While we often believe of learning philosophy through reading large and abstract books that can be daunting, philosophy is not simply limited to what we read from the text. Exploring philosophical principles and opportunities for discussion abound in movies. One that I’ve watched recently is “Firelight”, starring Cuba Gooding Jr and Q’orianka Kilcher.
“Firelight” tells the story of young female inmates who find a new lease on life by becoming volunteer firefighters. As the movie transpires, the audience becomes immersed in the upbringing that these young women come from, many from a very troubled background riddled with violence, drugs, and neglect that subsequently pushed them into lives of crime and poor choice. Naturally, this is a common occurrence that leads to incarceration. “Even though society says they’ve done bad things, they’re not bad people.” Already, there becomes a question of reform and change that must be instituted to resolve the myriad of issues within the criminal justice system. Should the focus be on the system itself or the foundation of the problems that stems from economic inequality and racial injustice that is out of control of the women in “Firelight”?
As the film progresses, we then begin to see a counselor at the women’s correctional facility that strives to help the young inmates reincorporate themselves back into society, straying away from the punitive frame that pervades the system. This counselor realizes the good in these people and the time required for people to change. Thus, the main plot becomes apparent. He then recruits them to be volunteer firefighters. The women go through grueling training to prove their resolve and commitment. They follow strenuous daily exercise routines and strict diets to be at top physical condition. This encourages them to bond as a group and build trust in one another. Though their training was difficult, the emotion stress endured during real rescues and duties added another factor to their situation.
At first glance, the philosophy may seem hidden or hard to sort out. However, opportunities abound for philosophical discussion in a variety of manners that are up to one’s interpretation. In addition to the potential policy changes needed to address the root of the issues mentioned earlier, the philosophy behind the concepts of redemption, selfless acts, self-respect, and personal identity requires further examination. How is personal identity constituted and defined through a variety of social environmental factors that influence the character of the female inmates profoundly? What are the ethical guidelines behind selfless acts? When should the self be prioritized over others and vice versa? I encourage you to explore these philosophical inquires and your rationales for each.