“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone…I guess I just miss my friend.”
If Red’s tribute to his good friend Andy Dufresne the end of the The Shawshank Redemption doesn’t send goosebumps up your skin, then it’s safe to say you probably don’t have skin and should go see a doctor.
In a film seemingly stringed together by unforgettable moments, Shawshank’s conclusion transcends an already remarkable journey into an entirely different pantheon of storytelling — it becomes more than just poetic words about friendship and freedom; it becomes representative of why we live life and how important that basic human connection is to sustain our existence, even in the darkest of places.
That’s why 20 years later our memory and perception of Shawshank endures: it’s indisputably one of the best three to five films ever made, if not the single greatest (some would say so and I’m not going to challenge them whatsoever.)
When Andy (played masterly by Tim Robbins) finally escapes the treachery and injustice of Shawshank State Penitentiary by crawling “through 500 yards of shit smelling foulness,” it’s not a moment for the audience to stand up and applause.
Rather, as Andy crawls “the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile” to break free from his 19-year prison sentence, we, the audience, are rendered immobile; stunned at the capacity of his resilience and perseverance.
Red (Morgan Freeman) doesn’t want to imagine the smell — and neither do we.
And despite the iconic thunderstorm shirt ripping outside of Shawshank’s walls, when he is finally free at last, we are still not ready to cheer yet.
It’s not that we think he’s going to be captured (although that’s a perfectly good reason to have trepidation), but, instead, because the moment has seized us that much and begs us to answer the question: how far would you go for something you believed in? Would you crawl through 500 yards of shit for anything in this world, even your own freedom?
It’s an unprecedented cinematic achievement — director Frank Darabont has been building toward this scene for more than two hours, and we’ve been anticipating its arrival, but when it finally comes, the execution exceeds even the highest of expectations. (Did he really just do THAT?)
It’s certainly the most uncouth prison break in the history of incarceration. To celebrate it and the film’s 20th birthday, here are 20 things we’d crawl through 500 yards of shit for:
Family and friends
Despite our heavy dependency on technology —cell phones, televisions, Internet connection, the basic necessitates of life remain the same: we need to be surrounded by other people who either love us, make us laugh or at least recognize and care about what we do (no matter how good or bad).
This may seem a bit obvious — “of course, I’d crawl through shit to see my mother and father after all the times they’ve bailed me out” — but some people don’t view relationships as that essential, and may very well rank their iPhone over their brothers, sisters and best friends.
Color me an ultra sentimentalist, but if I were crawling through 500 yards of shit to obtain only one thing, then it’d be time with my family and friends — regardless of how much they piss me off at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Speaking of the holidays, think about not being able to celebrate events like St. Patrick’s Day, your birthday, the Fourth of July, your best friend’s wedding or, hell, even, just a casual Friday night party at your neighbors apartment. I know it sounds pretty bleak but that’s realty for hundreds of thousands of prisoners in America — Christmas is just another day on the calendar, spent alone in a confined concrete cell.
Makes you appreciate having stuffing on your plate and a stocking over the fireplace, doesn’t it?
It could come from a night in on the sofa or a beach somewhere in Mexico (like Andy achieves in Shawshank), but whatever the case maybe, we all yearn to find peace at the end of our respective shit tunnels. And no, I don’t mean peace and quiet from the incessant noise of modern society (shut up already about Ray Rice!).
While unplugging from all the commotion is always nice, it’s figuring out who you are and what you stand for that’s really important. Denying this quest for identity not only makes life a lot more “drab and empty,” it also isolates us from what we are naturally supposed to do — evolve.
Andy’s is stolen from him before his arrival at Shawshank, but he proves in his escape that it’s always worth fighting for — even if you’ll never be able to get it back again. Despite the knowledge that the double murder conviction will prevent him from every leading a “normal life,” Andy’s character never wavers and, in turn, his peers always see him in a respectable light.
Even after he’s gone, they still talk about him as if he’s right next to them. This is the kind of legacy we should all strive to leave behind, albeit not in a prison.
Sure, Andy gets to read, write and keep the prison’s financial ledger, but he’s never really truly allowed to express how he feels. He has to bottle up all that anger inside and, ultimately, it helps propel him to use that tiny ax and chip his way to freedom when the prison lights go out.
Nonetheless, as much as it motivates him to keep moving forward, the lack of expression — the lack of basic freedom — is still a cold harsh realty that’s hard for us to grasp as folks who have never had to enter the penal system.
We’ll get to food and drinks in a minute — as well as energy later on, but let’s just list off some every day shit that we’d crawl through shit for if it meant that it’d be taken away forever.
How about hot showers? Yep, definitely would like to keep those. How about central air that heats houses? Wouldn’t be able to survive the winter without it. How about just clothes in general? Yep, like naked would be fun for about maybe a day and then it would get really old really fast and we’d be scavenging the forest to make garments out of leaves and twigs. No thanks, I’ll pass.
Depending on where you’re from this could differ drastically, but I think we can all agree that home cooking is an essential part of life — what would us New Yorkers do without pizza or what would southerners do without barbeque? Again, these are scary questions, but they’re worth considering to appreciative the mundane stuff in our lives that we never think about.
Or the mundane stuff in our lives that cause us not to think…
I hate to use the recycled, “Imagine this…” but, seriously, what would you do without your drink of choice? It could be beer; it could be scotch; it could even be a tall glass of wine (I’m not judging) — regardless, you feel comfort when consuming whatever it is and it helps you unwind after a long day or long week.
Yes, alcohol serves more than just one purpose. It’s not all about getting fucked up; sometimes it helps provide us with a release that we need to survive.
And it’s not even the most essential release worth struggling for.
Group sex with porn stars
OK, I lied earlier when I said that there’s only one thing I’d truly crawl through 500 yards of shit for (to be with family and friends). I would absolutely do it, without hesitation, if at the end of the tunnel were three or four of the hottest porn stars in the world waiting to have sex with me. Call me a pig or whatever you like, but I’m really just a normal guy with a penis and a sex drive.
And yes, this is where I devolve into dream-type wishes such as…
A championship for our favorite sports team
It’s impressive that I held off on this one until now because, in all honesty, it ranks right up there with family, friends and group sex with porn stars. If I could guarantee my favorite team a championship by crawling through some shit, then I would absolutely do it if only because it would definitely enable to me to say “we” when referring to the team without feeling guilty ever again.
We’ve all heard of taking one for the team but I don’t think that phrase encompasses crawling through “shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine.” That’s some serious dedication.
Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, etc.
And, as we see with Andy cruising the Pacific coastline at the end of Shawshank, an open road to nowhere doesn’t hurt in completing this picture.
Of course though, every man dreams of owning a luxurious vehicle at some point in his life, even if he’s not a big “car guy.” If God were to offer you the chance of having one, but at the cost of crawling through five football fields of shit, you’d hesitate for about three or four seconds and then drop immediately down on your hands and knees
Never having to work again
Again, I hate to keep recycling the “If God were to offer you…” bit, but it really holds true here: if you were offered a lifetime of never having to work (provided that you’re given enough money to survive, say $2 million), then you’d crawl through 1,000 yards of shit to achieve it.
Screw five football fields; line up 10 if it means never having to work in a cube again.
Yep, if you haven’t learned it already, works sucks that much.
A personal jet + pilot to fly us anywhere in the world
Of course this comes equipped with an endless supply of gas, although I’m sure with $2 million in the bank account it wouldn’t hurt too much to fuel up from stop to stop.
Regardless, if you’re not going to be working, you mine as well travel to everywhere and anywhere you’ve ever desired to go. It’s not a necessity like water or sex, but exploration is an important part of life and definitely worth a few fumes of fecal matter.
A lifetime supply of marijuana
While we continue with this Ultimate Bro Wishlist, we mine as well throw out a hypothetical situation where you never have to call a drug dealer again to buy pot (it’s such a hassle if you don’t live in a city). Whether you’re a stoner or not, you have to admit it’s a pretty good deal — one, 500 yard crawl through shit for a never-ending supply of nugs.
Who wouldn’t take that offer? I thought so.
Never having to wait again
For those of you who are like me and are impatient about even the most basic shit like traffic lights or trains running late, trying imagining a world where you never have to wait in line for anything ever again.
All you have to do is crawl through 500 yards of prisoner feces. Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?
Imagine being Iron Man? Or even Spider Man? Yep, that crawl would seem a lot easier if you knew that you’d have superhero powers waiting for you at the other end of it.
And yes, I realize this seems like a bit of a childish desire, but I don’t really care.
I’d definitely crawl through shit to swing from skyscraper to skyscraper in New York City. You can’t take that dream away from me!
All right, enough with the self-absorbed things we’d crawl through shit for — let’s start branching out and solving some bigger, worldly problems.
Ebola? Gone. ISIS? Eliminated. Nuclear war? Never heard of it.
I know it’s a pipedream, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t stuff we wouldn’t crawl through shit to have become realty.
Solving the energy crisis
Wouldn’t it be nice if at the end of the 500-foot tunnel of shit, you came out into a world that wasn’t plagued by a dwindling oil supply and fear of a global blackout?
We probably don’t think about it enough day to day, but this is the biggest problem we face — and will continue to face — in our lifetime. Getting it out of the way now, in 2014, would be an epic achievement.
I promise, I’m almost off my soap box.
Ending climate change
Again, another hypothetical that can’t be solved by just crawling through shit, but doesn’t mean we wouldn’t do it to see it go away forever. Climate change, whether you’re an adamant believer or a gigantic skeptic, is a big deal and, similar to the energy crisis, is something we’ll be hearing about for years to come.
I’d rather never hear another word about it again, but sadly, that’s not going to be the case.
Ending world hunger
OK, I’m off the soapbox for good.
We’ve solved all the big worldly issues while also achieving some personal dreams here — not bad.
Who knew crawling through shit could be so productive?