Silence of the Lambs and Me

I know, I know, you are all sick of Oprah and reluctant to read yet another self-exploratory something-or-other. I realize that Oprah sometimes seems to consume me, and that I seem to feel a compulsion to pass this obsession on to my readers. But this one is different. Did anyone see Oprah’s two-hour special on Anthony Robbins’ seminar, Unleashing the Power Within? It ended with her walking across burning coals. Three days of “how you can be your best self in two hours.” Not bad.


I had to drive five hours today, which called for a book on tape. I stopped at Barnes and Noble to see what they had from Robbins. The only one they had was Shape Your Destiny, which was from 2002, but I figured it was better than five hours of Barry Manilow on my iTunes, so I bought it. I listened to a good chunk of it while driving, and I was taken by his explanation of Jodi Foster’s struggle in Silence of the Lambs. I have blogged about my love of that movie, and I’m certain that had it come out when I was in my teens, I would have become Clarice for sure. I admired the way Jodi Foster’s character worked through her fears.



So Tony starts explaining how Clarice’s enemy (Hannibal) actually helped her, and how it was her self-doubt that needed to be resolved. He is right. There were several strong men in that movie, all of whom helped her be her best self. Not one woman in that movie was a player for her. (I swear I have amazing girlfriends who love me and elevate me so that I can be my best self. I swear!) Clarice’s growth in that movie was prompted by the male characters. Hannibal and Jack Crawford both challenged her to rise above mediocrity. Amazing.


So then I started to think about other movies I love. Pride and Prejudice. The Bodyguard. An American President. Pretty Woman.Yikes, thought I. All are movies that feature strong men and strong women. Could this be me? Strong? Remember the scene in Pretty Woman when Richard Gere tells Julia Roberts she has potential? Remember in The Bodyguard where Whitney lets herself go and is taken care of by Kevin Costner, but she conquers her own fears and shows up at the Academy Awards?


I was talking about this with a friend who said her favorite movies of this type were Wuthering Heights and Out of Africa. She is more that type of woman for sure. I pointed out that her type of woman is a little softer than Clarice. Vivian and Rachel Merin, for God’s sake.


“Well,” she said, “Silence of the Lambs isn’t your number one movie, is it?”


“Yes, it is.”


“Oh.”


In his book, Tony questions the fact that we rent and watch the same movies over and over again. (You do not want to know how many times I’ve seen Silence of the Lambs. You really don’t.)


His explanation is that we know what to expect in our favorite movies. There is something of ourselves in them—our inner struggle with our best and worst selves, and the safety of watching that struggle play out with an ending that we know. He also points out the absurdity of watching the same movie over and over again, and I know he’s right. It’s time for me to stop watching Jodi play Clarice—and time for me to be Clarice. Time to take a risk. Time to believe I can do something I’ve been avoiding doing out of fear of failure.


And that is my intention.


I thought I would pass this epiphany on to you. It never occurred to me that my favorite movies would have a common thread, or that I watch them because they reflect my best self. So how about you? Pick your favorite three movies, the ones you could watch over and over again, and see what it is you wish to be. And then stop just watching them on TV.


--Christine Merser