I want to see the movie entitled, “Peanut Butter Falcon.” David French wrote a review with the heading, “A film with a Conservative Soul teaches three great truths of manhood.” The movie is “about a boy becoming a man.” It happens “through ancient forms of tradition and ritual that are disguised behind the modern frame of the unconventional, accidental family.”
Zak is a young man living in a nursing home because of his disabilities (down syndrome). Zak longs to escape and find his hero, Saltwater Redneck, a professional wrestler. He flees the home and meets up with Tyler who is also on the run. Together they drift down the waterways in the South on a handmade raft. For Zak the journey is about manhood: “it’s about manhood in a deeply traditional sense.” French sees the trip communicating three profound truths.
First, a man needs his journey. Tyler agrees to help Zak find Saltwater Redneck’s wrestling school. Tyler tell Zak they are going to have “stories.” In their heroic journey Zak comes “to greater life.” “You can see him walk in new confidence” observes French. “The brushes with disaster and his courageous responses start to define him.”
In modern manhood life is comfortable and safe. “Yet” French maintains, “there is something inside most men that rebels against comfort and safety.” French insists, “That’s an impulse that should be nurtured and cultivated – even celebrated – not denied and suppressed. In our comfortable, therapeutic society manhood does not happen by default. Risk and adventure are not part of life for young men.”
Second, a man needs his strength. “There is a moment” French remembers, “in the film that encapsulates the way a therapeutic society and mindset can sap a man of his confidence.” Eleanor who took care of him at the nursing home find him and wants him to take his medicine and come back to the home. But Zak is now a new man and wants to hang on to that strength.
Young men don’t need to be cuddled, but given encouragement and confidence so they can face the hardships of life. In this way they begin to taste the reality of manhood.
Finally, a man needs his dad. The movie isn’t just about Zak, but also about Tyler, who is transformed into a loving, protective father figure. As French notes, “Zak finds his manhood, Tyler finds his purpose, and his purpose is in leading and loving Zak….a young man’s restless energy shouldn’t be indulged or suppressed, it should be shaped and directed.” Tyler is acting as a father figure building up Zak’s strength while protecting him from harm.
If young men do not have fathers, they need what French calls, “a ringleader.” They don’t stand on the sidelines. Rather they are participants in the journey.
“Energy and vitality” are often discouraged in young men. Thus, in French’s estimation: “Young men grow up without facing defining moments. They don’t know who they are. They don’t know who they can be. They’re overly protected at best and scorned at worst.” They need to be encouraged on their journey to be strong so that one day they can sense their calling as a man.
Personally, I can see myself in all three of French’s points First, at 18 my folks let me go as I ventured out to Southern California, and found myself as a man. Secondly, there were many ups and downs in my life. But I can vividly remember realizing at 28 years of age a confidence in my manhood. Thirdly, I am so grateful for the Godly men in my life, who helped me become a man. I desperately needed father figures.