Critical Thinking: Are you thinking hard enough?

27 April 2012

This is a term that is thrown around a lot in higher education:  thinking critically.  Go to college, go to university, and you will be challenged to think more critically.  That little word duo has always thrown me off because I always assume that I'm not thinking hard enough.  I'm not analyzing things as deeply as they should be.  I always just assume that I'm not thinking critically, that I'm missing something.  Like there's always a level farther – more... "right"?  More "true"?  More "fair"?  Should that have been "truer, fairer?"  Whatever.  What I'm saying is this whole culture of critical thinking in university still baffles me.  Because I don't know what it means.  Or if I meet one person's meaning of it, I feel that there must be something more critical beyond that as well.

This is something that makes sense in my head, but I'm realizing that as I'm typing this out... it may not be translating too well.

For example, last night I went to a 70th anniversary TCM screening of Casablanca.  I was so effing excited.  Bogey on the big screen and not on my teeny 13" laptop.  Where do I pay?  Also, I just freaking love this movie.  I love Rick and Sam.  I love Paris.  I love the composition and the time.  I want Rick and Ilsa on that plane.

This may have been my fourth or fifth time seeing this movie.  All the other times, I remember it making me really freaking depressed after watching it.  I mean, I love the movie, but dammit I want that final frame with Bogart and Bergman.  But we're not given that.  And maybe that's why this film haunts so many people – because we aren't given that desired happy ending.  Also, just realized that you might not have seen Casablanca, in which case, sorry, but seriously WHY HAVE YOU NOT SEEN IT.

I'm also notoriously terrible for not getting films.  At least in my mind's eye.  I have friends that will bring up quotes or sequences from films I have seen, and I won't remember any of it at all.  And then during the actual watching experience, I'll not be able to decipher dialogue or not remember the names of important characters, even forget faces so then later on I'm all, wait who the hell is this guy and why is the protagonist so familiar with him?  Maybe I get too engaged in the story – the movement of the events, that my mind lets the elements that implement them slip by.  However, as a film student, this is one of the most inconvenient qualities about myself.

So anyway, this viewing of Casablanca was so different for me.  All the previous times I took away that Ilsa really had been pretending the entire time that she was still in love with Rick.  And that at the end she had always hoped that it would be Laslow she would board the plane with – as if that was her intention all along.  This time, so many things bothered me.  Rick's treatment of Sam.  I mean, I know that was how things were historically at the time, but if Rick is such a great chap, wouldn't he treat someone who cared so much about him a little better.  And even the portrayal of Sam.  The token black friend who is all smiles and carefree, trying to cheer up the depressed white guy.

And don't get me started on Ilsa.  I don't know why I saw her as powerful previously.  I mean, she's not a total doormat.  She did have the nerve to pull a gun on Rick.  But all those "oh, I can't think about this anymore—you'll have to think for me."  And the tears and just.  Like women just give up, have to rely on men to make the hard choices.  It just... it just bothered me.  Again, I realize that there were different social norms and gender stereotypes operating back then, but portrayals of women still exist like this today, be they period or present-day.  Like I just weep in the face of unbearable life conundrums.  As if crying is weakness.  As if women still aren't being targeted as a commodity to be won.  As if me and my friend didn't get blocked by two men commenting about our appearance on the way to the cinema

My mind is all over the board here now.  I'm just going to end this and say that I still really love Casablanca.  I'm not really sure if I'm watching it critically or not.  But I know I can't just see it as a love story that leaves me sad anymore.


  1. If this is not 'thinking critically', I don't know what is?! You always seem have a different take on things. Fresh/new perspective. Your stream of consciousness is truly interesting! Keep writing! :)

  2. I always think too much. I hope I'll find a way to think less.