Tonight I put on one of my all-time favorite movies, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” As I settled in to thoroughly enjoy it for the umpteenth time, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What is the appeal of this movie? Why is it a classic when, when it first debuted, critics almost universally panned it?”
It’s been played hundreds if not thousands of times on the big screen, network television, cable television, VCR, DVD, and BlueRay. And I’ve bought into it in every form. When I was a kid and there were only three networks available (ABC, CBS, and NBC) I scheduled my months around its showing. When cable television expanded to include more than a half-dozen stations, I scheduled my month around it. When VCR conquered BETA MAX in the early 1980’s, I bought the VCR Cassette (un-Godly priced, and in all its edited-to-fit-your-screen-and-for-family-friendly-viewing-format), but then I could watch it when I wanted –which I did, over and over again. When my best friend confessed that he had not seen it (along with “Little Big Man”) I almost choked and MADE him go to the theater (they were playing in a double-billing, which REALLY shows my age) to watch it.
So why does this film resonate with so many? (Okay, I won’t include others in this post, although the film’s popularity and universal recognition as a classic kind of does that for me.)
Sure, Paul Newman and Robert Redford star in it. They are, arguably, the best looking actors of their generation –and two of the best at their craft. But I think the reasons go far beyond that.
The reason is unconditional love.
Now, the term “unconditional” is bandied about quite a bit lately, but how many can honestly…truly…say that it’s true? One can say they love their mate “unconditionally,” but what happens if the spouse reveals a string of infidelities that simply boggle the mind?
“Unconditionally” quickly becomes, “Well, I meant that, but I never thought it would reach this point.”
Sure, there may be those who will immediately go towards the homo-erotic thing in regards to the film, but I don’t think that’s the case here.
I think what the film portrays, to an extent very few films do, is the connection between two people that transcends sex, love, and even mutual passion. It’s about two people who connect on an intellectual/belief/soul level: Who accept themselves and appreciate each other for who they are, unconditionally –two people who instinctively know and understand what the other brings to the relationship, and who (perhaps, subconsciously) appreciate those qualities without judgment.
Yes, the characters nag each other and even make reference to each other as “being an old lady.” But how else to explain the (almost) sharing of one woman? How else to explain the devotion to each other even as other members of their gang are killed and/or dispersed? How else to explain their mutual agreement to flee the U.S. and head for Bolivia? How else to explain their shared sense of humor, sense of displacement, and sense of inevitability? How else to explain two individuals who know their death is imminent, but are able to accept it –and even joke about it—as long as they’re together?
How many have known or even slightly experienced a relationship like that?
It’s the stuff of legend. It’s the stuff of Hollywood. It simply cannot happen in real life.
But wouldn’t it be cool if it could?
*If you’ve not yet viewed “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (and shame on you if you haven’t), it’s available on DVD, BluRay, Netflix, et.al.*
*And if you enjoyed the film and love character driven stories, make sure to check out “Blackthorn,” a (somewhat) sequel to the Butch Cassidy legend starring Sam Shepherd*
I was thinking the other day of the differences in how I was raised and the way my wife and I raised our own daughters.
Times have changed.
We didn’t fall for that approach that many parents our age fell for, the “Love and Logic” thing. I have nothing against the phrase, but it seems that many young parents took it to mean there should be no boundaries put on their kids’ behavior. Supposedly, whatever problems the kid caused or trouble they got into could be discussed with them and their bad behavior pointed out be reasoning with them and demonstrating the logic behind the reasoning. I just don’t see how that flies with a two-year-old. Little Johnny probably hears, “Johnny, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Okay Johnny?” all the while wondering if he can have ice cream or not.
I’m all for explaining to the child what types of behavior are unacceptable, but rather than get into the reasoning behind it being unacceptable, I think it’s more important to let them know the consequences of bad behavior. Kids aren’t stupid. They can figure out the reasoning on their own pretty easily.
But this approach too, is quite a bit different than the parental approaches that were used when I was a kid. I’m not going to pass judgment on the overall approach to parenting in the 1960’s and ‘70’s (Horror of horrors! They spanked kids!), but in thinking back, I do wish I would have met that approach –and other aspects of growing up—in different ways. Like a lot of things, I broke it down by thinking what I could have done or said differently. And so we come to my list.
10 Things I wish I Would Have Said More Often as a Kid:
1. “I know you are, but what am I?”
This sounds childish, I know, but the idea behind it is an epiphany that took far too long for me to have. There are those people who will try to tear you down in order to build themselves up. As a kid I didn’t recognize this, especially when it came to adults (yes, adults do it to kids too). I thought I deserved tearing down. Now I know that there are a lot of assholes in this world and any attempt to tear me down is a reflection of their own problems and issues. It really has nothing to do with me.
2. “You’re being very rude (insert adult’s name here).”
I was raised to respect my elders. I was told they knew more and were wiser because they had lived longer and experienced more. It took me far too long to realize that a lot of my elders were, and are, full of crap. And age isn’t an instant qualifier for respect. Whether you’re an adult or a kid, you have to earn it. Of course, I also realize that calling an adult on their rude behavior back then would most likely have been met with a knock alongside the head. But I could have tried.
3. “I can do that. No problem.”
As a little kid I wish I would have said this more often because I was often told what I wasn’t capable of doing some things. I was either too dumb, too uncoordinated, or simply too young.
That only instilled a decided lack of confidence in my own abilities and talents.
As a teenager, I wish I would have said it more, because I’d be asked to do some minor chore and I would whine, bitch, and moan about having to do it. And that was so unfair to my mom. I should have just jumped up and said, “I can do that. No problem.” She deserved it.
4. “Just because I’m young it doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
This ties back with the “I can do that. No problem.” thing. I actually learned things, formulated considered, valid opinions, and could express those opinions articulately. But I was often shut down because I was “too young” to possibly know what I was talking about.
5. “Yeah, so I enjoy writing. So what?”
As a kid, writing was kind of a double-edged sword. I had a couple of great teachers who were supportive and excited about my creative writing. On the other hand, I had some who were close to me who didn’t understand it or even thought it was a little weird. If I could go back I’d say, “So what? It’s who I am.”
6. “Nah. Thanks. I think I’ll take a pass.”
Peer pressure as a teen. I could find plenty of stupid things to do on my own. I really shouldn’t have allowed others to cajole me into doing more. ‘Nuff said.
7. “To be honest, I’m pretty uncomfortable right now.”
This kind of goes with #6, but also relates to how shy I was around girls. I often didn’t know what to say to them. I felt awkward and uncomfortable and, in looking back, those feelings often caused me to behave in ways that could simply be viewed as asshole-ish. Of course, there were a few times when I deliberately acted asshole-ish, but those are other stories. If I had been open and honest about my shyness, I’m sure who I was with would have relaxed and would have helped me relax and get past that awkwardness.
8. “I’m rubber and you’re glue. What you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.”
9. “I really have no idea what I’m doing right now.”
There were a few times as a kid when I was in way over my head. I look back now and realize I should have admitted that instead of trying to bluff and bluster my way through. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and pain and I probably could have saved many others the same.
10. “I love you.”
This simply didn’t happen in our house when I was growing up. Openly verbalizing your love was waaaay awkward. It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I finally began telling my mother I loved her, but I still didn’t say it enough. It wasn’t until my dad became ill with cancer that I finally got up the backbone to tell him I loved him. And it was awkward. But I didn’t care. He hemmed and hawed a bit, but didn’t say it back. Later on he did.
If you feel it, say it. Who knows how many opportunities you’ll have? Out of five of us kids I’m down to one brother and one sister. We say it to each other now. Sometimes kiddingly, but we know we mean it.
You can learn as you grow up, but how cool would it have been if I had only understood so many of these things when I was younger?
I probably could have conquered the world. Or at least many of my own doubts and fears.
Just observing, sometimes remembering, often shaking my head, then writing.