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Transcendentalism In Modern Media

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Colin Wilcox

on 30 September 2014

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Transcript of Transcendentalism In Modern Media

Transcendentalism In Modern Media
Wreck-It Ralph
Wreck-It Ralph is a story about a video game villain who longs to be as beloved as his game's "Good Guy", Fix-It Felix. Ralph is told that the only way for him to be recognized as a hero is for him to win a Hero's medal, a feat that is deemed impossible for a villain. However, Ralph is determined to earn the friendship and respect he deserves from his Co-workers. Ralph soon catches wind of a nearby game entitled "Hero's Duty", a game where anyone can win a medal. Ralph "game Jumps" and obtains the medal but quickly loses it in the nearby game "Sugar Rush" . In the absence of his beloved medal Ralph soon learns the true meaning of being a hero. Ralph is a wonderful example of an individualist and a non-materialist. Ralph doesn't abide by the role that society intended for him. He leaves his game to become a Hero and in the end achieves just that. Ralph also learns that a medal could not make him happy and that true happiness comes from friendship.
By Colin Wilcox
Thesis Statement
Even though they are not as forthright as they were in the days of Thoreau, Transcendentalists and their ideology are still a prevlent part of our society. In today's era, there is an especially strong transcendental presence in the world of media. Four examples that accurately portray Transdentdentalism are; the films Forrest Gump, Wreck-It Ralph and The Lorax. Also the song Beautiful day by U2.
“It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.”- Thoreau
Ralph knows in his heart that he is a good person. He wants to be more than the "bad guy" that he is seen as by his co-workers. Ralph wants to be loved and appreciated by someone. As seen in the clip in the following slide, Ralph believes that if he wins a medal he will earn the respect he deserves. Soon Ralph learns that nothing and nobody can tell you who you are. Material possessions cannot dictate or define who you are.
Quote connection
The Lorax is a timeless story that deals with the conservation of nature. In this story, the Once-ler moves to a new land full of Truffula Trees. He soon fabricates Thneeds, out of the trees and sets up a factory. The Once-ler soon pollutes this new land and turns it into a wasteland. A being known as the Lorax attempts to warn the Once-ler of the damage he is inflicting on the environment but he does not listen. The lorax has many connections to transcendentalism. First, Nature is a major part of transcendentalist ideas. Transcendentalists believed that it was important to be in touch with the roots and more natural parts of our life. The Lorax is all about the preservation of the land and the trees, The story talks about all the detrimental effects of tearing them down. Second, the Lorax contains aspects of non -materialism. "The Lorax said,"Sir! You are crazy with greed. There is no one on earth who would buy that fool Thneed." The Once-ler thinks that money and Thneeds will make him happy. However he does not think for the future. Once all the trees were gone, the Once-ler's company stopped and his empire fell. Lastly, an element of transcendentalism is the idea that the whole world is a miracle and even the smallest creature. The small boy, who has come to the Once-ler’s old home in the beginning of the story, is a symbol of just that. This little insignificant boy is given possession of the key to life.
The Lorax
"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." - Thoreau

Quote Connection
The Once-ler was so consumed in selling his Thneeds and gaining profit that he didn't see what he had become. The Once-ler kills an entire ecosystem for the sole purpose of financial gain. Only later does it become clear to the Once-ler what he has done and what he has become. The Once-ler later redeems himself by giving the boy the last truffula seed at the end of the story.
"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves."- Henry David Thoreau

Quote Connection
The Once-ler at the beginning of the story is lost. He no longer has purpose to life, as due to the lack of truffula trees, his factory is useless. Now that he is lost, he has reflected on the past and seen the error of his ways. He finds his true self and implores the boy at the end of the story to right his wrongs.
Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump is a movie that tells the experience of a mentally disabled boy who becomes a successful man. The protagonist “Forrest Gump” is unfortunately born with a lower IQ and a back problem. However Forrest has a pure and optimistic vision of the world. His intentions always have people's best interests in mind. Forrest Gump relates to transcendentalism in various ways as well. Gump is a individualist and a optimist. Forrest does not do the things he does for the purpose of impressing others. One example of this is the scene when Forest starts running across the country. Many people were following Forrest because they thought there was a deeper meaning to what he was doing. Once he decided that his "little jog" was over, they all expected him to continue to lead them in some way. Even as Forrest walked past the angry and bewildered faces of his followers. He was going to do what he wanted to do.
Forrest Is optimistic because he assumes that everyone that he meets is a nice person and is as kind and optimistic as he is. This can be seen in the racial integration scene. When African Americans are integrated into schools, the whole town is furious. However Forest doesn't care and when one of the black girls drops her books, Forrest picks up her book and gives it to her. In an atmosphere of pure racial hatred, Forrest shows common decency by retrieving the girl's book. This surprises and shocks everyone.
Running Scene
Integration Scene
Beautiful Day U2
Beautiful day by U2, is a song that embodies many Transcendentalist elements. Bono, U2's lead singer, describes the song as "a man who has lost everything, but finds joy in what he still has." This description along with a analysis of the lyrics yields the true Transcendental nature of this song. One of the lyrics of Beautiful Day "You're on the road, But you've got no destination, You're in the mud
In the maze of her imagination" expresses the saying "not all who wander are lost" a classic transcendentalist attitude. This is one of the main principles of Transcendentalism.
The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
There's no room
No space to rent in this town

You're out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you're not moving anywhere

You thought you'd found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace

It's a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away

You're on the road
But you've got no destination
You're in the mud
In the maze of her imagination

You're lovin' this town
Even if that doesn't ring true
You've been all over
And it's been all over you

It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day

Touch me
Take me to that other place
Teach me
I know I'm not a hopeless case

See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out

It was a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
Beautiful day

Touch me
Take me to that other place
Reach me
I know I'm not a hopeless case

What you don't have you don't need it now
What you don't know you can feel it somehow
What you don't have you don't need it now
Don't need it now
Was a beautiful day
Lastly, Beautiful day expresses non-materialism. "What you don't have you don't need it now" is a line that is repeated in the song. Demonstrating that material possessions do not make one happy. Overall this song expresses many core beliefs of Transcendentalists.
Music Video
It is clear that even though the ideas of Thoreau and Transcendentalism as a whole were founded many years ago, Transcendentalism is still remarkably prevalent in various forms in today's modern media.
"make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt .So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation" - Into The Wild
Quote Connection
All of his life Ralph felt unappreciated. Ralph was estranged by the characters in his game because of his explosive temper, which results in him wrecking things. However after 30 years of unappreciative treatment, Ralph takes the radical step of leaving his game and starting a new life. Ralph ignores the role that he was given in the arcade society and lives the life that he wants to live.
Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.
- Henry David Thoreau
Quote Connection
The Lorax constantly protests the pollution of his land and often tries to appeal to the Once-ler by telling him about how his pollution is destroying the local wildlife's land and ultimately killing them.
"You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us."- Into The Wild

"See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the seaout. See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light"
Quote Connection
Beautiful day talks about how beauty is all around you. More importantly, nature is the ultimate source of happiness. Beautiful Day implores that the listener to take the time to look around you can appreciate all the small things.
"When all the Self was conquered and dead, when all passions and desires were silent, then the last must awaken, the innermost of Being that is no longer Self"
Quote Connection
Another key message of this song is non-materialism. In the beginning of the music video, Bono throws his money up in the air wile smiling. This, along with various other lyrics in the song demonstrate the non-materialist state of mind
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” - Henry David Thoreau
Quote Connection
Bono's before mentioned description of this song depicts a man who lost everything but through it finds clarity. In other words the person doesn't need money or fame, he has found truth and clarity in nature.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”- Henry David Thoreau
Quote Connection
Forrest charges head on into life with an optimistic view of the world which ultimately leads him to success. Even in the face of tragedy,Forrest reminds us that much of what makes us unhappy is just ourselves. Even when Forrest was fighting in Vietnam he still managed to put smiles on the faces of those around him. The fact the Forrest has such success in the way that he lives shows the true transcendentalist nature of the film. Forrest surprises many people on his various journeys with his child like innocence and optimistic nature.
“Dreams and restless thoughts came flowing to him from the river, from the twinkling stars at night, from the sun's melting rays. Dreams and a restlessness of the soul came to him.”- Siddhartha
Quote Connection
During the film, Forrest feels a large connection with nature. During his run across the country, forest encounters various beautiful parts of nature as demonstraited in the following quote. "And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It's so beautiful."
I cannot make my days longer so I strive to make them better. - Henry David Thoreau
Quote Connection
Throughout the film, Forest makes it clear though his various stories that he strives to to achieve the most life out of everyday that he lives. By living this way, Forest is able to have many great experiences such as ; influencing Elvis Presley's stage persona, becoming a football star, visiting President Kennedy in the White House, becoming a Vietnam War hero, receiving the Medal of Honor, meeting the next President, President Johnson in the White House, and becoming a world-champion ping pong player.
“When someone seeks," said Siddhartha, "then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal.- Siddhartha
Quote Connection
The goal of Ralph's search is to find a better life. He believes that The only way to do this is to obtain a medal from the nearby "Hero's Duty" game. Ralph was so focused on completing this goal that he neglected to see the whole picture. In the end he learned that that he learns a hero is so one who puts the well being of others before themselves.
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