Some sections of the newspaper get read first – for me, that’s the sports and the comics – and others, alas, are destined to line the birdcage.
With my sincerest apologies to true cruciverbalists (that is, crossword puzzle fans) everywhere, the little black-and-white boxes of the crossword puzzle in my newspaper are more likely to get filled with bird droppings than letters.
In an odd sort of way, “All About Steve” is really a movie all about getting pooped on for being a crossword puzzle in a world of headline news and sports pages – and, um, yeah, I know that’s a strange and slightly nonsensical metaphor. So is the movie.
Actress Sandra Bullock plays serious cruciverbalist Mary Horowitz, a brilliant, walking encyclopedia who knows everything about everything except how to fit in with “normal” society.
Mary talks too much, thinks too much and is obsessed with crosswords. And for the most part, she’s perfectly happy that way, doing what she loves.
“My purpose in life,” she says, “is imparting the joy of crosswords to others.”
If only knowing and living one’s purpose was so simple and joyful; and perhaps it could be, if society didn’t demand that we instead chase a more complicated purpose – something about making money, getting married, having a career, making more money, and, maybe, if you can find a way to buy it with all that money, finding happiness somewhere. Y’know, like most normal people.
But Mary is not normal. She doesn’t want to be normal. She’s happy not being normal. Until she thinks she has to be normal. Then … well, then her life becomes a bad romantic comedy called “All About Steve.”
“Society wants me to be normal,” Mary resigns, “then normal we shall be.”
Tossing her crossword ways behind her, Mary sets out to capture part one of the great American normalcy prescribed for attractive young women: the attractive young man.
But try as she might, Mary is not normal, and all her attempts to be something she is not result in disaster. Only when she slips back into her usual, caring, bubbly, brilliant, but odd self does Mary turn out to be truly beautiful.
“The world doesn’t have a place for the unique,” Mary resolves in the end. “On the journey of life … find someone just as normal as you.”
Aww, what a nice little moral to the story.
“All About Steve” is kind of cute, occasionally funny and almost delivers a meaningful message.
But rather than leave it at that, I propose to dig just a bit deeper. With a bit of a stretch, there’s a significant lesson that can be discerned from this piece of Hollywood fluff about being yourself despite society’s pressures.
Mary has a gift for doing a certain job. But it’s not as glamorous, prestigious or financially rewarding as, say, the ability to make pharmaceuticals or get elected into office. She – like her beloved crossword puzzles – isn’t headline news.
But though the world may value only headline newsmakers, may esteem only those that make gobs of money or have “successful” careers … the world is wrong.
Human worth isn’t measured by job titles or banking accounts. It’s measured by God.
“Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” the Bible says, referring to the way God has put together the unique talents of his people into one body, the church, “and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”
The Apostle Paul is teaching that the servants and the prayer warriors in the church should be afforded as much honor as the preachers and leaders.
Extrapolated out of the church setting, housewives are no less valuable than CEOs – particularly if they use their gifts to bless their families and communities. Kindergarten teachers can have just as much impact as college professors. A janitor’s good work can keep more people healthy than a doctor. Being a good school board member can make more of a difference than striving to be a congressman.
Why feel guilty or inferior for being a cruciverbalist if a cruciverbalist is what God has gifted you to be? Who says you have to be something “more”?
Yes, it’s normal to seek a prestigious job and hefty salary. It’s normal to desire what the world says is desirable. It’s normal to follow the pattern: go to college, get a good job, get married, have kids, work until your family … falls apart … your teens rebel … you get a divorce … wait a minute.
As Mary Horowitz demonstrates, take a look at what’s “normal” – are you sure that’s a good thing?
- “All About Steve” dabbles in sexuality the way many so-called romantic comedies do – a handful of crude jokes, a dash of skimpy clothing and one, overplayed, comic sex scene designed to make the audience just uncomfortable enough to laugh. Sex, however, is not the centerpiece of the humor in the film, and “All About Steve” avoids truly smutty content. The movie’s one scene of heavy making out in the backseat of a truck does drag on, however, and may be distasteful to some audiences.
- Profanity is present, but not overpowering in the film.
- The movie does toss out a couple of “gay” jokes, but homosexuality is not a predominant theme.
- The film dabbles briefly in religious themes, from quoting Jesus to a joke about a Jewish Catholic being “set in her ways.”
- There are a handful of scenes in which protesters rally over a baby born with a third leg. While it’s all played for fun, it could also be interpreted as a lampooning of pro-life or religious protesters, particularly when one of the protest chants is sung to the tune of “Kumbaya.”