The last time I wrote on this blog, I was getting ready to move back to Portland and live my life as anything except a second-grade teacher. I had a job lined up in the beer industry so that I could pursue my passion of bringing great beer to people, and I knew things were going to go right for me.
I guess I should have read my own writing more carefully. Even though my time in San José was not easy, life since then has been full of rude awakenings and abrupt transitions. Now, I find myself fully alone and struggling to keep my head above water again, preparing applications and gathering the momentum to write again.
In my quest for inspiration, I somehow stumbled across The Founder.
Even though the film is essentially a single, gigantic advertisement for the most successful fast food chain in American history, the performances put on by the three main characters with controlling interests in McDonald's makes it a compelling piece for me to study right now. Particularly, I become attracted to the character of Ray Kroc.
As the mastermind of McDonald's, Kroc is a character like Gatsby or Kane, purely American by way of his outright dedication to outrageous and heinous actions in the pursuit of glory. Yet, we are likely to "hear [Kroc's] lines quoted by businesspeople and b-school students as inspirational texts, probably because it's more fun to identify with the bastard who gets things done than the people who suffer from his actions" says critic Matt Zoller Seitz. This is a fundamental disconnect I have often wondered and written about.
But I was not as compelled by his later character, the merciless billionaire who is rising gloriously to the epoch of his success. Instead, I loved the character who sat in the dirt, down and out, realizing that his dreams are on the line and he may never, never make it big.
On the brink of failure, Kroc desperate pushes until he breaks. From the ashes, he arises and makes it.
The reason I love this idea so much, of course, is because it reminds me once again that "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" is a lazy, racist myth. Kroc is someone who pushed until he succeeded, but he is also some upper-class white guy who took advantage of other white guys.
Reflecting on my own life, I am rapidly realizing that no matter how desperate my quest for meaningful employment becomes, I must never forget that I am operating as a part of a system that is predisposed to favoring my type of people.
No matter how hard it is for myself or it was for Ray Kroc, I cannot let myself be inspired by simple inspirational rhetoric. To abandon the knowledge of systemic classist and racist systems in order to glorify my own accomplishments even in the darkest times is an indolent fallacy.
So, what did we learn?
- The Founder is a fascinating movie
- I don't want to use unemployment as an excuse to forget my white privilege or stop writing
- Tim Burton is making a live-action Dumbo movie, and folks are already trying to leak pictures of it