What I learned from Wes Anderson‘s Rushmore
It's hard to believe that I've gone sixteen years without seeing it, but thanks to HBO Go and this wonderful blog post, I just wrapped up watching Wes Anderson's first commercial success: Rushmore. Falling somewhere between Benjamin Braddock and Ferris Bueller, the protagonist Max Fischer was a fascinating character. Eccentric and precocious, Max exudes a very strange sort of magnetism that draws all other characters into his universe, flipping the adult-adolescent relationship dynamic on its head in many cases.
The most entertaining example of this was the relationship between Max and the wealthy industrialist Herman Blume. This relationship began when Herman gave a speech to the students of Rushmore:
You guys have it real easy. I never had it like this where I grew up. But I send my kids here because the fact is you go to one of the best schools in the country: Rushmore. Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and you're going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down. Just remember, they can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget it. Thank you.-- Herman BlumeUpon the completion of the speech, Max was on his feet applauding. Within a few minutes, he was shaking Herman's hand and telling him that he was "very much agreed with his view of Rushmore." By the next time that we see Herman and Max together, Herman is seeking Max's advice:
Herman Blume: What's the secret, Max?Shortly after this scene, Max discovers a phrase while reading the Jacques Cousteau's Diving for Sunken Treasure, and Max's life begins to take a new (50% endearing and 50% disturbing twist).
Max Fischer: The secret?
Herman Blume: Yeah, you seem to have it pretty figured out.
Max Fischer: The secret, I don't know... I guess you've just gotta find something you love to do and then... do it for the rest of your life. For me, it's going to Rushmore
"When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself." -- Jacques CousteauSo these are the three life lessons that I learned from Wes Anderson this evening:
- Chutzpah matters! The rich boys can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget it!
- Find something you love to do and then do it for the rest of your life. This something may change over time, and that's fine. Your passions is a moving target.
- Strive to be extraordinary and share your extraordinary life with others.
- Be open-minded with friendships. It seems extraordinary for a fifteen year old boy and a middle age industrialist to become friends, but they both benefitted greatly from the relationship. There is nothing wrong with being a close friend with someone 30+ years older.
- When you look back, the small stuff won't matter. Max faced "sudden death academic probation" and was ultimately kicked out of Rushmore, but he walked out and took his extraordinary life elsewhere. Compared to being bold, following your passion, living extraordinary, forming meaningful friendships with others, the grades or metrics or quarterly bonus probably won't matter or be remembered. As Max demonstrated, the worst student might turn out to be the best person.