The first movie I went to see in 2015 was “Annie”. I figured it would be good to start the year off with a fresh take on a classic film. I had heard all the hoopla about the problems with having the lead played by anyone who was not a red head with blue eyes, let alone someone with brown skin. Don’t get me wrong I’m often given to nostalgia, and I’m one for creating and upholding traditions, so how would this work with Annie? Could I embrace a non-traditional Annie?
I found that I was actually intrigued at the thought of seeing a different Annie, while simultaneously recalling all the joyful memories of the Annie from my childhood. So why were some people so bent out of shape about this? Is this really about being true to something, and if so, what is the something? Were people bent out of shape because they missed their childhood friend? Do they know that Annie was a fictitious character? Would their disdain also be extended to actual historical inaccuracies? Actual historical inaccuracies in movies like “The Exodus”, a film set in ancient Egypt, which boasts very few people of color amongst its stars.
I think this creates a great moment for reflection. As the world’s many diverse cultures continue to overlap, our ability to embrace other cultures will have to increase also.
Is this whole Annie thing about an inability, or a refusal to receive a positive message due to a distaste for the messenger? Annie is a fictional character and if that’s the case, then Annie is actually neither black nor white. She is whoever chooses to bring her character to life. The problem is not in the actor’s ability to convey the message or embody the spirit of the writer’s character but in our ability to embrace the actor.
I decided to turn to my faith which is based on a Christ who was known for his wide embrace. Jesus welcomed with open arms many who were unpalatable by the masses. In fact it’s his big heartedness and open mindedness that believers are called to emulate. It is interesting to contrast the width of Jesus’s embrace with the narrowness of our own embrace.
If we struggle to embrace a new Annie where else may we draw the line? If there is no room for a new Annie on the screen where else may difference not be welcomed? Will your heaven have limited seating as well? Our ability to embrace others runs parallel with our ability to be concerned about others. The image of the Good Samaritan comes to mind. This man was lauded simply for his ability to move in compassion toward another human being.
What compelled him to move toward the man who had been beaten? It was his ability to connect to him as a person and to identify with his situation.
If we struggle to embrace this new Annie we may also struggle to see ourselves in her, and if we struggle to see ourselves in her, we may struggle to move in her direction. And ultimately, when human beings are unable to move in one another’s direction the world grows infinitely colder and we are all diminished.
There is another possible side to this; the person who struggles to embrace a new Annie may be trying to hold on to something that seems to keep trying to slip through their fingers. Maybe losing the traditional Annie feels like the last vestiges of a time gone by being lost forever.
The world is changing and moving so fast it’s hard to find something to hold on to, and we all need something to hold on to. Maybe it was evenings sitting down with family hearing Annie’s voice through the radio. Or, maybe it was watching her dance and trying to recreate each move with childhood friends.
A new Annie is a reminder that those days are all passed. But there’s a funny thing about memories, they have a way of growing stronger as the days go by. Perhaps the new Annie could be a reminder of old memories or, better, a source of brand new memories. And what if those new memories were the beginning of a new you?