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buddhism - The Not-So-Secret Buddhist Themes in American...

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The Not-So-Secret Buddhist Themes in American Cinema In our society, we tend to absorb media without thinking. Much of our media tends to be mindless, and designed to be consumed without requiring to spend too much time thinking about it. Occasionally, however, there are films that can truly evoke critical thought, and draw parallels to things we know nothing about, and make us think about subjects we normally never would. There are films that challenge our views of the world around us, while showing us the alternative. Two examples of this are the films “I Heart Huckabees” and “Fight Club”. Western audiences rarely view films with a mindset outside of the Judeo-Christian norm, but these two films have very strong Buddhist themes. While they may not appear that way (especially Fight Club, with its sometimes over-the-top violence), much of the film perfectly explains Buddhism and its core values almost perfectly. Both films are basic primers in the basic tenets of Buddhism. They do an excellent job of explaining the foundations of it, while doing it in a way that western audiences can easily absorb and comprehend. The first, and most obvious one is the basic theme of “oneness”. In I Heart Huckabees, the main character, Albert, is a young activist who can’t seem to get anything done. He leads his empty life attempting to save the environment, but just ends up falling short time and time again. Likewise, in Fight Club, The Narrator is very similar. He leads a boring, empty life as an accident inspector for a large automotive company, and feels his life is very empty. As the films progress, they both begin to meet characters that couldn’t be more different from them. In I Heart Huckabees, Albert becomes obsessed with a young African man he keeps running into. He also meets Brad, a rich, spoiled executive, and Tommy, a firefighter. All of these characters, at their introduction, are wildly different from each other. Yet
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as the film progresses, they begin to realize they’re not so different at all. They all go through the same suffering in life, and they all are connected. Some characters, like Brad, don’t come to this realization until tragedy occurs, such as losing his job and home, in a somewhat tragic end. Albert finds a connection with Brad, who is arch-nemesis throughout the film, and realizes his ultimate lesson: compassion. After Brad loses everything, only then do they realize they are not different at all. Brad suffers through his life, just like Albert does throughout the entire film. The man that has antagonized him the entire film is no different from him.
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