As an avid movie buff from childhood, I’ve spent countless hours plopped in front of a television absorbing “information.” As a younger man, it’s not easy to distinguish the lessons you’re supposed to take away from a film from the superimposed Hollywood ” everything-works-out-for-the-good-guys” message.
But I was one of the good ones. My moral compass was always close at hand, and I knew wrong from right. I watched Goodfellas and knew that following Henry Hill into a life of glamorized crime and making Joe Pesci’s acquaintance wasn’t a solid life plan. I saw The Shawshank Redemption and felt my heart swell watching Andy Dufresne find salvation in a 1940s American prison, but knew that befriending criminals swearing oaths of innocence was a poor judgment call as well. Having said that, my life could have surely benefited from a Morgan Freeman voiceover for poignancy.
One of the great things about falling in love with cinema at such an early age is that I’ve been afforded the time to see many incredible movies that captivated my heart and mesmerized my adolescent mind. One of the downsides to this, of course, was that eleven-year-olds don’t tend to keep up on the latest art-house buzz or Oscar season.
And though I would consider myself to be an aficionado in late 20th century Hollywood culture (perhaps an arrogant or overzealous claim, but modesty was never my strongest suit), I have been faced over and over again with a puzzled look from friends and acquaintances when they asked me about my favorite movie. In spite of all the classics I’ve been afforded the opportunity to enjoy, I still maintain that my favorite is Mike Judge’s 1999 cult hit Office Space.
For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, allow me to briefly summarize the plot: a man, growing weary of his 9-to-5 cubicle job, gives life a brand new approach after something strange happens at his occupational hypnotherapist one evening.
That’s as detailed as I can get without giving away any additional plot details, though this isn’t saying that the film is anything even remotely resembling a cerebral or complex narrative. But, in all the years I’ve been binge-watching this movie, I am always captivated and mildly inspired by the layperson’s eternal desire to lay down his tools and move forward in his or her life. I exist in simple awe of the bravery of a fictional character, defying his responsibilities and becoming the person he has always wished to be.
The only qualm I have with this film, which didn’t reveal itself until I later became a full-time worker, was its Hollywood “everything works out” ending.
Life doesn’t always favor the fortunate or true of heart. We face opposition in our daily personal and professional interactions, and we grow as people as we learn to navigate our lives through the detours ahead.
This was a powerful set of contradictory lessons to be taught from such an early age. But, here’s the important moral I’ve carried with me since my first viewing of Office Space all those years ago.
And I’m talking to you, recent graduates and fellow twenty-somethings traversing the complex web of finding their place in the ever-expanding world.
We are defined and fulfilled not by the title we hold, but by the life we live outside of that job. The sooner we come to accept this, the happier I feel we’ll be as a generation.
Watch “Office Space” this evening. Put yourself in the protagonist’s shoes. Laugh with him, and think carefully about what you would do with your life if you never had to work another day of your life.
And if you aren’t already? Start doing it today.