I recently viewed and listened to two works that have me thinking about how to live, interact and relate. I watched the Academy Award-nominated movie Fences directed by Denzel Washington and listened to Radiolab‘s “Lu vs. Soo”.
In Fences, Washington, nominated for Best Actor, played Troy Maxson. Troy was a troubled man who tried to shield his son Cory from a life like his, but in doing so he instilled Cory with fear and created an unreachable distance between them. Rose Maxson, played by Academy Award winner Viola Davis, was a fierce woman. She kept the family together, verifiable by the ending scene, even as it relentlessly pulled apart.
I was captivated by this family, this story. Troy misstepped in many ways, and they came back to him in the end.
In “Lu vs. Soo”, Lulu explains that she approaches everyone with kindness, while Soo challenges others. Soo urges people to do better, be better, while Lulu prefers not to throw any punches. Radiolab ended the episode with Lulu saying that she was proud to know Soo — someone who was unafraid to stand up when she sees something wrong — and Soo admitting that her assertiveness is an insecurity, something that sometimes pushes her away from people.
Both Fences and “Lu vs. Soo” asked about the balance between kindness and assertiveness. They suggested that assertiveness was the key to progressiveness. In both stories, however, exclusive assertiveness dealt a lonely and painful outcome. Perhaps it’s a given that the ideal lifestyle mixes inherent kindness with tasteful questioning, but perfecting that balance is difficult, as these characters (both real and fictional) have proven.