What motivates us to do things? Why does the whole world seem to befall us? It seems that we all need to believe in the idea that the world revolves around us, and that every action will eventually come to affect us. As children, we think egocentrically, but as adults, it seems more complicated. Well, maybe, it isn’t.
We remember our childhoods filled with carefree adventures with no worries but the ones that our parents deal with. We’d like to remember this way because it all seemed so simple contrary to our complicated adult lives. Mean Creek (Jacob Aaron Estes, 2004) shows us that our lives are only complicated because we make them complicated for ourselves. We believe that our actions are important, and that the world is in constant judgment of our actions. How can life be easy?
Sam (Roy Culkin), his brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) and his friends plan a boating trip as a way to take revenge on George (Josh Peck) who torments and beats up Sam. Sam and his friends don’t see George as anything less than an emotionless bully who has no friends and no life. As they plan their revenge, the friends see it simply as a prank. What they don’t see is anything past their superficial image of George or their prank as a harmless joke to humiliate George.
Why me? For those of us who were picked on by bullies, this question is repeatedly asked. Are we to be the lucky ones who get picked on? We’d like to believe that bullies could not be compassionate or intelligent enough to be liked, which makes it easy to hate them. It’s so simple to judge bullies or people because it’s easier to discriminate based on appearances and first impressions. What becomes complicated is the mixture of our biases and initial judgments with close personal interactions and remade feelings of them. Which do we trust – the former or the latter?
There is a scene where Sam, his girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder), his friend Clyde (Ryan Kelley) and Josh are eating sandwiches on the shore. Josh tries to converse with the others. By this point, the others have changed their minds about Josh. They all seem comfortable around him. Even Sam looks at Josh differently, like he does Clyde or Millie. Josh asks a rhetorical question about the reasons why he acts the way that he does. Sam bluntly answers to Josh that he acts that way because he’s that type of person who does. Josh snaps with an insensitive comment. Sam puts his head down as if he were trying to ignore and hide from the same bully he hated before the trip. Sam is conflicted. He knows that Josh can be both unkind and friendly. But what does he want Josh to be or who does he think Josh can be?
Our actions are guided by our feelings. The children come to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them. The consequences of our individual actions are not significant to the world, but the burdens of the consequences are ones that we much live with. The journey to this understanding is very complicated, but the understanding itself is simple.