Saturday, February 23, 2008

Growing Up Is Hard To Do In The Adventures Of Sebastian Cole

Thinking back to 1996, I was confronted with the reality that it’s been 12 years since I was a high school freshman. No, I don’t wish to return. Instead I’d rather look back and move forward. I learned many lessons that year, because the differences between my elementary school and high school, were vast. During that era, I was introduced to sex, drugs, discrimination, and a novel which has been attributed to making people go mad!
The novel, Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s not the short length of the book that draws me in, but the honesty of the story.
We all know the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, who is retelling his adventurous Christmastime story, while convalescing at a rest home.
He begins the narration with limited details into his family history because it bores him. Throughout the course of the novel he describes with a bitter tone the characters within his circle.
Poor hygiene, acne layered skin, a dirty bathroom, selling out, and hiding your true personality are some of the unforgiving qualities Holden encounters.
By the end we learn that Holden’s the biggest “phony bastard.” Even though he shows remorse to his dead, younger-brother, Allie; Holden is so messed up that he can’t see his true self. His constant cycle of running, hiding and criticizing others, ultimately speeds up his mental breakdown.
The reader is left with the feeling that perhaps we’re all phony bastards trying to please society, but lacking the inner strength to please ourselves.
Now fast-forward to the year 1998. I’d nearly survived my 4 years of high school. By this time my life had picked up tremendously. I’d made many new friends and found my niche with the track team, school newspaper, and yearbook committee. However, the themes of Catcher in the Rye still resonated in my life.
I discovered one day while watching the previews of upcoming films, a trailer from the Indie film, the Adventures of Sebastian Cole, which starred the then-unknown actor Adrian Grenier.
It took me about a year or two to actually watch it, but the trailer had left its mark. I instantly related it to Catcher in the Rye.
In this twisted tale we find young Sebastian at a crossroads after his step-father, Hank, played naturally, by Clark Gregg, announces he wants a sex-change. As the story progresses, we experience the distance that Sebastian feels between the life he once knew and the uncertainty of his future.
Shortly after Hank’s announcement, Jessica, Sebastian’s sister, runs off to California with the annoyingly, likable, Troy. Sebastian and his mother run off to England, but he returns to his quiet town to live with Hank, now known as Henrietta.
The two form an interesting bond as Henrietta strives to get a sex change and Sebastian struggles to find emotional stability in an awkward situation.
Throughout the Adventures of Sebastian Cole, Adrian Grenier, performs so well that you begin to wonder how much was Sebastian or himself. His vulnerability never feels forced and allows the audience to sympathize with his occasional asshole tendencies, like dumping his girlfriend, Mary, after she says “I love you.” However, he redeems himself later when he risks his life to rescue two female strangers from a crazy man named Chinatown.
But the link between the Adventures of Sebastian Cole and Catcher in the Rye hides in the fact that Sebastian and Holden both think they are better than everyone else. They hide themselves behind their clothing, cynical words, and confusing actions. But they both crave spiritual tranquility. Neither of them has found what they are searching for by the end of their stories. However, the journey’s they lead are the first steps to their transformation.
Although, my years in high school didn’t include a cross-dressing step-dad, I’m thankful to have had the exposure to the faults of myself and my peers. Without the stress and struggle of adolescence, a person could miss out on adventures reserved for youth.