Sunday, February 08, 2015
Sunday Reflection: Easy evil
Yesterday, I made the terrible mistake of going to see the awful film Jupiter Ascending. Among the many, many bizarre twists in this movie, my favorite might have been that a wide variety of advanced civilizations lived in hellhole cities that paled in comparison to the film's depiction of Chicago. Which… raises the question of why those civilizations couldn't create a decent city, or why all those aliens didn't move to Chicago.
While that was kind of a unique development (as was Channing Tatum doing his "dumb look" through much of the movie), other aspects followed the well-established formula for space epics. For example, you can tell immediately who the heroes are. The good people are all attractive, while the bad people are pretty much all appalling lizard-people or gollum-ish harpies or leering jerks or sallow-eyed psychopaths. In the rare instance where they are attractive, they are too slick and surrounded by the lizard people, etc.
Their evil is pretty apparent, too-- they are harvesting people by the planet-full to make a profitable life-extending serum. They take hostages and snarl threats. It's pretty easy to know who to like.
Of course, movies have long made it easy to know who is on which side. I mean Darth Vader-- all you need to hear is the name!
In the actual moral universe we inhabit, it's not that simple. As Jesus taught, the most important evil is often within ourselves. But that is hard to confront. Maybe that is the best way to understand these movies: as a metaphor for the battle within ourselves, a personification of that inner dialogue we all have when confronted with hard decisions. There are the ugly thoughts, propelled by self-interest and resentment that are countered by the good ones born of grace. And, in the end, we can hope that good will surmount evil in that much more realistic battleground.