Why We Should All Write a "Manifesto": Jerry Maguire's Lasting Resonance
When I started working, a lot of things changed. I moved to Boston and to my own apartment, I got a cubicle and business cards and a 401(k) (thanks Dad), and I even got a new name—up until then, I went by “Allie,” but at work I am “Alessandra.” Since a big chunk of the new people I meet now are through work connections, a large portion of people in my life now call me by this new name; the four-syllable word that was only read out at the start of classes in the fall semester for the first 22 years of my life, the name that my grandma called me the one and only time she ever got mad at me and sometimes when she would joke first-and-middle-name-me, the name that made Chrysanthemum one of my favorite children’s books because the character had a name as long and foreign as mine. And now, three and a half years, three different cubicles, two different titles, five different bosses, and three annual free pizza days into corporate America, I understand where Jerry Maguire is coming from.
The obsession that plagues Tom Cruise’s title character in Jerry Maguire is akin to that of J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, albeit not as borderline insane. The obsession with achieving—the preoccupation with being the best, with appearances, with maintaining some sort of meaning in a day filled with phone calls and meetings, are things that we can all relate to. I’ve been sitting in a cubicle for three and a half years, a mere drop in the bucket of employment that will most probably compose my life, and while there have been great parts—wonderful friends, comraderies, free pizza days—there have also been those days where I sat in my cube crying because a boss or a client yelled at me and hoping that nobody would walk by and see my face. Days that I’ve literally stared at my computer screen for five minutes at a time, watching the minutes tick by. Days that I’ve moved my today to-do list to tomorrow’s to-do list not because I didn’t have time, but because I simply could not bear sending out one more singular email and signing it “Best, Alessandra” with my company logo floating on the screen in front of me.
Very rarely do we get a movie where the actors seem to purely throw themselves into it. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death only evoked lukewarm fear in the main character. We all know that Liam Neeson is Liam Neeson in Taken. Even in Mean Girls, one of my all-time favorite movies, the actors aren’t given the material with which to transform themselves completely into something new, a character tormented or deranged or completely excited. Jerry Maguire is Oscar bait because of Cuba Gooding Jr. and “show me the money,” because of Tom Cruise screaming it back, because of Renee Zellweger’s “you had me at hello,” and, I think, mostly because a lot of people can relate to Jerry’s desperate attempt to find meaning between the countless e-mail signatures with a corporate logo underneath his name.