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Zoolander’ pondering

Ankur Chawla | Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In the fall of 2001, a movie premiered that expanded the boundaries of human thought and shined an introspective light on everyone who had the pleasure of seeing it. It’s not a far stretch to say this film changed my life. Of course I am talking about the timeless classic, “Zoolander.” Now, in this column it is not my intention to discuss the film’s deep commentary on the fashion industry, nor its political undertones against child labor and kung fu. I want to discuss Derek’s internal struggle and search for identity to which all of us can relate.
After spending much of his career at the top of the male modeling world, Derek found himself being replaced by a newer, hotter Hansel. When Hansel won the “Male Model of the Year” award over Derek, the internal struggle commenced. Peering into a puddle on the side of the road, Derek asks, “Who am I?” When his reflection only responds with, “I don’t know,” and a goofy face, he realizes he had a lot of pondering to do.
Seeing a new class of freshmen here on campus, it’s hard not to feel the same way or to draw a parallel. Coming into the University of Notre Dame, each of us were the best and brightest from our respective hometowns and high schools. We were the “Male Model of the Year,” if you will. But as we have either recently started, are moving through or finishing up our time here at Notre Dame, we are going through the same process of forming and reforming ourselves and our identity.
In my time here at college, I’ve been a man of many hats (pun intended, I have a shelf with dozens of them). From the man who likes cupcakes way too much to The Observer’s expert film critic, I’ve taken on many roles, names and concepts of who I am, and I’m sure you have too. When asked to tell people about myself, I jump to my list of activities, grade and major, maybe adding that I love to bake and cook. Still the list feels hollow and incomplete, even with the addition of the roles and traits I’ve come to be known by.
I’m not one to, nor am I one you’d want to, be offering an existential analysis on who we are as humans. But I will say to be sure there is more behind being the guy who makes crepes on Sundays and can quote “Scrubs” while naming the season and episode the quote comes from. Adopting catchy identities and being a guy with a thing (à la “How I Met Your Mother”) can be useful, ice breaking and fun, but ultimately that will leave you staring into a puddle asking yourself if you really are really, really ridiculously good looking, or, if you’re like myself, you have a lot of pondering to do.