The University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics has just received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help Akron’s citizenry get their concerns directly to the presidential candidates running in this election. The Institute will use the grant money to host community discussions with the Informed Citizen Project in the hopes of changing the conversation in national elections to be less about the candidates talking, and more about the citizens talking to prospective candidates.
This initiative comes at an interesting time in our election, which is already turning out to be more than interesting already. With each candidate searching for the next sound byte that parlays into a vote, everyone who is running is grabbing at the seams to stay relevant. On top of that, voters themselves feel a huge disconnect on either side of the party line that elected representatives are not representing their electorate. There is a lot of cynicism running in this election.
There was a lot of cynicism in the 1970s political atmosphere. There was Watergate, Vietnam, the post-60s civil rights movement involving African-Americans, women, Latino- and Hispanic-Americans, and GLBT Americans. Unlike the films of today, a filmmaker by the name of Hal Ashby made a film in 1979 about this atmosphere called Being There.
The film starred Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, and Jack Warden. It is about a gardener named Chance (Sellers) whose boss dies, and whom hasn’t a claim to the estate that he has lived in all his life, and only knows the outside world by what he sees on television. He is left to wander the world aimlessly, discovering the outside, real world the first time. He passes by a TV shop and sees his reflection in the screen. When he crosses the street, he gets hit by a limousine. From the back seat, the passenger, Eve Rand (MacLaine) goes outside and sees if he’s alright. Eve takes him home with her to recover from the accident. She takes him to meet her husband, Ben Rand (Douglas), who mistakes him for a wealthy man. When Ben talks to Chance, or “Chauncey” as Eve misheard, Chance speaks out of confusion, but Ben believes it to be profound, and being a business mogul, he can’t help but think what a statement for the times. All Chance knows is what he saw on television.
The author will not be giving away the movie for the reader. Instead, the author would like to ask the readers what they would think if they met this light in darkness? What would Chance think of the election cycle? What point of confusion would inspire deep political philosophy? Watch and find out.
Also, keep exploring classic films and finding relations to your time. The author has enjoyed writing articles for you for the past six years, but like a good film, it has to come to an end. Happy viewing Akron!