As promised, more feeling-inducing pop culture. This time, however, I’ve tackled a different beast.
The Inspirational: Pop Culture for Kicking Ass and Setting the World Straight
I do, in fact, do more than just wallow, and lately I’ve found myself reading books & watching clips that give me a different kind of feels. I like to dub them “Miracle moments.” You know what I’m talking about: you’re sitting on the couch, eating rice cakes crumbs off your sweatpants and channel flipping, and all of a sudden the Miracle speech comes on and you find yourself yelling along with Herb Brooks “Tonight we skate with them. Tonight we stay with them, and we shut them down!”
Obviously Miracle is the greatest inspirational movie of all time so there’s no point even debating that. But there are smaller Miracle moments, more honest & personal, that get me fired up in all kinds of different ways.
I woke up like this, I woke up like this
We flawless, ladies tell ‘em
Say I look so good tonight
A week doesn’t go by that I don’t power sing along to this, sneering into the mirror that I do look so good tonight. This song is the fire. Beyonce dropped her album like it was nothing at midnight on a Friday, finally giving us the anthem we deserve. On “Flawless” she growls with confidence as she warns us to bow down. I beseech you to give yourself over to this song, and let it carry you on a wave of feels.
I was lucky enough to go to the On The Run tour just after my breakup, and it might have been the best possible therapy there was. For me, “Flawless” was the best moment of the night. The flashing Feminist lights we came to know and love at the VMAs. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie laying down the law about what it is to be a feminist. And Bey, standing there, holding it down and imploring us to post up, flawless.
And let’s never forget that I been preaching the gospel of Bey, long before she was rocking the feminist sign in public.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
“We should be able to say, ‘This is my truth,’ and have that truth stand without a hundred clamoring voices shouting, giving the impression that multiple truths cannot coexist.”
I’ve been making my way through Bad Feminist, reading Gay’s fabulous book of essays slowly as I blast through fiction left and right. This is the kind of book I wish would make it onto high school reading lists. Is it the best of the best when it comes to writing? Not quite, and there are some parts where Gay’s redundancy shouts over the important ideas she’s sharing. But what she’s saying is important, and the writing thoughtful.
Gay has a lot to say about what it is to be a feminist, a woman of color, a large woman, a child of immigrants, and a queer-identifying woman. But some of her most compelling moments come when she reminds us, and herself, that it’s okay to fail. I count myself among the titular “bad feminists” of the world, and the reminder of multiple truths and acceptable failures is one I could use from time to time.
“B” by Sarah Kay (as seen in her TED Talk “If I should have a daughter”)
“I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass-bottom boat, to look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind, because that’s the way my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this. There’ll be days like this, my momma said.”
If you’ve ever needed the inspiration to write something truly wonderful, look no further than spoken word poet Sarah Kay. I was introduced to Kay by a TED Talk (bear with me), which she opens with “B.” She packs the joy, laughter, heartbreak and fear of both growing up female and raising a (hypothetical) daughter into just a few minutes. It’s worth a few minutes of your time just to allow yourself to be taken away by her storytelling.
And because I can’t stop at one quote from Kay: “She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.” If nothing else, she’s my inspiration in knowing that some other kick ass ladies out there “get it,” whatever that means.
Watch her here.
“This is our fucking city”
As I found myself poring through the mental archives of inspirational movies I’ve watched recently, I struggled to find any that resonated as clearly as the aforementioned songs & snippets, or made me want to kick ass and change the world. I kept coming back to sports movies–I had recently watched A League of Their Own, Billy Elliot, and, of course, Miracle. But what can come across as artificial and manipulative in sports movies is exactly what inspires and connects people in actual sports.
Last spring as Boston was trying to find a semblance of normalcy in the aftermath of the Marathon bombing, David Ortiz took to the field and uttered those five unforgettable words. “This is our fucking city.” A beloved player defending a beloved city in the wake of something it was impossible to make sense of.
There is something about sports as a binding agent that gives them the power to inspire, either by way of victory on the field or in moments of terrible sadness. Now is this strictly a sports moment? No. Neither was three nights earlier the crowd taking over singing the National Anthem for Rene Rancourt at the first post-marathon Bruins game. These moments inspire, invoke some sort of visceral feeling, but aren’t truly about the sports. But then again, neither is Miracle.