Added to that is a basic rule that warns: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And even if it is broke, who said you're the one who is capable of doing the job?" The rescue instinct is strong and often irresistible. In a recent Op-Ed piece for The New York Times entitled The Charitable-Industrial Complex, Peter Buffett (son of Warren Buffett) wrote:
"Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to 'save the day' in some fashion. It’s what I would call 'conscience laundering' (feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity). People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem.
Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography, or societal norms. Often the results of our decisions had unintended consequences; distributing condoms to stop the spread of AIDS in a brothel area ended up creating a higher price for unprotected sex. As long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. "
Despite the best intentions, the "rescuer" who professes to be sharing his or her wealth with a needy person of presumably lesser stature is looking for a certain kind of emotional (if not financial) return on investment. Although the rescuer may be loathe to admit it, bragging rights over good deeds can have an intoxicating effect on one's ego.
Until, of course, something goes horribly wrong. At that point the rescuer's naivete comes into glaring focus, proving that there are times when no good deed goes unpunished.
* * * * * * * * *One of the delights of the 2013 San Francisco Silent Film Festival was Jacques Feyder's 1925 film, Gribiche (based on a story by Frédéric Boutet). The protagonist is a young boy, Antoine "Gribiche" Belot (Jean Forest), who has been happily living with his single mother, Anne (Cécile Guyon), in a working class section of Paris. Although Anne has been romantically involved with a handsome young man named Philippe (Rolla Norman), she knows that her first responsibility is taking care of her son.
One day, while Gribiche is in a department store, he notices that a woman who was trying on gloves at the counter behind him has dropped her purse before exiting the store. Picking up the purse and rushing out to find her, he meets Edith Maranet (Françoise Rosay), a rich American living in Paris who is grateful for the return of her purse (with her money intact) and intrigued by the spunky young man who brought it to her.
After Edith's initial attempt to offer Gribiche a reward is rebuffed by the boy, she asks him to write down his name and address in her notebook. Having give the matter some thought, she then convinces herself that if she were to adopt Gribiche, she could not only give him a top-notch education, but a second chance in life which would lift him up and out of the working class.
When Edith visits Anne and Gribiche, her offer to adopt the boy draws a mixed response. Anne is shocked and reluctant to agree to Edith's offer. But Gribiche, who has heard Anne frequently tell Philippe that her life revolves around her son, realizes that if he were to leave home, his mother could find a new and happier life.
|Cécile Guyon, Françoise Rosay, and Jean Forest in Gribiche|
* * * * * * * * *Although there is a happy ending (and no one really gets hurt) in Gribiche, such is not always the case. Back in May, as I watched a screening of Afternoon Delight during the San Francisco International Film Festival, I found myself reacting with much more sadness than laughter to the tale of an upper middle class housewife living in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles who takes it upon herself to try rescuing a stripper. Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is a middle-aged mother struggling to breathe life into a marriage that has hit the sexual doldrums. Although her husband (Josh Radnor) is a software programmer who wrote a popular "app" that got purchased for an impressive sum of money, neither one of them really has to work. As a result, it's quite possible that overexposure (coupled with the demands of raising their child) has left the couple physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. As Rachel whines to her therapist, Dr. Lenore (Jane Lynch), about her continued lack of sex with Jeff, it's obvious that the usual thrills of motherhood, keeping up with her peers at the local Jewish Community Center, and life in general have lost their fizz.
|Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) gets a lap dance from |
McKenna (Juno Temple) in Afternoon Delight
“When I began, I saw the film as a way to inspire brilliant comedic actors to head to deeper, more human places in their processes. The movie’s spine -- mom rescues hooker-- seemed like a fun way to achieve that cinematic goal of marrying hard comedy with real feeling. But as we shot Afternoon Delight and shared it with wider audiences on the festival circuit, more relatable concepts emerged. It turns out everyone has lived the story about how easy it is to distract yourself -- from yourself -- with an idea about helping. It can be easier for people to open up when there’s a transaction -- financial or otherwise-- at play. Beyond the comedic and cinematic concepts that were on my mind, I made a few feminist choices while writing. Often, when the Madonna/Whore trope turns up in popular entertainment, the bad girl gets thrown under the bus or otherwise metaphorically murdered so that the movie can fulfill a typical Hero’s Journey plot. I am deeply interested in another possibility, a less-told Heroine’s Journey that unravels in the shape of contiguous spirals. These interconnected circles form an emotional roller coaster for the audience as we allow dual protagonists to repeatedly switch places; both women veer through right and wrong multiple times. Something else that drove me was the idea of a female main character who could be an unlikely, complicated and utterly real screw-up of a woman. We're used to the Seth Rogens, the Jack Blacks and Albert Brookses as lovable but nebbishy, wrong-headed male leads. It’s always felt frustrating to me that studio films seemed to present my entire gender as beautiful and perfect and interested in making great choices. This movie aims to remind us that women want the same thing from movies that any audience wants from life -- emotional honesty, raw comedy and the humanness of true flaws.”
|Juno Temple and Kathryn Hahn in Afternoon Delight|
What becomes painfully obvious is that McKenna knows how to control many more types of interactions than Rachel does.
- Though she may not be a professional nanny, she knows what will make young children happy.
- Though she may not be a wife, she knows what will make married men happy.
- Though she may not be monogamous, she knows what will make her sex clients happy.