Every time I am watching an Owen Wilson movie, I am constantly reminded of some of my best friends and my favorite priests growing up.
And to the “Trads”, no, it is not the immorality portrayed through some of his characters like Roy O'Bannon in Shanghai Knights or John Beckwith in Wedding Crashers, rather it is the compassion and humor stemming from these characters and others like those from Nick Campbell in The Internship and most recently in his character Charlie Gilbert from Marry Me.
What we see in these characters is the ability of Owen Wilson to display the ultimate compassion as a cool person.
This may seem like a childish way to describe this phenomenon, but it is true.
When we think about the rising depression in our population across the world, I am constantly reminded of how despite knowing that many of us have been so very lucky, how often we feel excluded and depressed from the “cool people” around us.
Whether or not we sought to attend high school and college parties, and whether or not we chose to participate in activities like drinking alcohol or sports, did not mean that we sought exclusion from the people who did choose them.
Rather, we often sought an inclusion that we have felt from our priests, our best friends, our family, and the inclusion we have tried to spread around us. We have sought the inclusion Jesus has shown all of us. He knows he is better than all of us. He knows we sin. He knows we are not God. And yet, he sits with the elite (teachers at the temple), the poor (healing of the poor man’s daughter), the healthy (the wedding at Cana), the sick (healing the leper), the moral (the disciples), and the immoral (forgiving the adulterer), and he invites them into His Eternal Kingdom.
And then, I think about all the kids and adults less lucky, as well as those who have given into the temptation to try to be “cool”.
I think of how many of us felt excluded growing up from the “cool groups” for being who we were, and how many of us became clinically depressed or extra sinful to fit in?
How many of us felt sad because we never got to have fun like some of our classmates or co-workers going to parties or on fancy vacations?
But, when we look at Owen Wilson’s characters, oftentimes, he provides an antidote to this feeling of exclusion and this feeling of depression from within the cool circles.
Owen Wilson’s Antidote to Exclusion:
In The Internship, Owen Wilson plays Nick Campbell who goes into a place where he feels excluded, trying something new, and daring us to not abandon our own personalities and skills amidst people far more capable than us.
Nick Campbell and his long-time co-worker, Billy McMahon, played by Vince Vaughn, are two middle-aged recently laid-off salesmen who are not very knowledgeable with the internet or any computer sciences for that matter, yet decide to go intern for Google. Initially, they are considered outcasts, yet they not only continue trying to gain acceptance, they themselves accept the people around them and bring a more fun dynamic to their interns and co-workers at Google. Owen Wilson’s character is extremely compassionate to the interns he works with, as is Vince Vaughn’s character, and they allow their “nerdy” interns to feel “cool” by inviting them to different places and teaching them life lessons on how to be themselves but also how to enjoy their life more. Now, of course being a movie, there are some inappropriate scenes, but overall, this kindness made each of their interns better at their future jobs and more well-rounded and happy. Even when Nick and Billy were not accepted for who they were, they turned the other cheek and then accepted those who did not accept them for who they were. And it was Nick and Billy who were the cool, funny, athletic, and the type of guys that could get any woman they want. By having Nick and Billy include others and be excluded, it teaches us to look past stereotypes and to remember that no matter who we are, we both have the unique ability to create new friends and a better environment around us, while also understanding that even those who appear to have it all can still be excluded, a message many highly intelligent people should take with them because they often are the ones who exclude the most subconsciously.
This blend of compassion and humor creates a contagion for their group who by the end, all are able to communicate better and all are able to show more compassion for the older generation such as in this scene at Sal’s Pizza. This is a perfect scene because it displays how being compassionate toward others while using humor can go a long way into creating trust and making everyone feel better around you. These types of scenes make Owen Wilson’s characters so valuable because it displays the compassion and inclusiveness we all seek and influences “cool people” to be kind to others because they can witness just how great both Owen Wilson’s and Vince Vaughn’s character is in The Internship.
Owen Wilson’s Antidote to Depression:
Owen Wilson’s antidote to depression can be best seen in his comedy.
Our world needs more happy comedies and happy songs to combat the rising tide of violent and depressing films and music that are gaining popularity around us.
And, when most people watch an Owen Wilson comedy, they immediately become happier.
Because people need comedy in their life to deal with the pressures and emotions of life.
When you go to mass, is it not better when the priest starts with a joke?
When you go to a funeral, is it not better when we remember the fun memories and the funny moments of someone’s life?
God gave us comedy to encourage us to look for the best in one another because oftentimes, that is what comedy is. We turn a horrible topic into something funny because we take the only good thing that can come from it and we elevate that and as a result, we often are less hateful of that situation.
For example, if someone dies, we can focus on how they no longer have to deal with us, at least hopefully not for a while. If someone gets injured, we can focus on how they no longer will have troubles finding a parking spot.
Looking for the positives is what Jesus did with the adulterer, with the elites like the tax collectors, with His own disciples, and everyone around Him, as well as in situations like the fact that He was saving all of us, while He was dying on the Cross.
And, we can see this constantly in Owen Wilson’s many characters.
Owen Wilson has the habit of always looking for the bright side of life, such as in Wedding Crashers when John Beckwith looks at the best side in all of the people at the wedding from the “True Love” scene by stating that every person here is there because “they want to believe in true love”, and from there, gives good advice to Rachel McAdams’s Claire Cleary on her matron of honor speech for her sister. But, he does so in a very positive way and encourages Claire throughout the scene to save her speech. He does so in such a nice and funny way that it warms Claire up to this idea, and his niceness to the people at the wedding displays the kindness Owen possesses through John. It makes people want to be like Owen Wilson.
And, it is not only this looking for the bright side of life that Owen Wilson often displays through his characters, but also the sheer funniness of it all like in the “Kill the Giant” scene from Night of the Museum when the little figurines have decided that Ben Stiller’s Larry Daley must pay for all the museum guards who have locked the figurines up over the years and they tie him down to a toy train track. Larry Daley then asks Owen Wilson’s Jedidiah what is going on, and Jedidiah responds that someone has to pay. Larry Daley wants to know for what, and Jedidiah responds “I don’t know. Just pay. Just stop whining. And take it like a man!”
Owen Wilson as a Guide for Us Catholics?
In real life, Owen Wilson struggles like all of us, but one thing very interesting about Owen Wilson is his Catholic background.
Owen Wilson is of Irish Catholic descent on both his mother’s and father’s side.
Later on in life, Owen Wilson would become a practicing member of his Catholic Faith through RCIA.
There is not too much more known about Owen Wilson’s Faith besides this Los Angeles Times article which talks about a time when he was praying at a nearby Catholic Church during a break for one of the filming sessions of a movie of his.
But, this is not how Owen Wilson should be a guide for our Catholic Faith, rather his guidance should come in the form of guiding each one of us to be nicer and more funny to brighten up the world around us, especially for “cool people” and you know who you are.
These could include regular lay people and does, but also should include clergy including bishops. We have a lot of good influencers in our Catholic community and showing more compassion and making people’s days better should be a goal of our’s, every day.
Many Catholics already do this.
By displaying compassion we can become more inclusive to all people, and by using humor, we can communicate our rules and lifestyles to those maybe not very Catholic. We can use the Owen Wilson technique to be forthright to people in a way that is not judgemental, while also making them comfortable via laughter.
But, it would go a long way if we had more “cool” members of our Church preaching to be Catholic like Father Mike Schmitz for example. This makes people see that one can be a good Catholic and normal, just like Owen Wilson shows that one can have compassion and still be manly, and one can be nice and inclusive, yet still be very cool.
I am sure there are a lot of questions that will be rightfully raised from the premise of this article, but this article in no way is meant to encourage or make judgements upon Owen Wilson’s movies or real life. There are of course some things displayed in both Owen Wilson’s movies and his real life which we as Catholics are not supposed to do.
Rather, this article is meant to encourage Catholics to take Owen Wilson’s compassionate and humorous qualities with them in their missionary activity because we should strive to make all people feel included in Jesus’s Kingdom and to make all people feel better. And, by sprinkling humor in with our daily conversations for what not to do and what to do, we can better communicate and influence those who may have fallen away from our Church to regain their Faith. Imagine if the “coolest people” were good people? With Owen Wilson, we see the “coolest people” as inclusive people.
This inclusiveness should be used to combat the rising trend of irreligion. But, this is not inclusiveness of sin, you know the type popular today, rather, inclusiveness of people and an encouragement to do good. You must be excluding sin, but there are ways to go about excluding actions that Owen Wilson displays in many of his characters that still creates an inclusive environment.
Therefore, in our goal to create a more just and happier world, we would be really smart to take Owen Wilson’s humor, compassion, and inclusiveness along our journey, because if we all simply just made one person better, the whole world would be. And furthermore, if we had more "cool" and "normal" people doing this, we could lead more people exponentially back to the Faith!