Strange Reviews: The Transfer of Evil
Some years ago when Shrek and Shrek 2 came out, there were some protestations from Christians condemning the films because they believed the creators were trying to undermine the idea that historically, ogres are evil and we have to get to the core of our motivations to find out why we do what we do. They claimed that the softening of what was generally considered evil, was making the world more sympathetic towards those who appear evil. Now I don’t disagree with this view-point, but I always feel that Christians jump the gun when it comes to protesting art and entertainment, which more or less backfires on them. I just roll my eyes and move on and pray that those who know I’m Christian aren’t swayed to the idea that I’m as close-minded as all that.
I’ve seen two movies this week that has got me thinking about the stories we change or the motivations we create to drive a story forward or make something more compelling, and thus has to change our idea about evil.
So I’m just going to come right out and say it first of all: I believe there is evil in this world, and I believe that the source of this evil is trying to change our viewpoint about evil as well as making evil appear to be good and good appear to be evil. That being said, I am in no way protesting these films, for I enjoyed both of them thoroughly and will definitely own a DVD of one of them in the future. In my contemplation of them I see how they could be seen as manipulative in the way evil is portrayed.
The first one I saw was “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Incidentally, the first one should have been called “Dawn” while this one should have been called “Rise.” If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know some of the nuances of it, read no further, but, definitely come back and check it out. I won’t go into all the details of the film, for I want to quickly get to my point without throwing you off the trail. So we see this world with few humans and many intelligent, and speaking, apes in conflict. There are good humans and there are bad humans, just the same as in the ape camp. A particular bad human only see the apes as the cause of all that has happened in spreading the disease that has killed off most of the human race. He has nothing but hate, fear and mistrust for those apes who are in the way of getting some electricity back to the small group of humans still living in the city. He is the intolerant jerk we are supposed to hate. He even has a line, “Okay, so I’m the @$$-hole,” and many in the theater would have agreed with him. But let’s think about this for a moment: If we have seen all the people around us dying and then gone for the past ten years, then, there is hope for salvation in the form of electricity, which means music and lights and flushing, then standing in our way is the very form of the disease that has caused our whole existence to shatter, wouldn’t we have an excuse to be an @$$ too? Isn’t there justification for mistrust, for fear. But, we need that person in this movie. We need someone whom we can relate to and the one that we hate. We can even cheer a little when he is killed, even if it is by the same ape who we are supposed to have the same feelings toward.
Which brings us to the next character, an ape, that is the representation of the bad. This is Koba, an ape that was with Caesar from the beginning. Koba would do anything for Caesar and has humbled himself before him several times. Koba only knows humans as evil, for after all he was a laboratory ape. The humans hurt Koba beyond repair. All he sees if fear, mistrust and hate when he looks at humans. Koba soon finds out that the humans have many weapons in their possession. He tries to warn Caesar but finds Caesar collaborating with the humans to get them their electricity. Koba then challenges Caesar but loses and Caesar won’t kill another ape. It is at that point that Koba makes the decision to betray Caesar, and every choice after brings Koba further and further along in his choice of evil. We are to see Koba as how horrible we are as humans. He only chose this evil path because of how horrible humans were to begin with. We understand this about Koba, but as for the evil human, we don’t get that backstory, we don’t want to understand his motivations. We even scoff at one point when the leader spoke about reclaiming back what once was ours.
We are so easily manipulated to hate those who seem so intolerant, who are so jingoistic, yet have a compassion for those we know the motivations for, even though their actions are despicable and violent. But, then again I think that is why we like movies. It is easier for us to hate things we don’t understand, those we don’t even try to understand. Now going back to my belief in evil, I believe people choose evil and are evil and will never be “talked” out of their evil ways. We can have hundreds of conferences with insatiably, violent dictators trying to convince him that what he is doing is wrong, but he will never stop, because he is evil. Only violence will stop some people from doing evil. But, I suppose that doesn’t mean we should never try.
Now to the second film: Maleficent. We see this film from the viewpoint of the “evil” witch or faerie from the Sleeping Beauty fable. Here we see her motivations and the reasons why she is filled with such hate, and how she is justified in it. We see her backstory, all the way back when she was just a wee faerie, falling in love with a boy who only has dreams of living in a castle. Because of the boy/man’s final betrayal, all Maleficent knows is hatred and mocks at the idea of “true love.” The story is changed because Aurora is telling it now. Which begs the question: Who told the original story? We are made to believe that somehow the story was changed by the telling of it. It wasn’t the now evil King Stephen, for he was killed at the end. It couldn’t have been any of the other people because Aurora was made an honorary queen of the faeries, I suppose in addition to the duties she now had to fill because of her Father’s idiocy. So, we see Maleficent as the truly sympathetic character, who is the one who gives true loves kiss, because of her adoration of Aurora. And oh how the tables have turned for who we once knew as Good King Stephen in the previous iterations of the story, but now we know none of his backstory or motivations for being so dastardly evil, save for the fact that he has no parents and lives in a barn. He is now the evil one who must be vanquished. The strange is now good, and the different is now beautiful and accepted. All who don’t know this are deemed the intolerant ones. Just as things are today…
Just something to think about.