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Suzanne Fields
Suzanne Fields
18 Jul 2014
Living History at Ground Zero

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4 Jul 2014
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We once believed that successful politicians made sacrifices for us, that when they chose public service it … Read More.

A Magical Tale of a Boy, a Bible and a Gun in Texas


Social conservatives feel betrayed by the popular culture, and why not? If Hollywood depicts someone with a gun or a Bible, he's a figure of ridicule, entitled to say with Rodney Dangerfield: "I don't get no respect." (But Rodney's was an act, and he got paid for it.)

The coastal "sophisticates" mock the rubes, as in an episode on "True Blood," the HBO series with werewolves, vampires and theocratic bloodsuckers, which depicts two rich Republican stereotypes at a Ted Cruz fundraiser at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas where a massacre follows. What fun.

Relief is at hand.

The new movie "Boyhood" gets to the heart and kidney level of experience, shunning the superficial overlay of cultural and political divides, moving instead to authentic love and affection in intimate family relationships that transmit family values from the inside out. A scene with a boy, a Bible and a gun becomes an understated milestone of growing up.

You could call this approach Tolstoy in Texas style, where unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, but share moments and episodes of happiness in their own way, too. Glib doesn't live here.

Movie director Richard Linklater, born in Houston and bred in East Texas where the Deep South begins to give way to the West, delivers a refreshingly different kind of story in his wonderful new movie set among his people and the places they live. He tells how he resents the way his people are portrayed as hicks and rubes, simplistic in the extreme. He reverses the course.

In a particularly touching scene, Mason, the protagonist played by Ellar Coltrane, celebrates his 15th birthday with his loving grandparents. The older country people give the boy his first Bible, with his name engraved on the cover and the words of Christ printed in red ink inside. He gets his first gun, ready for shooting the tin cans his grandfather throws in the air. The scene is shot lovingly, without judgment, reflecting love and the enduring rites of passage across the generations.

Linklater remembers a similar experience at 13 in his own life, which he calls his "redneck bar mitzvah." His grandmother gave him a Bible, too, because "she cared about my soul." He tells The Washington Post how his grandfather gave him the gun, that his father had given him, marking his passage to manhood.

"They were sweet people," he says.

"Boyhood" was shot in real time, focusing on Mason as he marked the years from 6 to 18. His parents and his sister are portrayed in the same real time, and everyone ages, though the movie was shot from a script. It's a drama portraying real, live moments caught perfectly in the flux of time.

Polarization is the name of the game now in America, particularly in Washington with its fierce partisan fights over the social issues. That's not where most of us spend most of our time. Linklater reckons that many people grow up like he did, even if not in Texas, but with sensibilities of right and wrong similar to those he absorbed in shades of gray with occasional splotches of color, testimony to infinite variety — some good, some not so good.

"Boyhood" is a coming-of-age of a boy, but it's the story of a family, too. In the heat of their youthful discovery of sex, his mother and father conceived a daughter and a son, but how each parent met the responsibility of raising the children changed them, too. This is generational change with more empathy than anger, more warmth than rebellion.

We get realistic insights into the lopsided challenges of divorce. Mason's single mother assumes the heavy lifting both at home and at work, while his single father is the jolly paternal playmate on weekends. The responsibilities are uneven, but so are the satisfactions. In a revelatory moment, after Mason's high school graduation, the father tells his mother what a good job of raising him she has done. The moment is neither sentimental nor a feminist rhetorical device, but a sensitive recognition of the differences in nurture and nature. In middle age his father becomes the man that Mason's mother had wanted him to be when he arrived on the scene in a flashy Pontiac GTO. He drives a minivan with his second family.

This is social politics told across the generations, up close and personal. Richard Linklater calls it a shame that the liberals dismissed the affections and loyalty of Southern white people over "the cultural divide of religion and guns." Bridging the divide requires "a little bit of understanding." He offers more than a little bit in "Boyhood."

Write to Suzanne Fields at: Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's "Paradise Lost." To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators webpage at



1 Comments | Post Comment
Ma'am;... Have you ever noticed how well guns, guts and glory go together with the old testament God of wrath and retribution??? Why it fits so poorly with the new personal relationship God of mercy and forgiveness brought to us by Jesus is another of those mysteries not made for the minds of mankind... I have a book on Saint Paul who was that singular individual most responsible for the rise and romanizing of Christianity... It said there was no difference between the wrath of God and God's love, that his wrath for sinners was his love for his own, the two sides of the same thing...
Ma'am; there is as much madness as mindset in the religion and guns of the South and the West... It is clear they have their own opinions from which they will not be swayed, but if it comes to your rights they are entirely prepared to use the force they would reject as useful for themselves... It has been so often said as to become trite: Kill them all, and let God sort them out... Their religion is nuerosis, if you can believe Freud, but they are more and more pushed into religion as their other social form fail them and fall about their ears...Once upon a time Freud thought it possible for reason to become what religion was for so many, but then, people would have to face their neurosis individually, and we already have too much of that... People recognize that St. Paul was a unique individual in a time that created quite few individual; but his life grew out of conflict in Judea just as did the life of Jesus...Now; the individual is an accepted part of every view of society, though it was not always so... What St. Paul took for granted, what all primitive people took for granted in a more limited sense was the solidarity of human kind from Adam to Jesus till this generation... Primitive Christians once made public confession and thought we would all be saved or condemned as a community, and primitive law and practice reflected this same pattern of thought... Now we have the individual, the legal individual, the philosophy of the individual, and the outlaw...Still we buy off the rack, one size fitzall in politics, religion and economy...To the extent that people really do conceive of themselves as individuals they suffer loneliness in the extreme... They cannot grasp what close knit, heel to toe, incredibly chummy and affectionate were our primitive conditions...They cannot see in the promise of agonizing lonliness the value of the individual, so they go huddle about in church... The sense of power that should attend every aspect of a moral life is limited in Christians to telling the immoral what to do based upon a majority... Even out of the majority the church people refuse to follow any law not of their liking, though not one will volunteer to give up their representation in government...
The problem as I see it is not simply the mass nuerosis of the religious... As much as is possible they want to sabotage the ability of the rational to live in a rational world... No rational person is telling the religious to be immoral, but they are telling everyone with threat of violence and coercion to follow their morality though it is defective...Violence is inside the kid gloves of the religious... Their lives are not any better than our, but we are not trying to mess with their lives and rights... They simply conceive the limit of their power as limiting of our rights...The religious never conceive of democracy as the means for them to achieve social justice, and in fact they very often deny that power to democracy... If we object to the destruction of our rights under the cover of a privilage granted by us to them in the full exercise of our rights, then we are sinners and they redouble their efforts against us...When they say their rights are God given, that means they owe us nothing, no taxes, no respect, and no thank you for the defense of them...
It is impossible to live with these religious people, and it is stupid to suffer their influence in government and in law making...We only have these two essential choices in our universal nuerosis: We can deny our loneliness and powerlessness and sublimate all our freedom into the authority of a powerful God; or we can admit our powerlessness before nature and fate, and cling to the extensive power of an honorable, knowledgable, and sympathetic life...
Ma'am... Without meaning to go off on you; clearly what happened to the father in this story may happen to the son... People do not grow up until they must, and the fact is that women usually grow up long before the boys because they must... I am not trying to say that women are always right and men always wrong, but I will say women are usually more moral and structured by reality... It would be nice if the republicans were more like women, and show the common sense women so often do...
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Jul 26, 2014 5:49 AM
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