. Especially those who would name themselves as such.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the synoptic gospels (meaning, they have shared sources and synchronicity), Jesus warns the disciples not to tell anyone he is the Messiah. He still has work to do, and if word gets out before that work is completed, well, the work won’t get completed. There’s humility there, as well as practicality. Most of all, there is trust in his disciples. He is saying yes, you are correct. I trust you will understand what this means and we will proceed accordingly.
The last thing Jesus wants is the first thing Tracy Flick does: puts her name on a poster and a big batch of cupcakes meant to bribe everyone in the halls.
Those aren’t the words of a false, self-appointed messiah. That’s the attitude of a true leader.
Have an excellent day Dear Reader. May your life’s journey meet the heart of God in ways you can recognize and that are meaningful. And to today’s preachers, may worship be a blessing for you personally and may your sermon and prayers remind everyone that God loves all people. God’s peace and good movies to you!
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