I watched a movie last night that has been out for a few years now, but I had never heard of it. Which is unusual for me as I am a bit of a movie buff, and enjoy nothing more than watching the latest at the cinema or chillin’ at home with a DVD. ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ starring Ryan Gosling was a very interesting story about a young man (Gosling) who likes to keep to himself and avoids contact with even his closest relatives. He orders a realistic looking plastic ‘companion’ doll on the internet, and begins to behave like she is a real person, taking her out in public like she is his ‘real’ girlfriend. People are understandably shocked when Lars develops a meaningful and loving relationship with the doll.
What has this got to do with Shouldland you might ask? Early in the film, even before he orders the doll, those in Lars’ tribe (family, friends, colleagues) find his choice to spend most of his time on his own very unusual. His sister-in-law finds his lifestyle particularly unbearable, and is constantly harassing Lars to come to their house for dinner etc. The sister-in-law, amongst others, has a belief about how people should live their life, and attempt to convert those around them to their way of thinking.
When Lars gets his companion doll girlfriend delivered people initially freak out. They cannot accept another person’s lifestyle choice, as most of us would probably find it a little unusual. It is obvious that Lars has a mental illness, and is dealing with it in his own way through delusion.
Lars’ brother goes to see the town psychologist and asks “we got to fix him, can you fix him?” This is an important part of the film as it explores the assumption that Lars, like others with a different outlook on life / mental illness, are somehow broken and need ‘fixing’.
The psychologist accepts Lars’ behaviour as a form of communication in his own search for meaning in life. She acknowledges diversity in life, and successfully encourages others to do the same. In society we are always trying to ‘fix’ people with a mental illness, with medication and oppression the favourite treatments. I certainly agree that in many cases people do need medication and some serious intervention in their lives. However in the case of this tale, as in many cases of people living a so-called ‘strange’ lifestyle, a more accepting attitude by all of us is the best thing for them.
‘Lars and the Real Girl’ highlights beautifully an example of a community providing all its citizens with joy and sanctuary during times of pain and difficulty. The spirit of inclusion is within us. As a society we need to accept differences in how individuals choose to live, and just enjoy the diversity.
If you haven’t already, check out this movie. Not only a lovely, heart warming story, but an example of people opening their minds and making their way out of Shouldland.