Pursuit of Happyness: Movie as Object Lesson?
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's office has invited 120 homeless people to a screening of "The Pursuit of Happyness," the Hollywood flick about a homeless man who becomes a fancy stockbroker. The homeless people will gather tomorrow morning to see the Will Smith vehicle at Union Station.
I can't decide whether this is an inspired attempt at social engineering -- an effort to show the homeless a path to stability and success -- or an offensively simplistic and crude way of demeaning the substance abuse, mental illness and other reasons so many people live on the street. My initial reaction when I saw the press release (full text on the jump) was to be appalled--could people working in the city government really think that a Hollywood rags to riches story would be helpful to people living on sidewalks? But on the other hand, the people attending the screening will get two free meals and a warm morning inside a theater watching a flick they might enjoy--none of which is a bad thing.
So, cruel and dumb publicity stunt or genuine and caring gesture? Your call....
On Thursday, January 25, the Office of Community Relations and Services of the Executive Office of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty together with the Department of Human Services will host a private screening of "The Pursuit of Happyness" at the AMC Theatre at Union Station. The 120 invited guests are a cross section of homelessness in the nation's capital and will be coming from the Dwelling Place Shelter for Abused Elderly in Southeast and the Blair Shelter and La Casa Shelter, both in Northwest.
"The Pursuit of Happyness" (Columbia Pictures 2006) is the real-life story of respected millionaire Chris Gardner, who, in 1981, was a struggling salesman clinging to his dream of becoming a stockbroker. With his young son by his side, he struggled through homelessness, jail time, tax seizure and other adversities until he landed a lucrative, full-time stockbroker position.
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