16 Millimeter Shrine

The episode opens with actress Barbara Jean Trenton sitting alone in a dark room watching a film in which she herself stars along side a handsome leading man. Lost in time, Barbara dreams of her life as it appeared in those films 25 years prior to her present day of the 1950s. In walks Barbara’s agent Danny to share the news with her that she has an appointment at a movie studio for a new role, something she hasn’t had in some time. Danny opens up the windows and lets the light into the room, showing Barbara the beautiful world outside that dark room that she is missing. Barbara, excited with the potential of once again appearing on the silver screen, tells Danny that she hopes the film is a musical, so she can sing and dance again, or maybe the film would have a romance story line. 

Barbara and Danny make their way to the studio only to find out that the role Barbara would be playing is one of a someone’s mother in her 40’s, which is Barbara’s actual age. Barbara is appalled at the thought of playing someone’s mother, seeing herself only as she was 25 years earlier and storms out of the studio executive’s office. Barbara returns home with Danny on her heals proclaiming that “From now on I will keep the drapes drawn and the doors locked. I don’t want any of the outside world coming in.”  She believes if she wishes hard enough she will be able to wish away the present and it will be the 1930s again. In the belief that such a wish can come true, Barbara asks Danny to invite all of her costars from years past to her home for a party. As she runs through the list of names, Danny explains why those individuals cannot come; they are dead, they are no longer in acting, they are no longer in California, etc. In the face of Barbara’s disappointment, Danny tells her “you are building yourself a graveyard, you are surrounding yourself with what is dead.” 

Danny decides it would be a good idea for Barbara to see one of her former romantic costars, Jerry Herndon, as he looks today. When Danny shares with Barbara the news of Jerry’s visit, Barbara is excited and dresses to impress. But when Barbara sees Jerry, she realizes that he is old. He is not the same handsome man she knew him to be. She says to him “We always picture people the way the were and not as they are.”  She demands that he go away. Barbara retreats back to her room to watch her films of yesteryear and wishes out loud of her desire  to join  the people on the screen. 

Later that evening, Barbara’s  housekeeper enters into Barbara’s room where she watches her films to offer her a snack and screams at a site the audience cannot see. She calls Danny over to the house to explain that Barbara is gone and she is nowhere to be found. Danny begins to play the movie that is in the projector and sees that the movie playing is not a movie that Barbara has ever starred in nor is it a film that a studio has ever produced. It is a movie that is filmed in Barbara’s current home, her front door opens in the film and in files all of the actors, just as they had looked in the 1930s to include Jerry Herndon. As they all file into Barbara’s foyer, Barbara, as we know her today (1950’s today), walks down the stair case and greets all of her guests. Danny begins to scream for her through the screen, Barbara glances back, throws Danny a kiss and happily walks off with Jerry Herndon. 

Barbara is finally happy living in the memory of what was and not living in what is. For Barbara, the memory alone was not enough. She needed to be in the past, to live the life she once had, surround herself with people as they once were, and just like movies, stay in a world that is make believe. As long as she lives in the past Barbara does not have to face the fact that time has passed, people have aged, people have changed, and that life moves on. Unlike last week’s story of Mr. Denton and Doomsday, Barbara is not looking for a second chance to right a wrong, Barbara is looking to live only as she once was. She believed that during that time and place, in the 1930’s, is where she was happiest. 

How many of us are living in the past or are just going through the motions of the present unable to understand why we are not happy? How many of us look back on our past and think “I was so much happier when I was that size?” Or “I was so much happier when I didn’t have so much responsibility” or “I was so much happier when I was younger”.  How many of us look back on high school, college, our 20’s, 30’s, or even our 40’s and think “that was the best time of my life” and “I wish I could go back and live that time all over again.”  It is one thing to look back on your past and smile at the memories you created. It is another thing to live in the past failing to recognize that time has passed and you have changed. Depression comes from living in the past. The past can never be relived, redone, or revisited. We will never be who we were and instead of seeing that as a point of sadness we should see that as a point of happiness. Who we were is how we got to be who we are. Be thankful for that. We can look back with fondness on who we were but we must realize that we can never go back. In the vain of Danny’s statement to Barbara regarding building a graveyard, who we were in the past is dead, the us of yesterday is a memory and that is it. That time and place no longer exists and it is not a place that we can go back to and nor should we want to.  It is our individual responsibility to ourselves to create a life in the present that will not be a disservice or in vain to the us of yesterday.  By living in the past, you miss out on all the wonders and beauty that are happening today. Life is being lived all around you and it will pass you by if you keep looking behind you. Instead of wishing for what was, create a life now that makes you happy to be living in the present, thankful for the you who got you here and live a life that the future you will look back on with fondness.  

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