Point 1: You are special; you are a child of God.
“Don’t just feel special; be special”
These are the final six words of the movie “Get a Job” (2016), featuring Anna Kendrick and Miles Teller. Let me tell you, this was adding insult to injury after enduring the 83 minutes leading up to this moment. Two college grads and their buddies are navigating the complicated world of post-graduation. Let it suffice for me to explain that this movie was an exhausting romp through every piece of anti-millennial propaganda you’ve ever heard from those Facebook posts that you can’t help but click on.
But back to feeling special.
What the hell is wrong with feeling special? Every time I hear someone sneer about Millennials “thinking they are special”, it hurts my heart.
You are special! You are a child of God. You do not have to earn your specialness.
Matthew 10: 29-31 “What is the price of two sparrows–one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”
Psalm 139: 13 “You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made.”
The culmination of one young stoner-teacher-coach’s journey of self-discovery is his epic rant on the horrors of passing out participation trophies to his young basketball team after a losing season.
“Trophies mean something because you earned them,” he states. I don’t disagree. Of course it is ridiculous to award a shiny plastic trophy for a losing basketball season. It’s cheap junk that will have very little value to anyone in the long run.
But I’m going to contend that that’s not really the point. One might think that only the winning team should get a trophy. It might follow to assume that the only “special” team is the one that wins. Enter the “winning is not the most important thing; it’s the only thing” mindset.
The problem is, one’s level of specialness should not be determined by the number of trophies displayed on your book shelf.
Our parents and grandparent’s generations have built our society on the idea that success is most tangibly measured in trophies earned through achievement in the office, on the field, or in the classroom. But then, they complain that because they gave us too many “free” trophies as kids, we are somehow already convinced of our own “specialness” without any “real” success.
Well for heaven’s sake, if that’s actually true, then good!
What I mean is that if we have truly developed high self-worth and contentment without needing to beat other people in the competition of life, then we have won.
For the past 3 years, I have coached many young people, especially middle schoolers. It has been my experience that the most talented athletes are not looking to stand out. They are most craving connection, not glory. They are looking for the experience of doing battle on the track alongside their teammates.
Do we like winning? Of course. There would be little point to most sports if no victor was determined. But we need to rid ourselves of the fear that if “everyone’s a winner”, then the act of actually winning is devalued… because the act of actually winning SHOULD be devalued a few notches.
In the culture of past generations, life has few “winners”.
I think that the Millennials are pushing back on that. There are so many ways to “win” in life that have nothing to do with beating others.
We don’t need fewer trophies. Actually, we don’t need any trophies. Trophies are representative of a generation before our time.
Do you know what hearing “you don’t deserve a trophy because you didn’t win” feels like to me? It feels like an older generation looking down on us and attempting to convince us to be sucked into their outdated values by what they presume to be the thrill of earning a shining trophy.
By devaluing the trophy, are we not setting the stage for teaching the value of character over victory? Are we not ushering in a time when more people can participate and glean life skills from the practice of athletics?
We play sports to develop our bodies and minds. We play sports to make friends and forge connections and make memories. We play sports to learn to deal with failure and disappointment and to learn to be humble in victory and to learn to work with those around us. We play sports to strive for greatness and learn to work hard, regardless of the scoreboard. We play sports to better ourselves.
Romans 5:3-5 – “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
And if we are successful at that, then why can’t we all be “winners”?
We just need coaches, teachers, and mentors who understand the character-building potential of sports. We need coaches who understand that being special is not something we earn. We must earn our character traits like kindness and strength and integrity, but we do not have to earn our inherent worth (specialness) as human beings.
Colossians 3:12-15 – “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
Point 2: Underlying sexism proves that this movie is out of touch with Millennials
There is a wildly successful stock broker who calls Millennials a “pussy generation”, throws a sandwich at his young employee for apologizing, and still somehow manages to create the most cohesive and happy work environment. Actually, his signature move is to haze new employees into drink “deer scent”. This is very gross, of course, but more importantly, there are some serious homophobic undertones. It implies that the absolute lowest thing this “freshman” can do is to swallow semen: as if it’s ok (and actually positive and uplifting) to force other people to do humiliating things for the in-group’s pleasure. As if it wouldn’t be rape-y if they made a woman do it, but since it’s “just” a man, then it’s ok. Thank God they successfully kept women out of this office, right? #equality.
There is also a crazy, manipulative female boss who fires almost everyone in a coup d’état of sorts, but promotes the protagonist to “Vice President” shortly before whispering “I own you” seductively in his ear. Also notably unfired is the sex-crazed young secretary who is quite obviously a lover of another male executive. She seems to serve no purpose or have no role in the movie other than to make “funny” sexual comments. Back to the boss: She hints at her power, telling the protagonist that she will make sure he never gets a job anywhere in the city again. He retorts by publically airing a sex tape that she filmed with the same male executive who flirts with the younger employee.
Viewers are left with the impression that instead of her ruining his career, he managed to ruin hers. The most horrific part? As he walks out the door, he high fives the smirking male executive who co-starred in her sex tape. They might as well have said, “lol. Us good ol’ boys need to stick together to make sure women stay sexualized and powerless. And luckily, we’re totally exempt from the shame of sexuality that still comes with being female”.
Every woman in this movie was vapid and over sexualized. There’s a real problem with female characters in the movie using sexuality as their only way to be taken seriously. For example, the protagonist’s girlfriend comes parading out of her bathroom modeling lingerie and black Prada shoes. Turns out, she spent $700 on these shoes so that people will “take her seriously” at work. The only woman who gives the protagonist real advice is a stripper who is literally giving him a lap dance as she talks to him. As if full frontal nudity gives the males permission to focus on her for long enough for her to get through to them.
This movie suggests that we women have to choose a side: either be defined by our sexuality or completely deny it. But the danger doesn’t end there; if we’re not sexual enough or if we’re too sexual, we’re done. So here we are, hovering on the margins on one side or the other of a dangerous chasm located where we might otherwise be able to relax into a balanced, healthy sexuality. This treacherous terrain isn’t a reality for men. In fact, the male characters’ actions in movies such as this one serve to dig this hole deeper and deeper. Maybe this wouldn’t be so much of a reality anymore if movies like this one didn’t continue to normalize the male characters’ behavior.
Here are the messages I got from this movie about what Millennials should believe:
- In order to be special, you must win
- As a woman, you must use your sexuality to get men to listen to you
- Women should not be in leadership, because their sexuality will take them down
- Work hard and move up the latter; apologizing to those who you use as stepping rungs is unnecessary
Here are the messages that I believe real Millennials would actually buy into:
- The real winners are those who develop authenticity, integrity, and social awareness
- Teamwork makes the dream work
- Bigotry is not a good leadership quality
- Sexuality is normal and healthy and should not define you
I have a feeling Donald Trump would endorse this movie. Also, it has only 5% on rotten tomatoes even though it has Anna Kendrick in it, so… That’s awkward, because she’s a Jennifer Lawrence-level badass.
Do better, screen writers.