How the movie Roadhouse continues to shape my views
1989 was a great year for film. I was ten years old and only beginning my education as a future cinephile. The year produced some of my favorite movies, many of which still hold-up to this day, in my humble opinion: Field of Dreams, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Do the Right Thing, Parenthood, Christmas Vacation, Dead Poets Society, the original Batman and The Little Mermaid, to name a few. Sure, there are some problematic themes in many films we look back on with fondness, but nostalgia is a strong force and many of the lessons I learned from these pictures still impact me to this day.
Like me, did you learn to ‘seize the day’ and embrace creativity from the passionate speech by the late, great Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society? How about the touching moments of Parenthood when Steve Martin realizes that he can’t control every aspect of his life and that it is, indeed, a roller coaster rather than a carousel? Ray Liotta’s description of baseball in Field of Dreams touches something so deep inside me that I can recite the lines verbatim, yet still cry every time.
Of course, not all movies impact us so deeply. I do not have a particular take-away or life lesson from Batman, but I recall with vivid detail the day that my dad took me to the movie theatre in Grants Pass, Oregon to see it on opening day. It was a great experience, one that I have never forgotten, and it was a movie that solidified that precious memory for me. And every holiday season, the non-stop showing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation warms me during the bleak months as I chuckle while continuing to find the humor in Chevy Chases’ personal brand of slapstick humor, a bit of levity during some dark and dreary months.
Movies can transport us, they teach us, they distract and entertain us. Occasionally, they implant an idea within our brains that years and years later, we still hold dear. And, in some instances, they shape the way we view the world. A great movie can alter the very way you see yourself and can elicit changes in the way we think and act. This is the magic that lies in film.
On the other end of the spectrum from magical, life-changing films sits the guilty pleasure pictures that you typically feel embarrassed to admit to liking. You know the one – we ALL have one. It can be a movie you saw as a child that transports you back to an innocent and carefree time (did I mention that 1989’s Batman also had a kickass soundtrack heavy with Prince jams?) or they can remind you of a special person or time in your life (eating Kraft mac n’ cheese with my grandmother while watching my first scary movie).
Campy horror movies became a passion of mine when I learned that my grandma secretly loved them and shared that little tidbit with me when I was a child. I remember spending a long weekend with my grandparents and being so lonesome and scared, unused to their home and extended time away from my parents and sister. But she shared her little guilty pleasure with me, a secret just for us, and after grandpa went to bed, we sat together on the davenport watching ordinary garden slugs torment an unwitting town. Her handcrafted afghan pulled up over my eyes to protect me from the gore while she served to lighten the mood with her giggles. Another moment, another feeling, locked in time by the magic of movies.
Low-budget horror movies will hold a special place in my heart thanks to my grandma. But MY very most cherished guilty pleasure movie? Roadhouse.
I told you 1989 was a great year for movies! This little gem got zero acclaim and rightfully so. It is over-acted, poorly written, cheesy beyond belief, inappropriate and vulgar on several levels and so terribly dated it makes The Macarena seem timely. Simply put, the cringe factor with this movie is off the charts. And I absolutely friggin’ love it to pieces.
Why is any of this relevant? Maybe it isn’t. Maybe this is just a story about how much I love movies and maybe you’re a sucker for reading this far.
Maybe, just maybe, movies can offer a glimpse into a deeper level of yourself that we often overlook, choosing instead to analyze our emotions and question our motivations through self-help books and therapy.
What if movies reveal much more about us than we give them credit for? When you meet a new friend or go on a first date, aren’t one of the questions you ask about favorite flics? And don’t we secretly judge others based on those seemingly unimportant tastes? We bond when we find a shared passion for movies. We feel understood and seen by someone that leans to our own preferred genres. Like gravitates to like - we even hold conventions around shared movie interests. Look at the decade’s long passion for Star Trek or Star Wars and tell me that the films we like (or loathe) have no bearing on our deeper thoughts and motivations.
IT IS SO MUCH DEEPER THAN THE MOVIE
The idea I posit is this; can our love/hate movie list expose our deeper selves? It isn’t always about the movie, but what the movie revealed about ourselves.
How could a movie like Roadhouse come to be one of my very favorites while I am acutely aware of what a travesty to the arts it is? What is it that keeps me going back every time I see it playing on cable? What does this campy B-movie reveal about me?...
I am a hopeless romantic optimist. Buried under my outer layer of cynical humor beats the heart of a true idealist and Roadhouse touches upon that deeply hidden part of me.
In a pivotal scene where Patrick Swayze takes control of the new bar that he is tasked with improving, he monologues about the necessity of ‘niceness’. It is simple, understated and cheesy – yet sums up one of my most clearly defined views of life: BE NICE.
Rather black and white in concept, there is a beauty to this statement that I recognize as appealing to my simplistic and naive view of the world. Ultimately, the character Dalton, is espousing the roles of cooler/bouncer in the bar and, despite any resistance from others, preaching to always be nice. This dovetails nicely into my personal motto of Do All Things with Kindness but is not something expected from an ultra-violent movie with full-frontal nudity. The juxtaposition is marvelous! My long-held belief that we should always be nice and kind to others has served me well in life and I like to see that same sentiment reflected elsewhere – even bad movies.
I AM STILL LEARNING
It wasn’t until my 40’s that I caught onto another sentiment in Roadhouse that I wanted to incorporate into my personal life philosophy. In the same scene, Dalton utters a line that I somehow never absorbed or chose to apply to my schema; UNTIL IT IS TIME TO NOT BE NICE. Again, the simple wisdom! The yin to the yang, the next step in my personal evolution.
I am always nice. So nice. Nice to the extent of getting walked on at times and building resentments. Well, thank you Mr. Swayze, for helping me recognize that there is a TIME for nice. I do not have to be nice all the time and I do not have to be nice to the detriment of my own mental health. I can BE NICE – UNTIL IT IS TIME TO NOT BE NICE.
Perfecting the balance is proving difficult. I still subscribe to some pre-feminism notions that I need to “be a good girl” and that entails being nice all the time. I recognize that women have long been instructed to “be nice” to keep them docile and quiet, opinions or behaviors that makes others uncomfortable are not “nice” and therefore, bad. I have lived under the false assumption entrenched by society that if you aren’t “nice”, you are a “bitch”. I have been holding back out of niceness when I could be living a more balanced and genuine existence?! It is in this realization that a movie has, and continues, to shape my view of self and the world I live in.
Pretty heavy takeaway from a movie about a bar, right? Once again, I give you the magic of movies!
What are some of your favorite films and, upon introspection, what do they say about you?