agency (noun): the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power1st definition in Wordhippo.com and 2nd definition in Merriam Webster app
Like the original TV series starring Edward Woodward, the Equalizer helps people in trouble. Denzel Washington plays a compelling Equalizer who reads classic books and works low-profile jobs. In E2 he is an Uber driver with quiet, violent tendencies when circumstances draw him to act. This is a good action movie utilizing realistic knife moves and hand-to-hand combat.
A man-to-man scene
I chose this film to review because the interactions between the Equalizer and an artistic teen neighbor have a masculine quality unusual in modern cinema: man to young man.
Miles, the fatherless teen, is selling drugs and hanging out with a gang (kind of stereotypical, maybe that’s the point). The Equalizer challenges Miles to make up his own mind about the direction of his life instead of playing a role in someone else’s narrative.
During their first exchange, they talk about who’s job it is to paint over graffiti.
Miles: Why don’t you let someone from the building do that? Not a tenant?
Equalizer: I suppose I could. I guess anybody could do it but nobody does, Miles. Ends up with everybody complaining because nobody did what anybody could have done or should have done to begin with.”
This scene is about taking agency.
After extricating him from the gang, the Equalizer forces Miles to point a gun at him – to emphasize his agency. Gang up or not, it was his choice.
The Equalizer expressed his masculinity with emotional force to make the teen accept that he and his choices matter. Blaming circumstances or other people robs the individual of agency.
Miles: Why me?
Equalizer: Why not you, Miles?-scene after The Equalizer confronts a gang
From victim to victor
This scene is powerful because of the expectation of agency. Despite the abundant violence, the film’s real takeaway is the transformation from victim to victor over your situation.
Hard work and self-respect
I like how the Equalizer commands respect by demanding Miles respect himself. A parent figure with high expectations and self-respecting comportment is extremely influential to children. This explains high-achieving Asian Americans. Traditional Asian parents have high, unambiguous expectations: you will get A’s, go to college, play an instrument, and be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. You sing or act on your own time. Asians aren’t inherently smarter, they just work harder at school and have higher expectations. Anyone can do this. It’s not easy but it is possible.
The fight scenes are riveting but the Equalizer’s interactions with the kid are the best part of the movie.
Do you offer your kids opportunities to take initiative? To be responsible?
How can you build character in your kid?
Do you model integrity and self-respect?
How do you expect your kids to interact with the world – as the victim in a pre-defined role or as self-defining influencer?
Takeaway: seize your agency and change your world
If you let someone else tell you how you should vote, what you should think, limit your opportunities, and define your role in your life, you are handing over your agency and giving up your power. Your intention for your own life is the mightiest thing you possess. It’s how people move to this country with nothing and create wealth: Andrew Carnegie, Cesar Millan, Gene Simmons, and Jerry Yang (founder of Yahoo) are just a few.