It is crazy to think Zoolander is already over a decade old, and yet it may be one of my all time favorite movies to quote. Like many movies over the years it actually becomes more entertaining to quote then to watch. It is truly a goofy, juvenile movie, and yet in the opening scenes we learn an important lesson about identity.
Derrick Zoolander is a male model recognized as possibly the greatest male model to ever live. At the male model awards Lenny Kravitz is handing out the reward for the Male Model of the Year. We receive the insight that this award is akin to the Academy Award for Best Picture. Zoolander having won the award the past few years is already confident he will win it again. When Lenny calls Zoolander’s rival Hansel to receive the award we are gifted with a moment of hilarious vanity and narcissism as Zoolander walks up to accept the award. When he finds out he lost not only is he completely embarrassed but devastated. In a moment of existential crisis Derrick looks at his reflection in a puddle and asks three of the most powerful words any of us could ask ourselves, “Who am I?”
You see Zoolander’s whole identity is wrapped up in the fact he is “really really ridiculously good looking”, and being the best male model of the year is an affirmation of this identity. When he loses, he not only loses the award, but he loses validation of who he is.
We see this happen in sports all the time. A few years ago Brett Favre was the brunt of many jokes and laughter as he just couldn’t seem to retire. He would jump around from team to team and for a while seemed to defy his age. I argue the issue was due to loss of identity. His whole being was wrapped up in football, he knew nothing else, and nothing else knew him. He was a football player, and when this was lost I would imagine he was struggling to find himself.
There are a lot of things able to give us our identity. We may receive our identity from work, family, school, whatever it may be. And when we lose these objects of identity and our identity is called into question we may start to feel anxious, proverbially clenching our fists to hold on for dear life. When you take away an object of someone’s identity it is not the loss of this object that destroys them, but rather the loss of their identity.
The truth is, whatever we receive our identity from is what will own us. I will say it again, whatever gives us our identity owns us; controls us.
Identity is so powerful and yet rarely addressed. Partly due to the abstract nature of it, but also the misunderstanding of it. A name is simply a name, and the complexity of it can cause a headache of confusion. Most of all, when we begin to understand identity we may being to realize the need to let go, and that is one of the toughest things to ask anyone to do.
However, identity needs to be addressed, because the challenge of an individual’s life is to find someone or something from which they may receive an identity that will never go away, and many of us are so misguided in our attempts. Then when the object of our identity is gone we are left devastated in the ruin.
In our journey to discover such an identity the first question we must ask ourselves is “who am I?”. When we understand who we are and where we currently get our identity from we may better understand what we may need to do to change it.
P.S. For those of you who follow my blog you may be a little confused, you thought I was starting a series on physical strength. Well truth is I am actually doing two series at once. I feel identity has a lot to do with our mental fortitude, and mental strength. The two, in my mind, work fairly well together. This I hope will be evidenced as we go through both series.