If you wanted to make the case that Akira Kurosawa was the greatest filmmaker of the 20th century, one leg of your stool would be the number of talented directors who copied him, including George Lucas and John Sturges. I watched Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven on the plane back to the states some years ago, and while it’s not as good as Seven Samurai (is anything?) it holds up very well with moments of thrilling action and surprising humanity. Of the latter, my favorite involves Charles Bronson, who plays a deadly, moody gunslinger who has been hired by a Mexican village to help defend it from bandits.
The boys in the village idolize Bronson, and tell him that they prefer being around him because their fathers will not take up arms and are therefore cowards. Bronson’s response brings a lump to the throat of many of a dad and many a mom too:
Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. And there’s nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery.
The tens of millions of moms and dads who toil at low wage jobs for decades and give up countless selfish pleasures for the betterment of their children remain for me the greatest source of inspiration in American life. It is commonly remarked how sad it is that children don’t admire their parents more, idolizing instead rock stars and sports heroes, but this is a myth. In surveys that ask young people to name a specific individual whom they consider a hero, LeBron James is of course going to wipe out Jack Smith or Lin Wang or Clausell Taylor or Maria Gomez, but whenever researchers group all the individual answers that mean “mom and dad”, parents emerge as the greatest heroes of American kids. If you are being twisted by that big rock, know that you are hero in the eyes of the ones you love.