Leadership – as portrayed in popular culture
Regular columnist Suzanne Cooke reflects on what we can learn about leadership from recent films she has seen.
I hope that, by now, it has not escaped your notice that I am fascinated by the twists and turns, the ups and downs of popular culture! I know that some of my friends and colleagues may not be quite so convinced of its usefulness.
There is an argument that says that, as Christians, we should be counter-cultural, standing outside of the whims of society. Nevertheless culture in all its guises continues to be one of my abiding passions; giving us, if we have the vision to see I believe, a picture of the current hopes, dreams, worries and preoccupations of modern society.
It also helps that I have two teenagers in my household. Although not without its trials and tribulations (!) I love the energy and enthusiasm that comes with being young and at the start of this great adventure called life – and certainly their presence means I have an ever-present barometer on what is ‘hot’ and what is not!
A few days ago I went with my son to see the film “Maze Runner 2 - The Scorch Trials”, starring Dylan O’Brien (pictured above). Part of a series of books, the film tells the continuing tale of a group of teenagers, in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world where a killer virus has all but destroyed civilisation. Our group of teens, immune to the virus, have been placed in a giant experiment (by adults), for reasons, that at this stage in the story, are unclear. The plot is exciting, fast moving, a constant barrage of dangerous encounters and heart stopping near misses.
But what I find really interesting is the theme that to me runs strongly not only throughout this film but also throughout two other film series currently doing the rounds.
The Divergent Series and the Hunger Games Trilogy both came to the big screen having been successful teen novels beforehand, and all three seem to be heavily exploring the theme of leadership. I suspect that much could be written on how the films all, in their way, deal with what it is to grow into the role of leader, particularly in difficult and dangerous times.
But the success of both the novels and films signal to me that Thomas (Maze Runner Series – played by Dylan O’Brien), Katniss (Hunger Games Trilogy played by Jennifer Lawrence) and Beatrice (Divergent Series played by Shailene Woodley) are modelling something important for how young people see leadership and its challenges today.
Whether through church, family or both, many of us know just how difficult it is to be a parent – we want the best for our children in what is a complex and often hostile world. But Jesus felt there was something special about the way in which children encounter the world, that to be like them was the way to enter the kingdom.
We accompany our children though life, knowing that although we model our parenting on the love of the Father for us, we will always fall short of the perfect way in which we are known and loved by him who fully knows all the secrets of our hearts.
For me this means that when our children are really trying to tell us something, we would do well to stop and listen to what they are saying. Could it be that through these films our children are trying to tell us something about the way in which they see leadership and want to be led? If they are, then I for one want to stop and listen to what they are saying.
The image of Dylan O’Brien is courtesy of Magnus Manske via Wikipedia Commons.
Rev Suzanne Cooke is the priest-in-charge of the Upper Tas Benefice in South Norfolk and the founder of Soul Circus, a regular creative, experimental service supported by the Diocese of Norwich and the Youth Task Force. You can find out more at www.soulcircus.org.uk.
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