A Night in the Museum for the Pursuit of Happyness?

Two films, both about the relation between adulthood and identity more generally, responsibility, careers and the contingencies of life.

The Pursuit of Happyness is a sickening movie, possibly the most sickening thing I have ever seen. The dimension of the film about a fellow striving for a better life for himself and his son is absolutely inspirational; it captured my own hopes and carried them along. However this joyous affirmation of a dream was fundamentally flawed. The dream the fellow has is to become a stock broker. Why? Because he saw some guy get out of a Ferrari one day? WTF! Because everyone around him at this moment looked ‘happy’ to him? Why does he want to become a fucking cog in the very social machinery against which he has struggled so valiantly? I really can not understand the monumental contradiction of this. The parable that features in the film as a joke of the man drowning (refusing the assistance of two passing boats because he is waiting for God to save him, when he drowns and sees God he asks him why he didn’t save him, God tells him that He sent two boats…) is apt. We have no boats and the benevolence of God is inverted into the cruel desire of the market. Not unlike the Epicurean release from ‘death’, the main character stops drowning simply by starting to wave. He is waving and drowning at the same time for most of the film. To people in the ocean: “Hey, don’t drown, just wave!”

This is why A Night in the Museum is a much more successful film. I originally read it as an allegory for George W. Bush’s presidency, of a bumbling mildly-bellicose and slightly sad fool brought in as the nightwatchman and then it hits the fan as ‘history’ comes alive again (you know, cause of the whole “end of history” bullshit). Anyway, but the ending retrieved the film from this precarious position. The main character, Larry Daley, settles on taking ‘any job’ so he can provide some stability for his son. His ex-wife has apparently remarried… a bonds broker! (Wtf is the difference between a bonds broker and a stock broker?) Oh, the stupid conservative family unit needs to express stability onto every relation which it might have with the world. Therefore, Daley gets to be a nightwatchman at the museum. After all the climatic sub-plot resolution Daley gets to keep his job because of the intrigue that has been created in the museum by the city’s punters. He is basically an immaterial worker producing interest or buzz about the museum. The film ends with Daley standing over a whole room of partying museum exhibits. There is no hint at all in the film how Daley and his ex-wife could’ve ever got on. She appears to have had her head surgery installed up her ass, and any charisma he may have once had has been dulled by half a lifetime of apparent failures.

What I appreciate in this film is because it is almost the inverse of The Pursuit of Happyness while generating the same outcome. Both films explore adulthood for males through the figure of the father and what it means to take on the world. Daley basically resigns himself against the whole hyper-responsible-broker persona respresented by the other main male figure in his son’s life, this I can identify with.

5 replies on “A Night in the Museum for the Pursuit of Happyness?”

  1. I saw night at the museum, but I didn’t see the pursuit of happyness yet. I kinda liked the movie, it is light and gives this effect for inspiration and stuff, but I think it is more of a kids flick, where history comes alive!
    I heard about the prsuit of happyness and heard stuff about Chris Gardner, I think that this will be more of a serious story..
    So as you said they give the same message but to different audience.

  2. hi nousha, yeah, v. different audiences!!

    the relation between humor and seriousness is interesting. foucault talks about philosophers necessarily having an ill humor to ape stupidity as much as possible to get to its outside.

    the gardner character in pursuit of happyness appears to be mildly psychotic in the way he never does anything that makes him appear stupid. i think this may have to do with the alleged ethics of the film giving the character an extremely patronising form of dignity. it is patronising because Gardner is never represented as having much self-reflection at all. Sure we wage a war against the injustices of the world all the time. but the real injustices in the western world come from the unavowed complicity of consumer/citizen/subjects, in other words from world folded within. The fold of the world we take into our souls and then reproject through a distributive array across all our endeavours is essentially reproductive. Gardner was not fighting for a better world, he was fighting for a ‘better’ place in this world. However, the Daley character of A Night at the Museum refuses this ‘better’ outright. For me this signals a short-circuit in the social machinery of which we are necessarily expected to be part. The comparation between the two films is pretty facile, sure, but the coincidence of this inversion was too much not to comment on. Especially considering Teh Pursuit of Happyness is getting like 4 and 5 stars in reviews. It should be getting 1 star.

    As I said, I can identify with the Daley character’s refusal. SInce when I was in my mid-teens and realized that simply being a ‘success’ or hoping for a ‘better’ place in the current world was unethical, I have been trying to figure out how to live ever since. It really is a kind of torture.

  3. George W. Bush is a raging racist.

    George W. Bush committed hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism (indicated in my blog).

    George W. Bush did in fact commit innumerable hate crimes.

    And I do solemnly swear by Almighty God that George W. Bush committed other hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism which I am not at liberty to mention.

    Many people know what Bush did.

    And many people will know what Bush did—even to the end of the world.

    Bush was absolute evil.

    Bush is now like a fugitive from justice.

    Bush is a psychological prisoner.

    Bush has a lot to worry about.

    Bush can technically be prosecuted for hate crimes at any time.

    In any case, Bush will go down in history in infamy.

    Respectfully Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang
    B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
    Messiah College, Grantham, PA
    Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

    (I can type 90 words per minute. In only 7 days, posts basically like this post of mine have come into existence—all over the Internet (hundreds of copies). One can go to Google USA right now, type “George W. Bush committed hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism,” hit “Enter,” and find more than 350 copies indicating the content of this post. All in all, there are probably more than 1,000 copies on the Internet indicating the content of this post—it has practically become headline news. One cannot be too dedicated when it comes to anti-Bush activities. As I looked back at my good computer work, I thought how fun and easy it was to do it.)

    I am not sure where I had read it before, but anyway, it goes kind of like this: “If only it were possible to ban invention that bottled up memories so they never got stale and faded.” Oh wait—off the top of my head—I think it came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.

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