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Harold and Maude

Harold and Maude - Glazer 1 Jay Glazer CTCS 190 Patty Ahn...

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Glazer 1 Jay Glazer CTCS 190 Patty Ahn December 3, 2007 Essay #2 If You Want to Be Free, Be Free In Harold and Maude, Maude says, “Vice, Virtue. It's best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you’re bound to live life fully.” Both Harold and Maude and Rushmore arrive at similar conclusions about living life fully. They are modernist and postmodernist films, respectively. Although postmodernism is a distinct period, it shares much in common with modernism, and thus can be seen as an extension of modernism. Much of the theme and form of modernism in Harold and Maude is used in Rushmore , as well. Both of these films can be classified as dark comedies because of how they use serious content matter to create irony and humor. Harold and Maude and Rushmore use the genre of dark comedy to existentially reject traditional societal expectations in terms of what it means to live a meaningful and joyful life. The protagonists in the films reject the traditional world in which they were born, and their respective journeys serve to discover alternate paths towards happiness. Dark comedy is a genre that illustrates, “dark, sarcastic, humorous, or sardonic stories that help us examine otherwise ignored darker serious, pessimistic subjects” (Dirks). In the case of Rushmore and Harold and Maude , the central theme is existentialism; what it is to live a full life. Both Max Fischer and Harold Chasen do not fit in with the worlds in which they live. They lack any friends of their own age, and they seek the affection of significantly older women: for Max, an elementary school teacher who he quickly befriends; for Harold, the septuagenarian Maude. What makes both films
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Glazer 2 successful in their ability to effectively convey serious subject matter is the blend of humor and tragedy. Dark comedy is able to do this because “In the cosmic scheme of things, we always have had greater reason to weep than to laugh. Faced with adversity or cataclysm, or cruelty, we mourn our losses, nurse our wounds, and huddle together in darkness. Then somebody slips on a banana peel and falls on his posterior” (Sennett 1). Utilizing the basic human desires to both laugh and cry, the films seamlessly engage with themes like suicide, the loss of loved ones, and loneliness. Harold and Max undergo similar existential journeys in which they discover their place in society; they learn that happiness comes from embracing life, rather than trying to conform to narrow societal expectations. Harold and Max come from very different backgrounds, yet they ultimately form similar conclusions about life. Harold is a morbid twenty-year-old man born into great wealth, and he has an obsession with death. He spends much of his time plotting elaborate mock suicides—simply to offend his overprotective and overbearing mother.
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