The Purpose and Meaning of Talent:
Behind the Scenes of WHIPLASH
Job Garcia, Contributing Writer
Are aspirations, talents and abilities inherently good? If so, what are the purposes of them, and how do we go about accomplishing their intended purpose?
For Christians, answering these questions properly requires developing a biblically sound perspective of aspirations, talents and abilities. Thus, aspirations, talents and abilities are inherently good, but they must be subject to God’s will and used for His glory and honor. We must not limit aspirations, talents and abilities to the realm of the sacred. God himself is responsible for placing those aspirations, talents and abilities, but we are in a fallen world, so we have to make sure that they are being redeemed.
In the newly released WHIPLASH, an American jazz music dramatic thriller and Sundance Film Festival 2014 winner, the concepts of personal aspirations, talents and abilities are addressed. The movie helps raise important questions regarding the meaning and importance of our aspirations, talents and abilities.
WHIPLASH follows Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a promising young drummer, who attends a prominent, rigorous music school, and desires to take his music career to the top, but faces difficult challenges along the way. He meets a merciless jazz instructor (J.K. Simmons) who pushes his musical abilities and pushes him to the brink of insanity. In his quest to ascend to the top of the jazz world and ultimately success and greatness, Andrew does everything in his power to strip himself of anything that will prevent him from reaching the top, including his romantic relationship with Nicole (Melissa Benoist).
Movieguide® recently had the opportunity to attend a press conference for the movie WHIPLASH, and interview its writer and director, Damien Chazelle, and the starring cast, which included Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons and Melissa Benoist. During the press conference, the actors were asked about personal aspirations, talents abilities.
Melissa and Miles were asked, “Andrew terminates his courtship with Nicole because he firmly believes that it will hinder him from achieving his ultimate goal of becoming the greatest jazz drummer. Is it possible to obtain success and greatness in your art form and not at the expense of other important things in life, like relationships?”
“I dumped my girlfriend right before the press tour for this,” Mr. Teller jokingly replied. His response got several laughs from the press. His joke was immediately followed by a joke from Simmons, “She is a really, really, really sweet girl too.”
After many laughs, Teller settled the issue, saying, “I’m kidding. We are still together.”
Melissa said, “I think that is another line that is not necessarily blurred but that all of us in this profession have to figure out.”
She added, “Cause there are definitely times when work takes over without you knowing and your brain gets in a small track, for me at least, like blinders, like this is all I care about right now. I don’t necessarily think that is the way to live either; it’s about pace and balance. Pace is a really difficult thing to measure in this world, because everything moves quickly, but you need to find time for the simple things.”
Later, Director Chazelle was asked, “The film, we have been talking a lot about what it means to be a great drummer, but short of along side of that or underneath, I thought the film was also about what it means to be a man. You have all these elements affecting the character of Andrew. His father who is somewhat of a failure, he is compared to his cousins and other family members who are athletes and not doing anything artistic or musical, and a ruthless instructor who constantly emasculates Andrew and calls him ‘girl’ and worse. What your experience was like growing up and being a drummer and how that informs who you are as a man and how that channeled its way into this film?”
Chazelle said, “As a musician growing up, you’re immediately, or artist of any stripe versus the athlete, you’re immediately made to feel less masculine.”
He added, “So everything stemmed from that. Andrew and a lot of jazz musicians, who are giving their hearts and souls to an endeavor that is not really appreciated in the outside world, and so I think all of these self-hatred, and cruelty to other people, and emasculation kind of stems from that. The only way that it applied to me is kind of a masculine thing and not just because I think there are so many equivalences for women, The only thing that applied in that sense was music, or jazz, as being sissy. You’re already not doing Rock ‘n Roll, let alone football.”
So, in light of the fact that God created us with aspirations, talents and abilities, and he intended us to use them for his glory and honor, we mustn’t neglect other important aspects of life, like family, and not place more value on some gifts and not others, like athletic abilities and music. We bring glory and honor to God when we enjoy our aspirations and gifts in their context and edify, enlighten and entertain others when we use them.
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