Monday, November 24, 2008
Equal But Better
One thing I think about all the time is that scene from The Breakfast Club where the nerdy guy, played by Anthony Michael Hall, confronts the snobby girl, played by Molly Ringwald, with the question of what's going to happen Monday morning.
You may remember that having started out as archetypes from different cliques and teenage modes, they spend that Saturday coming to some kind of shared understanding and fellow feeling.
At that particular point in the movie, the mood is one of "Different, But Equal": they've all realized they have their own problems in life, and they're starting to think none of them is really better than any other of them, that there are just different ways of life and all of them are difficult. But at that point, there's still no sharing. Not yet. It's more like, "Oh, we are all trapped in our own bubble-lives!"
And then the nerd drops his bombshell by asking the snob about Monday. He challenges her to say she'll talk to him on Monday morning, and of course, she can't really say she will, 'cause her princessy friends will castrate her if she does something so uncool and so ridiculous.
She makes some lame half-assed attempt to explain—as least as I remember it, after all these years—and then the nerdy guy says something like, "Well, I guess my friends and I really are better people than your friends and you. We would never hesitate to talk to you. But you won't talk to us. So you're snobs."
And he's right. Sure, there are different ways of life and all of them are difficult. But some ways of life are better than others—not more fun but actually morally superior.
Talk of "cultural relativism" or "moral relativism" always gets people wound up in both directions but when I hear those words I always think about Anthony Michael Hall, 'cause it seems to me his view sums up how everyone feels when they reflect on their own ways of life.
Sure, there are different ways of doing things. If you want to do things your way, I ain't gonna stop you. But my way, the way I do things? It's actually better.
So it's not really "Different, But Equal," but more "Equal, But Better." Which doesn't make any sense, logically, but that doesn't seem to really get in anyone's way.