“We are two odd, lonely children reaching for eternity.”
-Colonel Tom Parker
Elvis is a household name for the majority of people who know anything about popular culture. Everyone has heard of Elvis, but few, I would imagine, have heard of Colonel Tom Parker. Before I watched the new “Elvis” film (directed by Baz Luhrmann), I would consider myself in that group. The film focuses on Elvis and his rise to fame, but it does so through the lens of his manager and founder Col Parker.
Col Parker and Elvis have a tenuous relationship. In the beginning of the film and also the beginning of Elvis’ career, Col. Parker is the one who discovers the young Elvis Presley and immediately sees he could be a true pioneer in the world of music at that time. Col Parker says about Elvis, “It was the greatest carnival attraction I’d ever seen. He was my destiny. Right under my nose, in Memphis.” Col Parker realizes very quickly that Elvis Presley has a talent that could gain the both of them a lot of fame and notoriety.
As it turns out throughout the film, Col Parker both pushes Elvis to become the Elvis we know and love, yet he also seeks to control him and manipulate him for self-gain. At the end of the movie, we realize that Col Parker sought to control Elvis’ talent and did not want to see him go beyond his control and grip. Elvis even tries to fire him as his manager, but Col Parker holds payment over Elvis as his ticket to never let go of control. Col Parker was doing all of this in the name of destiny: “No, I didn’t take my boy away from nothing. He was running from the day he was born. I just opened the door to our destiny.”
The Role Of A Good Mentor
Col Parker was a mentor to Elvis. He identified his talent and helped him form that talent into something great. This is the role of a mentor: one who sees a goodness inherent in the mentee and helps foster that person to become the best version of themself. The tragedy happens when a mentor begins to manipulate, damage, and push beyond the limits of capability, and this is exactly what ends up happening to Elvis.
A mentor is one who has the best interests for those whom are being formed by their wisdom and guidance. For a young man like Elvis, who had little means to set himself apart on his own, Col Parker took him under his wing and helped him find an identity, but eventually Col Parker turned not into a mentor, but a leech. This is not how anyone should have to live.
Mentors are important since we often need advice and counsel as we go about our lives. We see in Elvis and Col Parker a mentor relationship that turned in the beginning from something good into something that caused a lot of harm, especially for Elvis. The difference between Col Parker and a proper mentor is that a mentor seeks only to build the mentee up and will do nothing to hold them back once they have found their voice. This is the tragedy of Elvis’ story, but in it we see the need and value for those who truly can guide us and form us into the men and women that we are called to be.
This article was written by Father Patrick Gilbreath and was first published HERE.
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