The Thing I Like About …

Tremors: the sunscreen moment.

In Tremors, Valentine is fairly obsessed with the “perfect” woman – a certain height, a certain weight, a certain hair-colour, a certain etc., etc. Rhonda LeBeck, a grad student in seismology doing field work around Valentine’s town, is a pleasant-looking woman – with the “wrong” height, hair-colour, apparel, etc., and, worst of all, with a brain. To make matters worse, when she meets Valentine, she has a thick layer of sunscreen spread across her nose. Valentine is visibly disappointed by her appearance, and becomes quiet, awkward, and anxious to leave.

After they’re gone, Rhonda realizes she has sunscreen on her nose. She touches it, and laughs, assuming that’s why Valentine was acting so strangely.

Is this about Valentine’s shallow tendencies? No. It’s actually about her laughing.

We all encounter people who come to us with preconceived notions and arbitrary preferences, who judge on things that don’t matter, who think things about us that aren’t true, who dismiss us for reasons that are unfair. We all encounter a lot of those people, actually, and when we do, we often allow them to push our buttons, to make us question ourselves, to make us hate ourselves and feel bad. We may not know why they feel or think the way they do, but, for some reason, we decide that they must know something we don’t, that somehow they’re right and we’re wrong. We might, for instance, look at Valentine’s ideal woman, and see the differences between that woman and ourselves, and decide that we are lacking. We might decide that we should change ourselves into this ideal woman, so that we can attract Valentine – a man who judges people on their appearance and who is threatened by others’ intelligence. What a catch.

The grad student is able to laugh at herself and at Valentine; she doesn’t take any of it particularly seriously, and she doesn’t judge herself. She continues to be herself, and to be happy, and to find the humour in the world … and those qualities are so compelling and so important that eventually even Valentine comes to his senses, and stops being shallow, and falls for her.

But that wouldn’t have mattered to her anyway.

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