Every semester I put “Easter Eggs” in my syllabus. These are extra credit opportunities one can find ONLY when reading through the syllabus carefully. This semester I asked students to answer the following question: “What was a movie that made a big emotional impact on you?” This easter egg was embedded in a unit on the Paradox of Fiction. Two students took up my challenge and provided two very different answers. You can find their submissions below:

Shelley Duvall in The Shining

“I avoided watching Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining for years as a promise to a friend, who insisted I watched it for the first time with him. However, last semester I took a film class that required me to watch it. I knew nothing about the plot, and in fact, only knew about the abuse Shelley Duvall was put through on set at the hands of Stanley Kubrick. I knew various scenes containing Duvall were essentially not made up of acting but of real fear. When I finally had to watch it, my blood ran hot the entire time, I couldn’t believe how angry I actually was. Throughout my viewing, I was deeply put off by the fact that I could not distinguish which scenes were made up of acting and which were made up of documented abuse. I wasn’t angry at the fiction, but the reality behind it.”  -Pau

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a film that tackles responsibility as the main character, Gilbert, asserts little agency of his own as he battles between responsibility to his mentally disabled little brother, his failing local grocery store, his morbidly obese mother, his married lover, and a new girl which seems to understand and care for him. He bears it all with a strong character but they all collectively overwhelm him, he hits his little brother in a fit of anger after he ruins a cake, he is seen by his boss at the competing mega store buying a new cake, essentially betraying him, runs away scaring her mother by reminding her of his father, his lover that he no longer wants to be with sees him with a younger girl, and the new girl can leave as anytime as soon as her mother’s car is repaired.  It’s tragic because Gilbert doesn’t ask or bring on any of these conditions, he reminds me a lot of my own obligations to my family, friends, girlfriend, school, future career, and the decisions that I have made and will most likely have to make that jeopardizes one over the other. But in the way Gilbert does what feels he must do, trying his best to not hurt the ones around him and do what he feels that he must do, he expresses a kind of freedom, the freedom of your choice feeling like a duty, as there is no other way to move through your life but this. And in this freedom, he recovers what he can from his life and shares it with those around him through his love. The emotional pain along the way is unavoidable but also helps us with the decisions we have to make. This film teaches that in a way that is honest and asks for our deeper emotional reflection on the nature of responsibility through identification with Gilbert.” – Jonathan