Leadership In The Theaters: "Don't Breathe"

Leadership In The Theaters: "Don't Breathe"

Taking leadership classes has forced me to look for leadership everywhere I go.
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As a student taking leadership classes at the University of Richmond, my brain has been engrained to find leadership qualities in every scenario, situation, movie, theatre production, etc. Therefore, when I saw the movie Don't Breathe at the movie theater the other day, I couldn't help but analyze leadership within the film: Did the leader exhibit successful or failed leadership? Why are the leaders in the movie seen as leaders?

Don't Breathe is about three thieves from Detroit, Rocky, Alex, and Money, who decide to break in to a house that is sitting on thousands of dollars. The owner of this house happens to be a blind veteran. Despite the guilt that the three characters should have been feeling about robbing a blind man that fought for their country, they agreed to carry out the burglary, assuming he was an easy target. To their surprise, their victim successfully locks them in the house and kills two of the thieves, even with no vision at all. Throughout the panic, two forms of leadership ensue.

Money, performed by Daniel Zovatto, is your typical rebellious young adult. He has tattoos, piercings, and wears baggy clothing. Whenever the camera rests on him, the lighting is typically dark and dusky. He fits the criteria of a modern leader with bad intentions, directing his followers into wrong. As their leader, Money is responsible for reporting back to their overall “boss” that pays the three thieves for the items that they steal in their robberies.

The boss tells Money of the blind man and his fortune, encouraging him to gather his team to rob the veteran while also promising him a small stipend. Leading Alex and Rocky into the house, they split up to search for the money and later reconvene because the fortune is no where to be found. While they are together, the blind man appears having heard ruckus from the comfort of his bed. As the leader, Money decides to come clean and, being the rebellious, no-good man he is, pulls a gun on the blind man. Out of annoyance for the intrusion and in defense, the blind man wrestles Money for the gun, succeeds, and shoots Money dead. In recent movies, I have found that main characters, especially heroes and supposed leaders, are not destined with a happy ending. Hollywood attracts audiences with unexpected plot twists such as this.

After seeing this movie, I pondered on why we consider characters like Money to be leaders. I assume due to his fearlessness, his bold manner, and his recklessness. Sure, we look to fearless leaders to guide us through struggle and strife, but is it right to look to these leaders if the path that they lay for us is the path to evil or wrongdoing? Be that as it may, when the initial leader dies, resigns, or disappears in a production, a new leader is bound to step forward. In this case, our arising leader is Alex.

Alex, performed by Dylan Minnette, is shy and conservative. As in any typical Hollywood production, the quieter character always overcomes the obnoxious one, therefore it was clear that Alex would eventually overthrow Money. Alex loves Rocky, the female lead played by Jane Levy, from afar, being too nervous to ever admit his feelings for her. Therefore, when their leader is killed and they are trapped in the blind man’s house, Alex knows it is up to him to stand up to the challenge and lead himself and Rocky to safety. The two are faced with endless struggle: physical attacks by the blind man, falling through floorboards, getting tied up, being shot. They begin to question whether or not they will make it out of the house alive. Alas, being a leader comes with responsibilities, and in this case it is risking your life for the sake of others. Alex devises a plan to get Rocky out of the house unharmed, but he will have to endanger his own life in order to do so. As a result, Alex is killed, and Rocky eventually escapes, all according to plan.

Alex is an example of a leader that viewers enjoy surveying. He has good intentions, puts others before himself, and when faced with right and wrong, always chooses right. When Alex is seen on camera, his outfit is always very put together, even during the grapples he endures. He also seems very clean throughout the movie until the very end when he is shot and bleeds to death. These aspects of being put together along with uniform cleanliness make it clear that the director of the movie truly wants the audience to idolize Alex.

When analyzing the leadership tactics between Money and Alex, Alex is undeniably a more respected and superior leader. Money leads his followers into danger out of greed, risking their lives for his own wealth. He also treats Alex and Rocky with disrespect. In the Leadership Studies classes I have taken at the University of Richmond, I have been taught over and over again that a leader truly cares for the people and puts their needs before his or her own. If you are elected to represent an organization or group of people, they are your responsibility and come first. Jeopardizing their safety is positively not an option. Alex exemplifies this trait by imperiling his own safety for the sake of someone else’s. All romantic feelings set aside, he does care for Rocky and truly wants her to survive, even if it means he will not.

Don’t Breathe teaches its viewers what a leader is by modeling exactly what a leader is not. I find this to be a very effective strategy. It is very easy to drill into someone’s brain the qualities of an efficient leader, but it is also important to be aware of the characteristics or actions that can allow a leader to lose his or her credibility. Comparing and contrasting two leaders makes it easier to understand what a good leader is and what it is not. This movie in particular has the perfect characters to do this with. When you find yourself evaluating different leaders, you must ask yourself, “Who would you rather have as a leader?” “Who best represents you?” and “Who would you trust to successfully lead you in difficulty?”

Cover Image Credit: SciFiNow

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A Letter To My Humans On Our Last Day Together

We never thought this day would come.
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I didn't sleep much last night after I saw your tears. I would have gotten up to snuggle you, but I am just too weak. We both know my time with you is coming close to its end, and I just can't believe it how fast it has happened.

I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday.

You guys were squealing and jumping all around, because you were going home with a new dog. Dad, I can still feel your strong hands lifting me from the crate where the rest of my puppy brothers and sisters were snuggled around my warm, comforting puppy Momma. You held me up so that my chunky belly and floppy wrinkles squished my face together, and looked me right in the eyes, grinning, “She's the one."

I was so nervous on the way to my new home, I really didn't know what to expect.

But now, 12 years later as I sit in the sun on the front porch, trying to keep my wise, old eyes open, I am so grateful for you. We have been through it all together.

Twelve “First Days of School." Losing your first teeth. Watching Mom hang great tests on the refrigerator. Letting you guys use my fur as a tissue for your tears. Sneaking Halloween candy from your pillowcases.

Keeping quiet while Santa put your gifts under the tree each year. Never telling Mom and Dad when everyone started sneaking around. Being at the door to greet you no matter how long you were gone. Getting to be in senior pictures. Waking you up with big, sloppy kisses despite the sun not even being up.

Always going to the basement first, to make sure there wasn't anything scary. Catching your first fish. First dates. Every birthday. Prom pictures. Happily watching dad as he taught the boys how to throw every kind of ball. Chasing the sticks you threw, even though it got harder over the years.

Cuddling every time any of you weren't feeling well. Running in the sprinkler all summer long. Claiming the title “Shotgun Rider" when you guys finally learned how to drive. Watching you cry in mom and dads arms before your graduation. Feeling lost every time you went on vacation without me.

Witnessing the awkward years that you magically all overcame. Hearing my siblings learn to read. Comforting you when you lost grandma and grandpa. Listening to your phone conversations. Celebrating new jobs. Licking your scraped knees when you would fall.

Hearing your shower singing. Sidewalk chalk and bubbles in the sun. New pets. Family reunions. Sleepovers. Watching you wave goodbye to me as the jam-packed car sped up the driveway to drop you off at college. So many memories in what feels like so little time.

When the time comes today, we will all be crying. We won't want to say goodbye. My eyes might look glossy, but just know that I feel your love and I see you hugging each other. I love that, I love when we are all together.

I want you to remember the times we shared, every milestone that I got to be a part of.

I won't be waiting for you at the door anymore and my fur will slowly stop covering your clothes. It will be different, and the house will feel empty. But I will be there in spirit.

No matter how bad of a game you played, how terrible your work day was, how ugly your outfit is, how bad you smell, how much money you have, I could go on; I will always love you just the way you are. You cared for me and I cared for you. We are companions, partners in crime.

To you, I was simply a part of your life, but to me, you were my entire life.

Thank you for letting me grow up with you.

Love always,

Your family dog

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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The Top 10 Gay-Themed Commercials That Should Be Celebrated

Gay-themed advertisements are an important part of our representation in pop culture. Here are the ten best gay-themed commercials that deserve celebration.

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Advertisements have a long history of reflecting and influencing popular culture. As someone from one of the boroughs of New York City, I've always been surrounded by advertisements. So it is extremely obvious to me why representation in these advertisements matter. Commercials online and on television are no exception. As a gay man, I'd like to present you with ten commercials that make me feel a sense of pride.

1. Israeli Gays Get Distracted On The Beach

Israel is a safe haven for LGBTQ people living in the Middle East. While places like Saudi Arabia and Iran treat gay men horrifically by enforcing Sharia Law, Israel welcomes them with open arms. That open minded attitude was even more obvious with this commercial from 2006.

2. Pepsi Brings Out The Confidence In One Guy (With A Gay Twist)

This Pepsi ad from the UK has a comedic twist that will delight the viewer with the main character's confidence. I find the women's reaction to him passing by each of them even more humorous than his friend's reactions.

3. Doritos Gay Sauna Contest Entry That Could've Gayed Up The Super Bowl

This commercial was created as a contest entry where aspiring filmmakers could create commercials for Doritos. The winning entry would be aired during the Super Bowl and the filmmaker would win a cash prize. This viral smash didn't make it, however. It seemed unfair, as several straight-themed commercials feature tons of innuendo. Unfortunately, it seems as though gay male sexuality is still threatening to some.

4. Campbell's Soup Portrays The Adorable Gay Household We All Wish We Had

This Campbell's Soup commercial is a short and sweet depiction of two gay dads sharing a sweet moment with their son. If it proves anything, it's that gay households are just like any other.

5. Marriage Equality Gets An Endorsement From Tide

While marriage equality has been a source of debate over the years, the only thing wrong with this union was the attire chosen for it. A brilliant twist ending courtesy of Tide.

6. This Heinz Commercial Is A Gay New Yorker's Dream Come True

As a gay man and a New Yorker, this commercial makes me very happy. Affection between same sex couples hasn't always been something we could see on television. However, this Heinz commercial squashes all that.

7. A Sweet And Unexpected Coming Out At McDonald's

This McDonald's commercial from Taiwan features a twist ending that is heartfelt, not comedic. For anyone who has struggled coming out, this should hit you right in the feels!

8. Sister And Brother Fight Over The Hot Pool Boy... With Coca-Cola

A nice bottle of Coke is quite refreshing. Who knew it was the perfect ice-breaker to approach your crush? This ad features a brother and sister competing for the pool boy's attention. However, it seems like someone else beat them at their own game.

9. This IKEA Commercial Was A Historic Turning Point

This classic IKEA ad from 1994 was groundbreaking for gay representation in advertising. It would be remiss of me not to include this important commercial on the list.

10. What Happens When Your Dad Sets You Up On A Tinder Date?

It's always nice to have your parents acceptance. However, even for gay guys, parents can get a little too close for comfort. This Vote Savvy ad portrays just that. But hey, they mean well, right?

Whether comedic, heartfelt, or provocative, these ten commercials have done wonders for gay male representation in advertising. It also reflects the representation of gay men around the world. From Israel to Taiwan to the UK, these commercials reflect the growing acceptance around the gay community. As far as I'm concerned, that's something to be celebrated.

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