Lessons from The Tramp: The Rebel of Modernity

Charlie Chaplin was an English comic actor, composer, and filmmaker. He rose to fame during the era of the silent films and was most known for playing a character called “The Tramp”. The Tramp in Chaplin’s films presented many political and social issues pertaining to the early 1900s England. When the character of the Tramp rose to fame it was around the time that modernity really took root in western society. People spent their days clocking in and out of their factory jobs. Similar to machines, the employees would tirelessly work for hours only to use the money they made to later buy products from stores that were once made in a factory. Everything about modern times or modernity was about making money to buy products that advertisements by corporations said you needed to have. What made Charlie Chaplin’s character of The Tramp the most important character in the film industry was the fact that he was not negatively impacted by modernity.
The rebel of modernity is the refusal to internalize the machine. The Tramp did not give value to materialistic things and thus he did not try to conform. He always failed at his jobs because his jobs required him to act like a machine. He stood in a line with his fellow workers twisting knobs on a row of objects as they passed by him to be later packaged and shipped to stores. He would constantly make mistakes and could never imitate the efficiency that the machines had. Although the character of The Tramp was widely popular during the early 1900s, much parallels can be drawn from that time period and our present day. So much of today’s sense of being relates to our sense of having.
We can see that through the ways in which products are sold to us. Advertisements will show people having fun while using a product, and so they imply that to have fun you must buy their product. Companies will hire a pretty woman to sell beauty products, and thus beauty can be attained when you buy and use their product. This illustrates that our sense of being is our sense of having. However, when you buy into this ideology, your identity is no longer coming from you but from the spectacle. Now you’re imitating what the spectacle has to offer. What this does is create a society built on materialism. It’s in the best interest of corporations for consumers to continue to work to buy, rather than to pause and reflect on their life. When your effort, work, and time is used to just buy products, your life becomes something you buy back. Zombies are a fear of what we are, empty consumers whose only instinct is to eat. However, the light at the end of the tunnel is the popularity that The Tramp had.
When Chaplin presented the character of the Tramp, with so many connections to western society, the audiences responded with support and courage. Although corporations want nothing but machine-like consumers, humans are much greater than that. They are capable of having deep and profound emotional thought and creativity. Sometimes there just needs to be a Charlie Chaplin to help remind us of that. Being vulnerable and failing as well as not executing in a machine-like manner is a part of being human. Chaplin showed in his films that while vulnerability is the leased honored emotion, it is through vulnerability that you truly find growth.

Author: Idil Dahir

Idil Dahir is a freelance writer and editor living in Toronto, Ontario. She is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto in which she completed a specialist program in English. Idil enjoys everything from Films, TV Shows, Sports, Novels, and Comic Books. She is currently working on her career in film and TV production as well as her freelance work. If you would like to contact Idil you can reach her at: idilmdahir@gmail.com

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