Lessons from a Golden Child

The Golden Child is a 1986 Eddie Murphy movie released between Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hills Cop II. It’s one of my favorite Eddie Murphy movies, often overlooked. It’s got an odd sense of humor, which is probably why I like it more than most people. It also offers some insights I find relevant to writing and to life.

The Movie:

The arch-villain, Sardo Numspa, carries himself as arch-villains do: With supreme confidence, demanding that all recognize his power. Eddie Murphy’s character, Chandler, on the other hand, has no idea who Numspa is, and calls him “Numsy.”

The Lesson:

No matter how successful you are, there are people who don’t know you and don’t care. Stay humble, else risk your hubris bringing you down (as it did our dear Numsy). It also suggests that if you are the underdog, keep at it. If you don’t care who you are up against, it might just help you make it.

The Movie:

In order to retrieve the knife necessary to save the golden child, Chandler must cross a chasm carrying a glass of water and not spilling a single drop. He is told to keep his thoughts as pure as the water. He responds, saying “This water isn’t that pure.” The monk responds, “Neither are you.”

The Lesson:

You don’t need to be a perfect person to do good in the world. It is enough to be yourself and do the best you can. You don’t have to be a perfect writer to write something good.

The Movie:

Once Chandler crosses the chasm, he is confronted with the knife he needs, embedded in flames. He reaches for the knife, and the flames rise. He is unsure of what to do until he remembers something the monk told him, “You must know when to break the rules.” Chandler drinks the water, dousing the flames and allowing him to retrieve the knife.

The Lesson:

When writing, you are faced with a lot of rules. If you search for rules for writing, you’ll find them from such writers as Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Kerouac – virtually every writer known. There are two things I’ve noticed about all such rules: They all contain excellent advice, and the authors that write the rules all invariably violate them. This is not to suggest that the rules have no value. You simply need to know when to break them.

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