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Monday, June 12, 2006

Pay It Forward

“Pay It Forward” is not a new movie. It was produced in 2001 by Mimi Leder Film. It is based on a novel written by Catherine Ryan Hyde. The three main casts are Kevin Spacey as Eugene Simonet, Helen Hunt as Arlene Mc Kenney, and Haley Joel Osment as Trevor Mc Kenney.

The story starts with a situation in a school on the first day of a new year. Eugene Simonet, a new teacher in the seventh grade, handled Social Studies subject. He gave his students an assignment that would last for a year—during their seventh grade—to do something to make the world a better place to live in. Some questions given to the students before giving that assignment were:


Ø What does the world mean to you?
Ø What is the world?
Ø What if it is just a big disappointment?


Simonet also said, “There is the world out there, whether you want to avoid it, but it is right there on your face. If in fact the world is just a big disappointment to you, take things you don’t like and put them behind your ass. And put one word in your mind: POSSIBILITY! Everything is possible in this world.”


Two main things attracted my attention from this movie. The first is Trevor’s idea to “make the world a better place to live in.” The second is the life of Arlene, Trevor’s mother.


Trevor’s amazing idea is called “Pay It Forward”, as the title of the movie. He proposed an idea of someone to give favor to three people, with one requirement—the one he/she helps must “pay” it back to three other people; and not to the one who had given favor.


Not only were his classmates attracted to Trevor’s idea, his class teacher, Simonet was amazed by it, that he called as “a utopian idea”. Of course it was not easy to do—remembering that people had a tendency to be selfish; Simonet also used an idiom “it is like to walk on water” –somewhat impossible. However, going back to his own word—POSSIBILITY—everything is possible in this world.


To make his idea come true, Trevor gave his first favor to Jerry—a bum—to get a “normal” life—get a job, live in a decent place, eat decent food, etc.


The second person Trevor “tried” to give favor was his own class teacher—Simonet. Trevor tried to match him—a smart, responsible, but lonesome man—with his mother.


The third person Trevor gave favor was his own classmate who suffered from asthma, who was always disturbed by the other bigger and naughty classmates. Trevor tried to protect him from those culprits, a very expensive “effort” coz this led to Trevor’s death by the end of the story.


Now about Arlene. The first thing made me attracted to her was her addiction to alcohol. What made her addicted to it? She felt unhappy coz her husband left her without any notice? To many women, it might be an unbearable thing to be left by their husbands. However, did it really help them forget the main problem?


Arlene had to do it secretly coz Trevor always tried to throw away his mother’s drink. What I saw was that Arlene always tried to show Trevor that “everything was okay”. She didn’t want to admit that indeed she had problems—psychological problems, I assume, with her husband leaving her and Trevor. People tend to show to other people that they are tough without realizing that inside their heart they are miserable.


At last, after one event happened, Arlene talked to Trevor openly that she indeed had problems and asked him to be by her side always, to solve them together. That was a very touching scene.
Meanwhile, Arlene’s husband was also a drinker. One day, he went back to the house where Arlene and Trevor lived, while at that time Arlene and Simonet started to see each other; one thing Trevor wanted. It made Arlene have to choose. Since she was still legally married to him, she chose to break up with Simonet.


One interesting thing in this triangle love to me was the statement by Simonet, “A drinker will always be a drinker. He/she will never change.” Is that so?


Trevor complained that Arlene never paid attention to him when his father was at home. She was busy with the father more than with the kid.


This patriarchal society always put women in an unbearable situation. Arlene accepted her husband back despite his being drunk; despite his beating her. A woman must accept any treatment given by her husband to be considered as a “loyal” and “submissive” wife? A woman must go on with the marriage no matter how badly the husband treats her so that society will label her a “good and obedient wife”?


In Indonesia, a woman who gets divorced must bear uncomfortable “label” by society, such as “easy” woman, “bitch”, a “temptress” of other women’s husbands; etc. An “ideal” world where man and woman get married only once for a lifetime has oppressed women’s lives. The ridiculous thing is that those “bad” labels are only for women; but not to men.


However, this is in Indonesia. I am wondering if Arlene had the same reason why she chose to go on with her drunk husband rather than with Simonet?


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