Friday, August 1, 2014

Pop Culture that Restores Your Faith in Humanity

Sorry for the click-bait-like title, but it perfectly encapsulates the post’s topic. This morning, The A. V. Club featured anarticle on feel-good entertainment where they asked their staff, “What’s your favorite entertainment based on people making the world a better place, talking down the villains instead of shutting them up with a bullet, making firm sacrifices for the welfare of others, seeing the world as half-full rather than half-empty, etc.?” The answers ranged from Adventure Time to Mystery Science Theater 3000 to Groundhog Day, and reading them, I was struck by how diverse the list and how each person explained his or her choice. This also made me think about my own pop culture choices for when I need a little moral uplift. While I admit that much of the entertainment I will consume when I’m down comes in the form of books, there are also some movies and YouTube clips that (almost) always cheer me up. Below, in no particular order, are some of my favorites (several of the works mentioned in The A. V. Club article would be here, but I wanted to bring something new to the table).

Hairspray (the movie musical) – While I miss the snark and over-the-top humor found in the stage musical, the earnestness of the movie version make this a great reminder that acting on one’s convictions can help change the world (or, at the very least, integrate a local teenage dance program). Also, how can you be blue after hearing Shaiman and Wittman’s infectious songs?

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Winnie the Pooh – I adore Winnie the Pooh in almost any of his forms (except for the shows that involved enormous puppets and computer-generated animation). Both the original feature-length film, which was cobbled together from a series of shorts, and the 2011 sequel of sorts provide some life-affirming lessons in the gentlest and kindest way possible. For all of the mild (if amusing) adventures the characters have, the central idea for both movies is that friendship is important and that sacrifice for friends is worthwhile. Not bad lessons for a bear of little brain.

Anytime Mr. Rogers was being awesome – There are so many examples of this, but some of my favorites are his 1999 induction into theTelevision Hall of Fame and his 1969 testimony in front of the United StatesSenate in support of funding for public broadcasting. If you need more examples of how he was just an all-around great person (and someone to aspire to be like), check out Mental Floss’s 35 Facts about Mr. Rogers video and this article on his kindness and humanity.

The Princess Bride – In a world where happy endings are scarce and where good doesn’t always triumph, this modern fairy tale provides an alternative universe where fathers are avenged, miracles happen, and true love conquers all. All of this sentiment is balanced with a wry wit, making this the ultimate film version of comfort food.

What pop culture helps restore your faith in humanity? Please feel free to leave your comments below – I’d love to hear your ideas!