The year was 1980, and the decade of me had just morphed into the decade of greed. It was during this distinct sociocultural twilight that one of director Paul Schrader’s landmark works, American Gigolo, was released. With a young Richard Gere in its title role, the film not only made fashion designer Giorgio Armani a household name, but raised serious interest about the rationally individualistic lifestyle.
Julian Kaye has it all; from a spacious modernist apartment with around the clock room service to a gorgeous Mercedes 450 SL to more women than he can handle requesting his services as a professional lover. He does not live destructively, explaining to an inquiring detective that he derives personal fulfillment from pleasuring clients. On the same note, he does not live to be a means to the ends of others, forcefully stating this much to a powerful, devious pimp. Julian simply lives for himself, never expecting even a single person around him to do the same. Obviously a strong financial success, until being framed for a murder that is, he exemplifies the industrious, independent minded innovator that turns his wistful American dream into an objective reality.
Placing the, for some, morally decadent and, for all of us residing outside of most Nevada counties, illegal nature of Julian’s occupation aside, we should ask ourselves exactly why more people in contemporary society do not follow his lead in forging their own path through life. It is undeniable that the United States has a severe deficit of go-getters; this is partially the reason why our economy is in such dire straits. Perhaps too many generations extolling the fine principles of, among other things, radically living beyond one’s means and doing what feels good in spite of human reason should shoulder much of the blame.
When considered on a reasonable basis, following the combined fiscal, personal, and political path trudged down by a great number of today’s Americans is nothing short of a plan for abject failure. For instance, racking up six figure debt in college for a bachelor’s degree, possibly getting entangled with a marriage to someone from said institution, and finally moving back in with mom and dad after finding out that jobs boasting a starting salary of $75,000 and plushy corner office to boot are nonexistent truly is the epitome of stupidity. Nonetheless, this is the precise course of action taken by all too many. To put the icing on the proverbial cake, they then moan about how unfair the system is and support scheming politicians promising to subsidize their bad decisions on the backs of productive, hardworking taxpayers.
Over thirty years ago, Julian showed us a new way to be successful; a new way to actualize our respective full potentials. Now that the old model of a steady job from age twenty to sixty with a hefty pension in tow has flown the coop, particularly as far as the private sector is concerned, what will most downtrodden Americans do? Will they still pursue that fantasy of a spouse, two or more kids, and a picket fenced house in the suburbs? Or will they wake up and pursue their own passions without worrying about fitting into the antiquated social molds of yesteryear?
These are questions that must be answered individually. One thing is for sure, though. Expecting public officeholders, parents, preachers, or people just making a go if it to pick up the tab for the maturity impaired is not only unfair, but unsustainable. Indeed, we must take responsibility for our own actions, and be unafraid to break convention in meeting the goals we have set for ourselves.
That, in essence, is the American way, as taught by the American gigolo. Such a lesson should not go unheeded.