I’ve been trying for a while to choose a new name for this blog. Nothing really stood out to me for a while, though I believe I may have settled on a winner, or at least a temporary one. In my search for a new title, I first turned to movie quotes, because movies are important to me and have shaped who I am in ways that can only be explained in multiple blog posts down the line. I suppose I could have looked at Bible verses first, since there’s no denying that they have had a far deeper impact on my life than any movie, but because this blog deals mostly with pop culture, a movie quote makes more sense. The focus of this blog is more often than not movies, though I do strive to write about them through my Christian worldview (often not successfully enough, but I’m learning). The first quote I looked at immediately got my attention and won me over.
“Coulda Been a Contender” comes from a classic movie from 1954 called On the Waterfront, about a boxer (Marlon Brando) who fights corruption in the longshoreman’s union. The line my title comes from is near the end, when Brando’s character, Terry, is confronted by his brother, who is complicit in the union corruption. Terry tells his brother:
“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”
I was drawn to this quote as a title for several reasons. First of all, there’s the obvious “a bum” connection. For those who don’t know, my name is Aaron Bumgarner, and people often call me Bum or, more rarely, A-Bum. A humbling nickname to be sure, but I’ve embraced it. The fact that Brando literally says my nickname in a classic movie quote was too good to pass up.
Also, choosing “Coulda Been a Contender” hones in on my love not just for movies but for the culture of movies. “I coulda been a contender” is a quote that’s considered a classic and holds special meaning for any movielover. It comes from a revered movie and is uttered by the actor that not only helped to usher in a new style of movie acting but is often credited as The Best Actor Ever*. It’s this lasting significance the quote has that points to why I love movies: they have an effect not just on me, but on culture, and sometimes the world.
Interesting fact: I’ve never seen On the Waterfront. But that also makes “Coulda Been a Contender” an appropriate title- it’s a movie I need to see, one more in the vast landscape of pop culture I have yet to experience and digest, which seems to be what this blog has wound up being about. I may change it someday when I find something else that wins me over, something that fits this blog better. Until then, this will do quite nicely.
*I love Brando, but this is a ridiculous statement. The movies aren’t sports- you can’t quantify acting like you can quantify how many shots a player makes or how many balls he’s caught or how many matches she’s won. And even in sports there’s something intangible that goes beyond quantifiables- the stat-heavy Celtics-Heat game last night is one example. There were plenty of great statistical performances (poor Rondo gave his all in that loss…44 points!), but it’s going to be remembered for what it meant: the near end of the Celtics Big Three, Miami coming together as a team, Rondo showing that he doesn’t need Boston’s veterans anymore to be a star, more support for the idea that all NBA refs shouldn’t have jobs, etc. We shouldn’t think in terms of superlatives or statistics, but rather attempt to more fully articulate what’s actually happened, both in how experiences have changed us and how they’ve changed the immediate world. For example, instead of saying Brando is The Best Actor Ever, wouldn’t it be better to describe his performances and why they’ve meant so much to us, the effects they’ve had on the world we live in?