Filmmakers across all genres use their medium to convey a message. Sometimes you will be hard pressed to explain the significance of a particular film’s message, but nevertheless most movie’s will have one. So, although it is true that all films in all genres have something to say, it is also true that some of the most passionate films that have the most to say are made within the comedy genre. Spreading a message through comedy is usually accomplished by creating a story that pokes fun at a serious issue to make light of it (this allows the film to gain more attention, which in turn spreads the massage out even further) through a large range of means. Neither Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times nor Jared Hess’s Nacho Libre are exceptions to this.
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Modern Times aims to make light of the Great Depression and the horrible work environments employees who luckily had jobs at the time faced. Its purpose isn’t to create a call to arms against what was happening, (because everybody was already up in arms for about 7 years prior to the release of the film). Instead it’s more so Chaplin’s way of saying “These conditions are god awful, we all recognize that, and we are rooting for your success”. Or in other words, it was a way of showing the poverty-stricken citizens that they weren’t completely alone in seeing the (ridiculously unaddressed) need for change in this trying time. Chaplin ensures that everybody that has or ever will see the movie understands why it was made by showing things such as a man repeatedly getting himself arrested so he could have a stable source of food. These conditions were pathetically bad, and it is impossible to ignore that fact while watching this movie. Chaplin is essentially wondering aloud “Why has nothing meaningful been done about this yet?”
Nacho Libre, although possibly touching on a less (then) currently pressing issue, is generally shooting for the same target as Modern Times (bring a larger amount of awareness to a subject that’s practically begging for reform). The film focuses on the oppressiveness of (specifically Hispanic) religious communities. It’s well known by most that highly religious groups/people tend to be on the conservative side when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of what others can partake in; the church in this film is no exception. In this film, children and adults alike are disallowed from enjoying something as harmless as entertainment centered wrestling. For a reason none of them can provide, partaking in or enjoying Luchador wrestling is highly sinful, which prevents both our main character from living out a childhood dream and the orphaned children that are housed at the church from having fun by play wrestling. This is the problem the movie has with such conservative church methods; how can you enforce these ideals if you can’t even muster an explanation as to why it is so horrible? And do you not realize that this does more harm than good to those you are trying to protect?
Modern Times and Nacho Libre are hardly alike in terms of their message. What makes them similar is their approach to addressing the subject they are covering by aggressively mocking, and, in the case of Nacho Libre, asking numerous questions about their subject matter (although Nacho Libre is somewhat less willing to do so at face value. It’s a Nickelodeon’s kids movie, after all). By doing so they aim to make their message and purpose clear in the hopes that it causes reform in their communities to some degree.
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