In the 2001 humorous and outrageous film Zoolander, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), a male model, has an identity crisis. Having made “model of the year” three years in a row, he is upstaged by Hansel, the latest in hot male models (Owen Wilson). In an opening scene, Derek Zoolander, filled with the self-pity that full blown narcissism brings when the ego is assaulted, walks by a fountain and ponders his reflection in the still water. With the Bee Gees song “I Started a Joke” (sung by the Wallflowers) as background music, he asks his reflection “Who am I?”. It is a hilarious moment in a film that is outrageously naughty and funny.
Struggles with identity are not uncommon in the role of the third culture kid. We are often uprooted at critical periods in our lives and living between worlds can cause us to question who we are and where we belong. Much like refugees and immigrants who face starting over, the non transferable skills, sense of isolation and being other, and inability to articulate who we are can paralyze us, making us unable to embrace what has shaped our lives. But third culture kids aren’t the only people who forget who they are and act out of a false sense of self. Identity crisis and not remembering who we are is endemic in our world.
While Derek Zoolander looked to his reflection in a city fountain with the profound question “Who am I?”, a pool of water is not a great place to get the answer. As humans our need is for a more solid foundation on which to base our identity.
I take heart when I look at the Old Testament and the emphasis on the need to remember. “Remember this day” “Remember the instruction” “Do not forget” are said over and over. The Israelites were called to remember who God was, and who they were before Him. Gods words were there because he knew there would be times when they would forget.
While I’m not a male model, I too go through my moments of looking in pools and other places to find out who I am. God graciously and creatively reminds me that I as the “created” am not going to find out through asking myself, but rather going directly to the “Creator”.