Face of a Franchise: Hero 1999!

[face of a franchise presents individuals that’ve fulfilled the same role. your task — choose the champion and defend your choice in the rancor pit that is the comments section]

It took seventeen years for Prince’s prophecy to be refuted, but when 1999 hit there was plenty to party about. For one thing, the Internet was finally delivering porno at a rate that could compete with that of our constantly evolving fetishes. And mercifully, Disney’s Doug was slaughtered after besmirching the brand that had flourished for years on Nickelodeon.

But most worthy of celebration was 1999’s slew of cinematic masterpieces.

Swooping in at not only the end of a century but an entire millennium, the Film Zeitgeist was grabbing the collective audience by the collar and screaming in its face. You can still hear the echoes of encouragement:

“Possibility is abound! Your life can, nay, should, change! You can hope for the future! Forfeit comfortable complacency and embrace turbulent enlightenment!”

Or something.

Three of my all-time favorite movies came out in 1999, and they all happen to have protagonists that’re facing the prospect of upheaving their lives. With that being said, as the movies approach this subject from different perspectives, each respective hero brings something to the table.

As portrayed by Edward Norton, Fight Club‘s Narrator is a dude ensnared by the material world. He works an insurance job that he sees as incredibly amoral just so that he continue financing his extraneous purchases, many of which include the furnishings of his apartment. But when his insomnia can no longer be cured by trips to support groups (whose members have ailments he feigns), it takes a visit from Tyler Durden to set things right. But once shit pops off, nothing can curtail the Narrator’s quest for the truth. Not even Tyler Durden.

A more suburban-minded search for meaning, American Beauty sees Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham finally unmasking himself. Burnham is no longer content to play second-fiddle to the wife of his sexless marriage, nor is he willing to cave when his boss informs him of a potential layoff. Instead, he blackmails his boss for thousands of dollars, leaves his job, starts smoking pot and working out, and lusts for his daughter’s friend. In the process, Burnham figures out what’s truly important in life and gains a new appreciation for existence.

And in a science-fictional turn, The Matrix presents the same existential crises in the context of a futuristic war against humanity’s robotic overlords. Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) lives a 9-5 life, but feels as though there is something out there – greater forces at work than can be perceived. Lo and behold, it turns out that existence is a computer program designed to keep human consciousness distracted from the true nature of enslavement. Anderson becomes Neo and joins the rebellion, giving the audience a parable about self-actualization and awareness.

The Narrator.
Lester Burnham.
Thomas Anderson.

Who’s your choice for Hero 1999?