Sitting in the small 17rd floor studio apartment I'm renting in Durban's Umhlanga Rocks, I turn on the tele and absentmindedly flick though the channels. It's not that the sound of the crashing surf several stories below me isn't a soothing lullaby - it's just that I'm sick and not feeling particularly outgoing (I'm sure I'll regret it when January rolls around and I'm taping down the toaster handles to keep myself warm). I finally find a channel that isn't in Hindi, Afrikaans or a re-run of Columbo, and it turns out to be The Blind Side. All-in-all, a damn good movie - even if it is the second time I've seen it - and not just because Sandra Bullock plays a hot-as-hell mom. For those of you who haven't seen it (and I suggest you do), it's the true story of NFL star Michael Oher. Growing up in the slums of Memphis, Michael was the son of a crack-whore mother and a runaway father. With his mum frequently running off, leaving him in a neighbourhood full of thugs with nobody else to care for him, he was on track to spending the rest of his miserable life dealing drugs and shooting up other gangs. Instead, he's picked up by a wealthy family who adopt him as their own and set him straight. They quickly find out (and not as if was hard to miss him being over 2m tall) that he's got serious potential as an offensive linebacker. Unfortunately, my foolish attempt at a summary doesn't nearly do the film/book justice, but there are a handful of other complications and plot twists, and I wouldn't want to ruin it too much.
The main point of my rambling is that as I sit here watching this movie, I remember how many people don't appreciate this kind of story because it's become so cliche. Many of my friends seem to think it's boring, predictable and overdone. I beg to differ.
We all remember the fairy tales our parents/grandparents used to tell us at bedtime, don't we? My dad used to tell me stories of the greek gods and heroes that I still find riveting today. They were so far-fetched, so inconceivable, so absurd - but I still love them. Stories of Theseus and the Minotaur, of Heracles and his twelve labours, of Odysseus' return from Troy... they made me want to believe the impossible was possible. Even the story of Merlin being locked in an old oak somewhere in England makes me look at every tree sideways whenever I go back. The fact is, stories like that of Michael Oher are so rare and so unlikely in a world where everyone and everything just seem to keep knocking you down, I can't understand why people think it's 'overdone' and 'boring'. That's the last thing I'd call them!
I look back out the window at my spectacular view, past the rolling surf and towards the horizon. How many other such stories are out there, waiting to be discovered? How many others have we missed? Stories of underdogs and dark horses beating the odds are to be treasured - not tossed aside as 'predictable'. And entertainment isn't the only end either! They inspire! Inspire like these waves, this beach, this unparalleled beauty inspires people all over the world. Personally, I love that feeling I get, leaving a movie that inspires me to better myself in even the smallest way. You know the one - it's that tiny speck of inadequacy set in a surge of power (maybe a little verbose, but it's a fantastic feeling!) It's the perfect combination, making you feel like you've squandered so much time and opportunity, but reminding you that you can do more, can do better, can be everything and anything you want.
Fairy tales aren't just the stuff of legends, myths and Mother Goose. They exist here, now, everywhere and always - you just have to look for them.