Being Alive - A Review on "The Bling Ring"

The crowd saw Moses enter into a blazing cloud of fire on top of a mountain. Confident that the newly freed captives of Egypt would have faith in the God of Abraham after witnessing undeniable miracles like cutting the sea in half, Moses stayed in the cloud for forty days. God was transforming him into a spiritual leader for all of the Israelites, but that wasn’t what they really wanted. After a few days when Moses didn’t return they lost faith and wanted to build their own God. So they combined all of their gold and molded a Calf to worship. Why? It was pretty. It was tangible. It didn’t expect anything from them, especially suffering. So the Israelites became idol worshipers.  

Sofia Coppolla’s “The Bling Ring” can be analyzed from many perspectives and will most likely be scrutinized as a film about the dangers of celebrity obsession. Yet, I wonder if the average viewer will question the deeper psyche of the film’s content.

Based on the true story of a group of high school students who went on an illegal
shopping spree of celebrity homes in Los Angeles during the late 2000’s, “The Bling Ring” is creative film making. While maintaining its simplicity, the film honestly depicts an obsessed generation in search of false idols. Real life and social media are juxtaposed by showing an Emma Watson selfie (a picture one takes of his or herself...your welcome Generation X) in one scene followed by the immediate social activity the pic receives online. The film focuses on how we are more involved with social media than we are with our social lives. Follow me, re-tweet this, check out my vines, subscribe to my Youtube channel, “like” my page, read my posts, comment here, make me feel alive. I don’t discount myself, this is my generation and I love social media (Please subscribe to this blog!), but there comes a point when one must choose to be controlled or take control. Social media should be an outlet to express individuality, but at times really becomes a crowd pleasing device towards self-fulfillment. While it can empower individuality, it can also create false idols. This is the world of “The Bling Ring” where individuality means desiring to be someone else.  

Pop Culture
We love our celebrities, their marriages, their babies, their divorces, their DUI’s, their super human bodies, and their drama. It’s easy to gossip about the life of another in order to mask our own hurt. The film itself acts as a mask, revealing superficial personalities that bury one’s authentic self. The kids in the film seek to image the very gossip they read about. One girl is arrested for a DUI and brushes it off as normal with
her friends, after discussing Lindsay Lohan’s numerous DUI’s. The two leads played by Katie Chang and Israel Broussard relish in the victory of robbing a celebrity by snorting cocaine, driving recklessly, and passionately spewing out pop songs from their intoxicated voices.  
Fashion is a character in this film that the kids relate to, communicate with, and express real emotions towards. The first time we see Paris Hilton’s home (yes, they shot on location) it shocks the audience. The amount of clothes, jewelry, shoes, handbags, etc. is uncanny. There are pillows with Hilton’s face on them. (Why would you want to sleep on your own face?) The kids find their golden calf then loot it. They continue this process throughout the movie, tracking down all of their celebrity idols and robbing them, building up to their biggest idol, Lindsay Lohan. 

What Coppolla did so well was reveal the solitude behind celebrities. We watch as the kids enter the homes of Megan Fox, Orlando Bloom, Brian Austin Green and so on, and each home is filled with dead silence, low lighting, isolation, and OPEN DOORS! Yes, this was my biggest problem with the film, except that it really happened. These celebrities would just leave their million dollar mansions unlocked without an alarm. It proves that money cannot fulfill a person’s deepest desires. Paris Hilton lost two million dollars of things before she realized she was being burgled. It is truly a saddening image to see a gorgeous mansion filled with beautiful adornments sit in uninterrupted silence. It’s a lack of life. There are no families there, no children running down the halls, no lights on in the dining room, no music coming from living room, no children’s voices. Even though these celebrities were known to be out of town at the time of the robberies, the film still presents their living space as empty, despite being filled with luxurious objects. Sondheim says it best in Company, "Alone is alone, not alive."

Being Alive
It ultimately comes down to fulfillment. The Bling Ring kids were not dying of hunger, facing foreclosures, living on the streets, or desperate for money. They were desperate for recognition. Emma Watson’s character was based on reality star Alexis Neiers, who had her own show at the time called Pretty Wild, though it was not filmed until her arrest. She was acculturated in the celebrity scene and didn’t need the money. Yet, these kids still felt entitled to the lifestyle and all that comes with it of their celebrity idols. Being surrounded by the objects of the rich made them feel alive, but it would be a temporary feeling as they were caught and sentenced to prison time, some longer than others. Money cannot bring ultimate fulfillment, just like the Israelites in the desert. A golden Calf cannot bring them true recognition because a calf cannot love them, suffer for them, or heal them. "The Bling Ring is about authentic relationships and the lack thereof. These kids did not have healthy relationships with each other and with themselves. For the Israelites, their relationship with God was supposed to be their true fulfillment, but they rejected the love that freed them from persecution. For the Blingers, their ultimate fulfillment was a false idol each of them created for themselves. Our true self is found by living for the other not desiring to live as the other. 

Think. Become a child again. What does the world look like? Is it full of hopeless depression or wondrous opportunity? Who do you want to become, not “What” do you want to become, but who? A professional athlete, an animal activist, a profound speaker, a contemporary artist, someone who fights against poverty or injustice, someone who saves lives or uplifts the human spirit? Travel back to the present. Are you satisfied with yourself? Are you fulfilled? Are you alive? Or do you worship a calf?


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