For all of us who experienced the 80’s, Pixels is a comedic jaunt down memory lane. For those who didn’t, it should still be fun. But, while you’re laughing and reminiscing, and explaining to your children why Eddie’s hair looks like that, or what a cheat code is or what are they talking about memorizing the patterns… you might want to take a moment to let the movie spawn some more meaningful conversations as well. Here is some help to get your started.
Nerds Appreciate it More
Sometimes grown up life is not much different than Junior High. In school, the nerds get passed over for the cool kids. They don’t get the girls, the dates or the kisses… Often, when we grow up, the tables turn and those nerds turn out to the “cool” men, largely because when we age, we judge “cool” by other standards—namely income and job status – and that puts the nerds at an advantage (often). Well, in Pixels, Sam Brenner stayed in the “uncool” category as he aged, because he ended up in a minimum wage type job, installing electronics.
He and Violet (a high-powered career woman) shared a “moment”, as he was helping her with her home installation but when he went to kiss her, she refused him and even mocked the idea that she would deign to kiss him, because he was beneath her. (See, just like in school days.) He retorted, “For the record, I’m an amazing kisser. All us nerds are. We appreciate it more.” I really don’t care about how much nerds appreciate kissing, but I do think there is an interesting concept there that is largely true about a lot of things. People appreciate things more when they are often denied them. This is partly why nerds (and other “uncool” kid categories) often go on to be more successful. They are generally less entitled, harder working, more appreciative people.
So, there are several ways to apply this concept. First off, if you or your child is that overlooked student, they can be encouraged that there will be things in their lives that, when they do finally come, they will appreciate more—this may be hard in the meantime, but be encouraged, but it’s sweeter in the end. Or, maybe you’re like Violet, looking down on someone because they seem less in some way or another…they may need to grow (Brenner certainly had some issues to work through before he was really worthy of Violet), but you also may be missing some real shining points—not that they are better kissers, but that they will appreciate things more, maybe even other people in their lives.
- Do you think it’s true that people appreciate things more when they don’t have them (or have them often)?
- If so, how might you look at the Bible’s charge to life self-controlled lives of discipline differently? Is God trying to rob you of pleasure, or increase your enjoyment of things?
When Failures Define You
I said Brenner had some issues to work through. Primarily, he had been marked by one defining moment of failure. He had lost a video game championships game to Eddie, and his life took a negative turn from then on. He was brilliant and full of potential, but when he came in 2nd, it marked him. He never achieved anything again, believing himself not worthy. First off, he came in second, which is still amazing. Rather than try again, or see the victory in what he did accomplish he pretty much quit on life after that point, seeing nothing but failure in himself. This is really just a pride issue—it’s as if he was insulted that he wasn’t the best and if he couldn’t be the best, then why be anything, which is pretty awful thinking.
The other problem with this is that Eddie cheated. The truth is, Brenner was the real winner. He was the best in the world. But Eddie, because he cheated, essentially lied to him, telling him he wasn’t good enough, and Sam believed him. He listened to his enemy and believed all he said. Sam’s biggest problem is that his identity came from two unreliable sources: 1. what other people said about him, and 2. his status as a video gamer. Those are horrible places to get your identity—they are shifting sand.
Had his identity been in something more lasting, say what God says about him, then his life wouldn’t have been defined by one loss (not even a loss, a 2nd place), and a cheating enemy. He would have been able to go on, giving his best to life, and in the end, the joke would have been on Eddie, because Sam would have become something.
- Have you ever let failure define you? How does that feel?
- How could having an identity in Christ free you from being identified by things of the world? Why might that be better?
Truth Brings Healing and Freedom
Fortunately, Brenner was given a second chance. He and Eddie found themselves in another battle, years later, with far higher stakes. And this time, Eddie was outed as a cheater. That was a game changer for Sam. Until then, he’d felt second best and was marked by hesitation. Once the truth came out and he knew his real abilities, he acted with a new found confidence. This is what truth does for us—it heals us and frees us. It allows us to see things in a new light. It sets us free from lies that have held us in bondage so that we can live in freedom and become who we were meant to become.
- Has truth ever set you free from a lie that held you hostage?
The Past isn’t Wasted
Cooper, Brenner’s best friend, commented, “Looks like all that time you wasted as a kid finally paid off!” Being the world’s (2nd) best video gamer in the 80’s may have been cool at the time, but in the scheme of life, it hadn’t seemed to be a very valuable skill or marketable past. Cooper had gone on to become President (of the United States). Brenner, however, had gone one to nothing, really. He was living far below his potential, but feeling he’d done all he would ever do—until the world was invaded by aliens via 80’s video games. Brenner’s previously unmarketable skills became a world saving skill-set in a flash.
I’m not advocating becoming under-achieving depressed adults. I do however, firmly believe and see evidence for the fact that God can redeem any past. He often (if not always) uses our pasts, failures and all, for His Kingdom and His glory and our good. And in Sam Brenner’s case, what was redeemed wasn’t just his past or his failure, but also his passion. The same is true for us. God implants in us various passions and skills and usually intends to do something with those, even if they lie dormant for some time before being resurrected.
- Do you feel that it’s good news or bad news to hear that your past probably won’t be wasted?
- What are your passions? How might God use them for His glory someday?
Meant for More
Cooper was so excited to see his friend finally come alive again. His passion and vision for life had long since waned, but suddenly, as there was once again a place for him in the world as a video game master, Brenner came alive. “Remember when I told you you were meant for something more? This could be it!” Cooper excitedly exclaimed. The important point to note here, however, is that Cooper was right—Brenner was meant for something more. He was wasting his talents, passions and energy on something that was undeserving. We are often in his shoes, wasting our energy, passions and talents on pursuing things are equally underserving. Our pursuits may seem more deserving because they are more prestigious in the world’s eyes, but the Lord says we are meant for HIS glory, and anything less falls short. When we pursue other idols, like fame, power, money, influence, romantic love, pleasure, ease… all these things are lesser gods. They aren’t worth our heart. The Bible says we should seek first HIS Kingdom and HIS righteousness, and THEN all these [other] things are added to us (Matthew 6:33, author’s paraphrase).
- Do you ever feel like you were meant for more than you are living/experiencing?
- What do you think your purpose might be?