Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Being There:’ Ignorance is Bliss

A prediction of today?
Official ‘Being There’ Facebook Page

Have you ever noticed that the people who say “ignorance is bliss” tend to be the most ignorant? Convenient, right? This old expression is taken to the extreme by one Chauncey Gardiner in “Being There.” In this film, the effects of Chauncey’s shuttered upbringing are used to critique the rampant ignorance of a society betrayed by its own advancement. “Being There” looks to humor to get across harsh messages and to highlight our dire circumstances.

Chauncey, known as Chance at the start of the film, is a gardener on a wealthy estate who knows little of the outside world. Following the estate owner’s death, Chance (played by Peter Sellers, in his penultimate film) finds himself lost in a world he only knows from television. By a series of chance encounters (pun intended) too complicated to explain, Chance ends up in the highest circles of the American government in Washington, D.C. Some of the most powerful men in the world believe Chance is “Chauncey Gardiner” and treat him as an equal, but Chance is still wondering what’s good on T.V.

“Being There” looks to almost downplay Chance’s role throughout the film. Many frames revolve around or between the powerful individuals he comes into contact with, as he either sits in the background or is obscured entirely from view. This highlights the minor role Chance plays due to his simple nature, despite the perceived importance drawn to him by the people he meets. He often stumbles into shots as though he is an inexperienced background actor, adding to his “small” role. This helps show the similar ignorance of some of these elected officials, basing their judgement of Chance on rumors, rather than proof. Though Chance’s flaws are easy to see, the faults of the best that America has to offer becomes disturbingly clear as his tale progresses.

This path mimics our own, in its own strange way. The virtue of ignorance pays dividends beyond Chance’s wildest dreams, but the main goal of the film is to show the problem with this way of living. The exaggeration of world leaders who meet Chance and look to gain his approval shows our own (vain) desires for approval. More and more, we see this in our daily lives, not just in politics.

Chance’s comically meteoric rise represents an interesting fork in the road that we as a society face today. We are either going to progress or regress further than we could have ever imagined before. Yet our greatest opponent continues to be our fellow man or woman.

Jackson Walker can be reached at [email protected].

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  • J

    Jackson WalkerNov 29, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks Mat.

  • M

    Mat BrownNov 29, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Nicely written.