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
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
Two examples of this are the films “I Heart Huckabees” and “Fight Club”.
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
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.
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
All of these characters, at their introduction, are wildly different from each other.