What Haunts the Birdman Often Haunts Us Too

imagesThe last in my short series on Oscar-nominate films. Based on the number of nominations, Birdman is likely to come away a winner on Sunday night.

It was for this reason (its popularity with the Academy) and the fact I like to see as many of the Best Picture nominees as possible, I went to see this film though I knew nothing about it.

I recruited a few friends, who knew even less than I did, to go see it with me. And let me just say at least two of them probably won’t let me be in charge of picking the movie next time.

With its fragmented plot lines, an overabundance of foul language and the main character’s strange alter ego and ability to levitate, we were often left confused. Not to mention dizzy from the always changing camera angle. But, the message behind the film doesn’t escape me and for that I think it raises an issue we all must wrestle with.

Unknown-1In the show Michael Keaton (nominated for Best Actor in Leading Role) plays Riggan Thomson, a Hollywood actor once famous for his role in the super hero series, Birdman. Since that time however Thomson has lost his fame, and now feels unworthy and on the verge of suicide because of it. He is constantly haunted by the inner voice of his former Birdman character who pesters him with thoughts of who he used to be and how he isn’t measuring up to all he should be.

In an effort to regain his importance and the limelight, Thomson is preparing for Opening Night of a new Broadway production in which he is both directing and starring. Through the backstage interaction between the characters, including Thomson’s daughter played by Emma Stone (nominated for Best Actress in Supporting Role), we see Thomson is not the only one struggling with wanting to be “Somebody.”

Don’t we all want to feel like we are making a difference? That we matter? That we are relevant?

This to me is the heart behind the show. But the sad commentary is both in the show and in real life, our own self-importance and pride often blinds us into falsely believing this is where our identity lies.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a difference, God created us with purpose, different callings, talents and passions to find enjoyment in.  But, when we tie our identity to our performances, positions, paycheck, successes, failures or anything else as a barameter of who we are, we are turning to created things and not the Creator for our worth.

When this is the case we become enslaved by our own misguided “truths” and how we think others view us according to the expectations and standards we set. And if others don’t see us in the way we think they should, we fall into the trap of needing to try harder and do more in order to secure the self-exhaltation we seek. 

In the movie this describes Riggan Thomson. His too high opinion of himself led to depression because others didn’t view him in the way he desired and felt he deserved. He had an insatiable appetite to know he was okay.Unknown-1

How different life would have been for him and other charcters in the film and maybe for us, too, though if we knew and rested in who God declares us to be. That we are more than okay, but cherished and loved and significant. So significant, in fact, that God sent his Son to the cross so that all of His children could know Him eternally.

When we grasp that our identity is secure, not based on our performance, but on his perfect love and obedience for us, we won’t have to strive to be “Somebody.” Instead we can be free of ourselves and redirect our desire to make a difference on striving to impact others, for their good and the glory of God!

Did you miss the other posts in this years Oscar series? You can view them at: Shaping Influences in “Boyhood” and Into the Woods for Happily Ever After.

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