Philosophy, religion

The immaturity of ‘faith’ in the 21st Century

I’m going to begin this blog pulling no punches.

If you define faith as ‘believing something without evidence or reason’, I think ‘faith’ is stupid.

It’s not wise, it’s not humble, it’s not a virtue. It’s just a lazy crutch to hold onto beliefs without any reason to do so.

But I don’t think that’s really what most people, deep down, consider faith to be, nor do I think that’s the primary focus of faith when used in The Hebrew Bible or the New Testament.

Consider this usage; ‘I have faith in my mother’. What do I mean by that?

I think it’s clear I’m articulating something much richer than ‘I believe in my mother without evidence or reason’, in fact I’m not saying that at all. I’m expressing hope and trust in my mother to deliver, to come through. My mother’s existence isn’t in question, nor is there any suggestion my faith must be baseless.

It’s a statement of trust.

See, I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while because I really don’t like what ‘faith’ has come to mean or the way it’s employed to justify unsupported beliefs. Because faith is so much more than that.

But first, let’s start with some Logic 101…

 

Logic 101

Before we can discuss why the ‘belief without evidence’ definition of faith is so damaging, it seems necessary to go over some basic points of logic.

In theory, these shouldn’t be contentious, but it’s a strange world with many weird beliefs, so let’s go step-by-step.

1. You need reason/evidence to believe things

This one should really be indisputable.

It’s for this reason the statements ‘My wooden door used to be an alien made of wood’ and ‘We need oxygen to breathe’ aren’t equal. One is supported by evidence, one is not.

If you don’t need a reason to believe something, then you could literally believe whatever you want.

‘My dad used to be a T Rex.’

‘The sun is actually a hologram.’

‘The position of the stars can help us predict our futures’.

All equally ridiculous.

But, in reality, I don’t think most people who say this really mean it. I think, instead, they’re arguing that some beliefs don’t need to be held to the same standard of certainty as others. That, somehow, we’re impoverished if we insist on certainty in all aspects of our lives.

This is a little more palatable, and not without some merit. After all, many of us suppose the existence of an objective morality, even if there is little evidence of such objectivity existing, because it is pragmatic to do so.

Nevertheless, if you are to argue a set of beliefs ought to be exempt from needing support, you need to make the case why.

In the case of religions and superstitions, it’s not really clear.

Sure, there are attempts. Alvin Plantinga argues that religious claims are ‘properly basic’, and Wittgenstein would argue religion is exempt from fact-based criticism because believers are using a language unintelligible to those outside of it.

However, I think few of us would actually agree with this, and philosopher Stephen Law has written a solid critique of the Wittgenstein defence which you can read here.

When pressed, most of us would concede we do need to have a reason to believe something.

 

2. Not being able to disprove something doesn’t make it equally likely as not

Often in debates about the existence of God, a believer will say ‘you cannot disprove there’s a God.’

This is true, but it does not make the existence of God equally likely as his non-existence. There are lots of things that are obviously nonsense but can’t be disproved.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell used the example of a teapot, orbiting the sun, too small to be seen by a telescope. Even though we cannot disprove there’s a teapot orbiting the sun, we’d consider someone eccentric indeed for believing there was one.

 

3. Something being unexplained doesn’t make unlikely ideas more likely

This is a strange one, but sometimes people might point out something unexplained or unknowable, and then use that as justification for believing a whole load of nonsense as a result.

I’ve written at length on this fallacy here but, simply put, having gaps in our knowledge does not justify filling it with whatever bullshit we so choose. As argued before, a humble agnosticism seems the rational default approach.

And so to faith…

A definition of ‘faith’ which means believing without evidence or reason actively defies the first point, and will often use the second and third in its reasoning.

In other words, it is completely flawed.

But, as I said earlier, I don’t think this is a helpful definition of faith, in fact I don’t think it’s a concept that would be very familiar to the authors of the Christian sacred texts at all….

 

What did  ‘faith’ mean to the writers of scripture?

One thing it’s all too easy to overlook is how our modern framework and context can give entirely new meaning to our language.

When we break down the definition of religious ‘faith’ that I so hate – ‘belief in God without evidence or reason’, you begin to see it has a distinct post-Enlightenment vibe about it.

It:

1. Assumes the existence of God is in question, which has not been the case for many cultures throughout history

And

2. Places significance on the idea of ‘evidence’ and ‘reason’ as the usual standard by which we gather our knowledge

But that’s a modern reading.

It only makes sense to talk of ‘evidence’ in a post-scientific revolution world where empiricism is generally accepted.

In other words, to many cultures throughout history, that definition would simply be alien, not least to the biblical writers (I’m keeping my scope focused entirely on the Judeo-Christian tradition because I’ve already bitten off more than I can chew!)

In an interesting piece on the use of the Hebrew word Emunah (faith) in the Torah, Dr Menachem Kellner argues that faith means trust in God, not a belief in certain propositions.

Claiming his point is neither new nor controversial, he argues:

‘…the basic, root meaning of emunah is trust and reliance, not intellectual acquiescence in the truth of certain propositions.’

And when we enter the New Testament there is still little evidence that the writers were concerned with justifying the existence of God or urging their readers to have ‘faith’ despite what they see.

In fact, there are scripture that make it clear that, in the writer’s view, belief in God is entirely reasonable.

Romans 1:20 – For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

No appeal to blind faith there!

Other verses even demand believers be ready to give justification for why they believe what they do.

1 Peter 3:15 – Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

I’m not trying to argue that the biblical definition of faith is somehow definitive and the only one, but simply want to show that our usage of it now is, in many ways, a modern construct.

It’s not that belief in God wasn’t a necessary part of faith, but it wasn’t the focus, it was simply assumed, and trying to twist ‘faith’ into an excuse for not giving a reason for your belief in the 21st Century is forcing the word to have an entirely different intention.

 

Faith throughout history

It’s hard to track exactly how the definition of faith changed throughout the centuries.

Certainly Greek philosophers struggled with the relationship between reason and faith, but in a very different way to how we see the struggle today.

The likes of Plato and Aristotle believed in rationalism, the view that reason and deduction are the chief sources of knowledge, as opposed to sensory experience, and so their discussions are dissimilar to the ones we have in the modern world.

But as we started to shift away from rationalism and metaphysical explanations to empiricism, the fixed natural laws of physics and astronomy in the 17th and 18th Century, and then further challenged still by the revelations of geology, biology, psychology etc. in the 19th, the distinction between faith and reason/evidence becomes much more familiar.

We see the birth of science vs religion, and eventually the use of ‘faith’ as being distinct from needing reason or, particularly, evidence.

Brrr, I hate that definition SO much.

 

Conclusion

Throughout history, faith has been seen as a virtue by many, but what is meant by ‘faith’ has continued to evolve and change.

The modern definition that understands it as ‘to believe without reason or evidence’ is perhaps the least sophisticated we have come up with.

In much the same way our strict understanding of the distinctions between history and story paradoxically lead to unsophisticated literal readings of scripture, so to does the sharper focus on evidence and reason cause some to pervert the true meaning of faith.

Faith should be a hope and trust in some goodness beyond yourself, transcending certainty – not in spite of reason, but because of it!

It is not, however, a lazy licence to believe whatever rubbish you want and excusing yourself from having to justify it.

Lose the excuse.  Keep the faith.

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Film

My top five films of 2018

As 2018 draws to a close, it’s a good opportunity to look back on another year of film.

As always there have been some stinkers (Fantastic Beasts 2, why you suck so bad?) but there’s been some gems as well.

So, in annual tradition, I’m going to count down my five favourite films of the year (yes, I know I only started doing this last year, but it’s a tradition now!)

 

Honourable mentions

Before I get stared, these are the movies that deserve a mention even though I haven’t found a place for them in my top five.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Admittedly this one ended up being pretty contentious in how it handled racism, but the script is sharp and witty, and I rather liked that it didn’t try to wrap everything up too neatly.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – Just an absolute joy from start to finish. It never really got a fair shake, what with everyone still being inexplicably obsessed with that crappy circus musical instead.

First Man – The pacing isn’t for everyone, but it manages to capture both the incredible achievement and terrible cost of putting men on the moon.

Bumblebee – The first Transformers movie that isn’t completely awful. In fact, it’s great. Warm, charming and bursting with heart. Nice surprise!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Beautifully animated, loads of fun and a perfectly crafted story. This one makes Lord and Miller’s firing from Solo even more painful.

Ghost Stories – When it comes to horror, I couldn’t quite get on-board the Hereditary hype train, and The Nun was awful, but Ghost Stories was pretty damn good. Creepy, thoughtful and a story that took me by surprise.

 

Top Five

5. Creed II

In 2015, Ryan Coogler did the unlikely and made what sounded like a terrible idea (a Rocky spin-off) into one of the best films of the year. Seriously, it was fresh, dynamic and powerful, adding a whole other dimension to the Rocky universe. While Creed II doesn’t quite feel like the lightening in a bottle the first film was, it’s still a worthy successor.

Creed II acts as a sequel not only to its predecessor but to Rocky IV, one of the more cartoonish instalments in the franchise, where Rocky fights a Russian because, you know, Cold War and shit. In that movie, Adonis Creed’s father was killed by Viktor Drago (the Russian.) This sequel sees Drago’s son pit against the young Creed.

Admittedly it sounds pulpy and a bit obvious, but it turns out to be a logical next step in a franchise so invested in legacy. Creed II also grounds the characters, making Viktor Drago’s cartoon villain much more three-dimensional.

But it’s outside the ring where things really shine (as is often the case in the best Rocky movies), as we get to witness the ups and downs of Adonis’ and Bianca’s relationship through pregnancy and early parenthood.

As I say, not as good as the first Creed, and it’s pretty predictable, but it’s moving and delivers exactly when it needs to.

 

4. Annihilation

Whilst it got a theatrical release in the US, Annihilation was released straight to Netflix in the UK, most likely because the studio thought it was a bit too strange to pitch at a mainstream audience.

Directed by Alex Garland (who also made the brilliant Ex Machina), Annihilation tells the story of a group of women entering an anomalous field known as ‘The Shimmer’. Inside they realise biology is quite different, with DNA being refracted in the same way light is through a prism.

This wasn’t a film I instantly fell in love with, but it’s one I’ve not stopped thinking about. It asks some big questions, both in plot-terms and about the nature of existence itself – it’s an exploration of grief and change.  Less a puzzle to be solved and more an experience to be felt, watching the movie is an opportunity to let its themes wash over you (whilst it’s tempting to Google ‘what does Annihilation mean’, it’s kind of missing the point.)

The haunting imagery imprints on your mind, as does the sense of growing uncertainly – both beautiful and terrifying. One scene, involving a distorted bear, is easily the scariest moment in anything I’ve seen this year and sticks with you long after the movie has ended. To say any more would spoil it, but it’s worth watching for that alone!

Thoughtful, mesmerising and horrifying – a sci-fi worth checking out if you missed it.

 

3. Black Panther

From the director of the first Creed came Black Panther, the latest instalment in the behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With a predominantly black cast and a focus on afrofuturism, the film felt pretty revolutionary when it was released back in March, and I discussed how important it was here, but it’s also a really well-made movie.

Unlike most superhero films, Black Panther is less the tale of one man and instead more of an ensemble piece – in fact, it could be said it’s a story about Wakanda itself. Who will rule it? And how should it deal with the outside world?

Unlike a fair chunk of the MCU, Black Panther has real substance, genuine character arcs and some meaty stuff on its mind. It doesn’t shy away from the injustices of colonialism or the inequality between races. It also explores the nation’s (admittedly quite justifiable) inclination towards isolationism. The movie ends with T Challa reaching out to the world, saying ‘in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers’ (a sentiment that’s pretty timely given the current geopolitical landscape.)

Black Panther felt like something new in the MCU (which is no mean feat) and turned out to be one of the best films of the year.

 

2. The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro’s latest movie is a twisted but sincere love story, a dark fairytale with teeth, and it’s utterly captivating.

The Shape of Water is the story of a mute woman falling in love with a creature who looks like its come straight out of a 50s monster movie. What should be strange comes across as real and heartfelt – in some weird way it’s understandable why these characters fall for each other. With del Toro’s gothic styling, the film looks gorgeous, backed by a fabulous score. A highlight is a dance number which, again, should feel completely goofy but totally works.

It’s also eager to explore some of the darker realities of its time period. There’s homophobia, women are patronised (the female lead really is voiceless) and the villain is a white man, rotting (literally, due to a severed finger) from toxic masculinity.

It doesn’t quite hit the heights of Pan’s Labyrinth, but The Shape of Water is an absolute treat all the same.

 

1. A Star Is Born

It might seem an obvious choice, but Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is the only film this year to truly blow me away.

A tragic love story between a rock star past his prime and an amazingly talented woman he helped discover, every moment of this film reels you in. The direction is immersive, giving the audience the closest experience to actually being on a stage themselves, and the script crackles. Lady Gaga proves any naysayers wrong by giving an incredible performance, matching, if not bettering, her experienced directing co-star. It’s luscious, quality film-making at its best.

The songs are also brilliant, with ‘Shallows’ being a particular highlight. Great as the song is though, the build up to Ally getting on stage to perform it, and the adrenaline of the moment actually happening, elevate it from a great tune to an unforgettable cinematic moment.

Beyond just being a love story, there’s a depth to A Star Is Born I wasn’t quite expecting. Where other filmmakers might be tempted to go cliché with this kind of material, Bradley Cooper opts for thoughtful. This is best seen in the way the film handles the discussion of authenticity.

As Ally rises in fame, she becomes an increasingly versatile performer, beginning as a jazz singer, moving onto country and ending up a pop star. I was ready to roll my eyes as Cooper’s aging rocker quietly judged Ally’s ‘lack of authenticity’, until I realised the film wasn’t really on his side. There’s not actually a ‘selling her soul to the corporates’ take, just a nuanced exploration of the reality of making commercial music. There’s a fantastic piece on the crisis of authenticity here which I recommend reading, but this part stood out to me:

‘Ally’s authenticity is that she’s a shape-shifter; she’s like David Bowie that way, in that all of these versions of her are true facets of her. None of them are selling out, and it’s interesting to look at your own reaction to her different phases to see what those reactions say about you. Did you assume that her decked out in a Nudie Suit and crooning alt-country was her more ‘authentic’ moment, despite the fact that we met her singing a jazz standard? Did you feel that her pop moment was phony, despite us never getting a sense for what kind of music she personally likes?’

The fact the film offers these kind of readings elevate it beyond a pleasant watch to something much more substantial. It’s my film of the year because the craftsmanship is second to none, the acting is topnotch, the songs are great and there’s real nuance to be found in the themes.

 

What do you think? Agree with my list? Have a completely different top 5? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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Film, TV

Infinity War and the Marvel ‘lack of consequence’ problem

So you’ve seen Infinity War, right?

First of… *clears throat* ‘Holy fucking shit, that ending! Geez, did you just see that…Jesus!’

Right, now I’ve got that out of my system, let’s move on. Oh, and if you haven’t already seen the movie, stop reading and come back later. Unlike the Marvel universe, you can’t use a Time Stone to undo the consequences (burn!) of reading and frankly the film deserves to be experienced first-hand.

Still with me? Well, good, because Infinity War was pretty fun, right? An admirable smashing together of a whole bunch of Marvel properties that by-and-large works very well, assuming you know your Peter Quill from your Peter Parker.

But given that ending, and the various deaths racked up along the way, I want to ask a question. Does Infinity War solve the Marvel ‘lack of consequences’ problem?

 

Accusation: In most Marvel movies, there are very little consequences

The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are so much fun. They’re dependable slices of blockbuster entertainment and even if you don’t love one of the movies, you’ll still probably have a good time with it nonetheless.

This makes it all the more frustrating that the MCU tends to have very little actual consequences. By that I don’t mean exclusively characters dying, although that is certainly part of it (oh, and ‘dead but not really’ fake-outs are the worst – Loki, Nick Fury etc.) No, stories can have huge consequences without it necessarily involving the death of a character. In fact, I would go so far as to argue Game of Thrones has literally used up all its ‘story progression by death’ and has come up unstuck in delivering storytelling not dependent on shock-death.

But the clincher is, the MCU very rarely has any form of consequence. Certainly there are some good character journeys over the course of the films (Tony and Steve effectively switching ideologies being one of them) and some of the solo films are exceptions (Guardians 2, in particular, lands a fantastic character death) but, largely, stakes feel huge but mean nothing.

Let’s go through a few examples. In The Winter Soldier, it turns out that SHIELD has actually been infiltrated by Hydra, an extreme Nazi cult. Doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Ultron ends with a whole country being destroyed partially as a result of the Avenger’s actions, and it’s not really mentioned at the end of the movie. Civil War wants us to believe character relationships are damaged, but backtracks with Steve’s letter to Tony straight away.

None of it matters. Now, on occasion, stuff gets weight retroactively in a latter film – for example, the destruction of Sokovia has a huge impact on Civil War – but that’s not quite the same (more on this latter.) Most movies can’t rely on a sequel to give them meaning, and pretty much all good movies have immediate tangible consequences. That’s what gives them purpose.

So, the question is, in light of Infinity War, has this problem been solved?…

The answer is no, by the way, absolutely not. It actually makes things worse.

 

Is Infinity War the most inconsequential Marvel movie?

After a decade of being terrified to kill characters, Infinity War goes nuclear, killing Loki, Heimdall, Gamora, Vision and then a huge chunk of the other Avengers in one go.

Shit, boy! It’s like Marvel’s Red Wedding…apart from we know a whole load of it won’t stick. Spiderman, Guardians and Black Panther all have movies coming up so they aren’t gone for good. Straight away that undermines the ending. The funeral music credits, so powerful at the time, can’t help but feel like a gimmicky, weightless bit of audience manipulation rather than earned as a result of, you know, actually telling a good story.

The film has stones that can alter reality and reverse time. All the while those stones are around, nothing sticks, even if the film genuinely is committing. Are Loki and Gamora actually gone for good? If so, brave decision, I guess. But the film is crying wolf at the end, and so those deaths feel as temporary as every other.

There’s even a version of events whereby this could become the most inconsequential and pointless Marvel movie yet if it turns out they can rewrite time completely. If all the events of this film are undone then what on earth was the point?

Don’t get me wrong, I think the next movie will require sacrifice (Tony Stark basically has a target on his head the whole time now), but they can’t keep relying on subsequent movies to prop up the significance of the last. It’s bad storytelling.

And here’s the thing. Impossible, unbelievable stakes don’t need to be this empty and, to demonstrate my point, I want to compare Infinity War to an episode of the single greatest television show ever made – Doctor Who.

 

Infinity War and The Doctor

Although the most obvious episode to compare to Infinity War would be ‘The Stolen Earth’ (both stories involve aliens attacking, various different properties coming together and both have to juggle a huge amount of characters) I actually want to compare it to a slightly weirder episode, ‘The Pandorica Opens.’

If Infinity War thinks its stakes are high, ‘The Pandorica Opens’ is like ‘bitch, please. You killed half of all life in the universe? Well we’ve literally exploded every star and the universe itself has faded out of existence. Those are REAL stakes.’ Yes, seriously, the penultimate episode of Series 5 ends with the whole universe blowing up. Go big or go home, I guess!

So, presumably, this should exhibit all the same problems as Infinity War. The universe can’t stay blown up for obvious reasons, it’s going to have to be undone. But, far from feeling pointless, ‘The Pandorica Opens’ is a sublime bit of storytelling even before its excellent finale solves everything in a witty and cerebral way.

Why?

Because ‘The Pandorica Opens’ is about a lot more than the fate of the universe. There are important character moments between the Doctor and his companion, and between the companion and her husband that she forgot existed (who is also now a Roman Centurion, and also an evil plastic alien who doesn’t realise it…God damn, I love Doctor Who.)

It hinges on a fascinating question – ‘What monster is so feared in all the universe that it needs to be locked in the Pandorica?’ The answer turns out to be *spoilers* The Doctor. This isn’t just clever and shocking, it’s an insight into the theme of Matt Smith’s tenure – how The Doctor himself, with the best intentions in the world, can be seen by others as a monster and destructive force. Fear of him literally threatens the entire universe.

The episode ends with The Doctor imprisoned, the companion dead, the TARDIS blowing up and the universe ceasing to exist. Even though every single one of these is undone in the next episode, it’s actually about something greater than the obvious stakes – you can’t undo the character development or thematic exploration.

But if I asked you what is Infinity Wars about, I think you’d struggle to answer beyond ‘a purple alien wants to destroy half of everything’. There isn’t time for character development between the main heroes, so it’s a pretty surface level watch. The character explored the most is probably Thanos, and the biggest take away from him is maybe ‘crazy bad people sometimes think they’re justified’…but it’s all very flimsy. It’s relying on the shock factor of its deaths and stakes in a way the aforementioned Doctor Who episode just isn’t.

And the funny thing is, Doctor Who IS a TV series, ‘The Pandorica Opens’ IS a penultimate episode. This form of ‘all is lost’ storytelling is suited for television where you can find out the resolution next week. It sits uncomfortably in a movie that won’t get a follow-up for a year. (Although if Avengers 4 turns out to be a small, character driven piece exploring zany ideas on how to save the universe in the way ‘The Big Bang’ follows up ‘The Pandorica Opens’, all will be forgiven. Just saying.)

 

There are now less consequences

There’s still no evidence Marvel has learned its lesson when it comes to consequences and frankly, that’s becoming increasingly frustrating. God damn it guys, just commit already! If stones can literally alter reality, things feel less at stake than ever.

But if this piece has been overly grumpy, I want to emphasise I had a great time with Infinity War. It’s great, stupid, magnificent fun and a cinematic experiment that we just haven’t seen before. And oh boy has it got us talking and speculating. I’ll be there on opening night for Part 2, so I guess it kind of did its job.

It’s just the lack of consequences that I think the Marvel movies really need to overcome. Without consequence there can be no meaning, and the whole point of stories, even dumb fun ones, is to leave the audience with something beyond pure plot.

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Film, Philosophy

Why is The Dark Knight so damn good?

Ask me what the best superhero film is and I’d not hesitate to answer. The Dark Knight. A modern masterpiece of blockbuster filmmaking that, even ten years later, still feels shockingly unique and unparalleled in the genre.

Given that I’m hardly alone in this opinion, it got me thinking, what exactly makes The Dark Knight so damn good?

And, to answer this, I’m going to take for granted a lot of things that most of us agree on – Nolan is an incredible director, Pfister’s cinematography is beautiful, the acting is uniformly brilliant and the action sequences are spectacular – and answer the question with one word: ideas.

The Dark Knight is a movie about ideological conflict. It’s political. It’s philosophical. Whether we recognise it or not, that’s what makes it so compelling.

But to begin to break down these ideas, we need to address the elephant in the room when talking about what makes this movie work. We need to first look at the iconic character who drives the philosophical discussion of the film…

 

The Joker

The combination of a truly incredible performance by Heath Ledger supported by a great script made The Joker an all-time great screen villain. Did you know, though, The Joker is only in 33 minutes of The Dark Knight, a movie that is over two-and-a-half hours long? It’s a testament to both Heath Ledger and the character that his presence is felt in every scene and dominates our memories of the movie.

The Joker is a huge part of what makes The Dark Knight work, so we need to determine exactly why he is such an incredible villain to understand how he contributes to the film as a whole.

He’s not a typical Nolan character

Christopher Nolan is a genius, there can be no doubt of that, but his work often feels slightly detached from humanity. I don’t mean this in a Ridley Scott ‘Alien Covenant’ kind of way, where the characters are just things to inflict suffering on dispassionately, but in how Christopher Nolan characters tend to speak and behave.

There are not many of the traits we’d necessarily recognise as human – humour, flirting, warmth – and instead the characters tend to speak in the same cerebral way Nolan writes and directs. Often they’re sexless characters who regularly articulate complex philosophical worldviews as if in place of discussing the weather. It’s not problematic, it’s more a stylistic leaning, but it’s certainly not naturalistic.

This can make Nolan’s work feel a little sterile – emotionless is perhaps too strong a word (especially after Dunkirk, which hits pretty hard), but certainly restrained.

So when The Joker walks into this ordered Nolan movie with his crumbling clown make-up and his purple coat, he feels from another universe entirely. The Joker isn’t restrained – he tells jokes, he plays to the room, he performs violent magic tricks. In most movies, when The Joker walks into a party and acknowledges Rachel Dawes with ‘why hello, beautiful’ while adjusting his hair, the moment would be creepy. But in a sexless Nolan movie, The Joker’s sexual recognition feels like an act of anarchic defiance itself. The character’s theatrical demeanour and penchant for chaos feels like it’s tearing apart Nolan’s sterile world at the seams.

Which is not to say The Joker is entirely without Nolan quirks. He certainly philosophises, a lot in fact, and his very existence is more as pure ideological force than actual character. But the tussling of the theatrical clown monster with Nolan’s preference for restrained cerebral characters makes for a truly magnificent concoction.

The Joker is a terrorist

The Joker isn’t a typical supervillain. In him we see not a cartoon caricature of evil but a threat that’s very recognisable. He’s not an alien trying to blow the world up, he’s a terrorist trying to provoke fear. He doesn’t use magic MacGuffins to achieve his aims, he uses bombs, knives and hostage videos.

In this way The Dark Knight is very much a post-9/11 blockbuster. It taps into 21st Century fears of the destructive force of an enemy who cannot be understood or reasoned with, an enemy that can strike at any moment and slaughters indifferently.

‘Some men just want to watch the world burn’ Alfred warns a Bruce Wayne who is taken aback by a villain with seemingly no motivation. The Joker himself actively mocks the idea that he can be explained away by telling two different tragic origin stories. When we come onto the politics of this movie, this might well be part of the reason some interpret it as ‘right-wing’ – to perceive terrorism as a threat that is created and sustained in a vacuum is a slightly problematic idea – but for now let’s just acknowledge how strikingly that chord chimes with audiences of the movie.

 The Joker is an existential threat

But let’s get onto the meat of what The Joker represents. Moral Nihilism. He calls society’s morality a ‘bad joke’ and tells Batman he’s not a monster, he’s just ahead of the curve.

The Joker describes himself as an ‘agent of chaos’, a dog chasing cars who wouldn’t have a clue what to do if he caught one. Alfred compares him to thieves who steal for the sake of stealing.

What’s interesting though is something much more insidious still lies at the heart of what motivates The Joker. He’s not merely interested in causing chaos, he’s determined in proving that deep down everyone is as ugly as he is. It’s best summed up when he tells Batman:

 ‘They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other.’

Every course of action he takes is aimed at proving just that. He manages to rile an angry mob into trying to take the life of an innocent man, he pits two ferries against each, hoping one would blow up the other. In Harvey Dent, the face of justice, he sees a target to corrupt. With Batman, a man who already has shaky moral foundations, he desperately wants him to break his one rule – not killing. To The Joker, any moral code is an illusion that needs to be broken.

In our darkest thoughts, it’s hard not to have a nagging doubt that maybe The Joker has a point. Maybe our morality is something of a lie, ready to be dropped the moment it’s no longer expedient. This is what makes him such a terrifying threat. He’s not trying to destroy Gotham as a physical place, he’s trying to destroy Gotham’s soul. He’s making a horrifyingly compelling case for Moral Nihilism, and is inviting the audience to agree with him.

To the extent The Joker actually acknowledges this aim, and to what extent he really does just see himself as an agent of chaos, inadvertently gives layers of psychological depth to the character. He very much is aware he’s playing the role of ‘villain’ in the narrative, but only because it’s a narrative he ultimately rejects.

 

The film’s politics – Is the movie a right-wing allegory?

So having established what makes The Joker so special, let’s glance at the politics of The Dark Knight.

Batman, when taken seriously, is actually a surprisingly problematic character. He’s a billionaire who spends his time acting as a vigilante, beating up the poorest in society. Unlike Superman or Captain America, he symbolises less something that is to inspire and more something that is to be feared. If you’re a criminal, he’ll get you, even if the law can’t.

It’s little wonder, then, that accusations of the mythology being a ‘right-wing power fantasy’ have been levelled. Further still, there are those who see The Dark Knight as a whole as ‘right-wing’.

If The Joker represents the terrorist threat, then does Batman represent the Bush administration going above and beyond to heroically put an end to terrorism, when the law, with its hands tied, cannot? Does Batman’s use of the phone system at the end (which spies on every Gotham citizen) represent the necessary temporary curtailing of civil liberties until the terrorist threat is neutralised?

Whilst I certainly appreciate this reading, I’m not entirely convinced by it. In fact, I’m not sure the film has a coherent political vision at all. Instead, quite wisely in my opinion, it opts more to ask questions rather than provide easy answers.

What’s certain is the whole trilogy sees the criminal justice system as flawed. There’s too much corruption and Batman is seen as kickstarting the cleaning up process. This is still a problematic stance but the film fully acknowledges that. Speaking in relation to Batman, Harvey Dent says:

‘When their enemies were at the gates, the Romans would suspend democracy and appoint one man to protect the city. It wasn’t considered an honor, it was considered a public service.’

This is then immediately corrected by Rachel, his girlfriend, who reminds him that the last person they appointed to protect was Caesar and he never gave up his power. Whether this is historically accurate is beside the point, the key is the film is wrestling with how it perceives Batman.

And, for the remainder of the movie, Bruce is hoping to let Harvey Dent, who represents the just rule of law, take over so he can retire Batman. Of course things don’t go to plan, and Harvey Dent ends up corrupted by The Joker’s actions.

Batman knows how important Harvey Dent and the rule of law is, however, and decides to take responsibility for Harvey’s actions so the people can still believe in him. This echoes ‘The Noble Lie’ found in the works of Plato’s ‘The Republic’ – a myth or untruth that is propagated for social harmony. Is that then the film’s message? That the criminal justice system is unfit for purpose but we need to believe in it anyway?

Well that would be odd, because if the sequel ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ has anything to say (and, frankly, it doesn’t say nearly enough for my liking), it’s too refute the idea of The Noble Lie. In that movie the untruths have rotted away at everything and the truth is eventually outed.

This ultimately reinforces my sense that Nolan doesn’t have a grand political vision, he’s just wrestling with these questions in the confines of a superhero movie. The fact it asks these questions at all, however, is remarkable.

 

The film’s philosophy – Is the movie nihilistic?

Much more interesting to me than the politics of the movie is the film’s philosophical conflict. I already highlighted above how I think The Joker is the physical manifestation of Moral Nihilism, which makes Batman’s position representative of Moral Objectivism – there really is such a thing as morality that exists independently of our social structure.

What’s shocking is The Dark Knight goes some way in showing that The Joker really does have a point (this movie has balls – what other superhero movie would blow up the love interest halfway through?!) People do call for Batman to reveal himself, they do attempt to kill the innocent man when a hospital is threatened, Dent is shown to be corruptible etc. So does this indicate the movie ultimately sides with The Joker?

I don’t think so, and that’s thanks to the ferry scene. One of the biggest criticisms of recent blockbusters, and especially Marvel superhero movies, is that no-matter what themes the films are exploring, they’re usually side-lined or forgotten entirely for a big punch-up in the third act. This is not the case with The Dark Knight. Until the very end the film stays focused on its themes with razor sharp precision.

In the ferry scene, The Joker offers two ferries (one carrying convicts, the other civilians) a choice – blow up the other ferry and live, or he’ll detonate both ferries. In The Joker’s mind it’s obvious that, out of fear, one of the ferries will blow up the other. What happens, however, offers us a glimmer of optimism. On the ship full of convicts, one of the prisoners tosses the detonator out of the window, taking the choice out of their hands. On the ship of civilians, they take a vote. Although they vote overwhelmingly to detonate the other ferry, none of them actually wants to be the one to do it. And so both ferries accept their fate. They’re going to be blown up because neither group is willing to murder.

On top of that, Batman never does break his rule. Not only does he not kill The Joker, he actively catches him when he falls out of the building. As The Joker dangles upside down, lost in his own madness, he says ‘You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you?’ It’s a brief and rare admission of partial defeat.

That’s not to say everything else in the film is undone. Out of fear and loss, a lot of Gotham has now done some incredibly shitty things. But by the actions of those on the ferries and Batman himself, we’re offered a reason not to entirely despair.

 

The legacy of The Dark Knight

Many movies have tried to capture what makes The Dark Knight so special but have failed. Some have tried to mimic the serious tone but forgotten to actually have anything to say (I’d go so far as to suggest this is even true of The Dark Knight Rises), whilst others have produced pretentious pseudo-philosophical movies that are a chore to sit through (Batman V Superman!)

The Dark Knight really does feel like lightening in a bottle, an example of everything coming together to produce a rare modern classic. It stands atop the superhero heap not because it’s serious or tries to treat comic books as ‘adult’ (in fact I would say most films should avoid that.) No, it stands proud because it’s about ideological conflict and what it means to be human, and that will always resonate no matter how it is packaged – even if the main character insists on dressing up like a bat!

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Film, Politics

Okay, let’s talk about Black Panther…

As insidious as it is that Disney seem to be buying pretty much everything at the moment, it’s hard to argue with the quality of their recent output. Thor Ragnarok was an offbeat comedy that tackled colonialism head-on, The Last Jedi was one of the deepest blockbusters in recent memory (easily the best Star Wars film since Empire), and now we have Black Panther.

Anyone who thought that Black Panther was going to be breezy and turn a blind eye to its cultural relevance just because it was part of the MCU were in for a shock – Black Panther is an incredibly political film. Wakanda is a kingdom unaffected by colonialism, T’Challa is a king who struggles with both his own and the kingdom’s conservative views on isolationism, and Killmonger, the movie’s antagonist, wants to use their advanced weaponry to liberate people against systemic oppression.

I’ve seen Black Panther twice now and it’s clear this is a movie begging to be dissected and discussed for years to come. And yes, I know what you’re all thinking, ‘Yay, the hot take we’ve been waiting for – what does the white guy think?’

Fear not, I don’t plan to spend long giving my ‘verdict’ on the film. In short, I really like it but I don’t quite love it. I love the characters (Shuri is now my favourite MCU character), I love the soundtrack and I love the sheer weight of its political themes, but there were one or two plot points which clunked for me.

But you know what, that really doesn’t matter because I’m not the film’s primary audience. By that I don’t mean I can’t enjoy it – as I say, I really did – I just mean that the most visceral reactions are going to be from the people seeing themselves represented in a way they haven’t before. As a white geek, the last decade or so of blockbuster cinema has been almost entirely aimed at me. That’s starting to change. Slowly. And I can’t wait.

With a different primary audience we get different stories, different beats and different issues to explore. From a purely selfish point of view, that’s surely more interesting than watching the same western white male experience play out in every single form it possibly can.

It’ll raise questions, and that’s great. It’ll challenge the fundamentally flawed idea that the default character is a white guy, and it’ll challenge the image that the default setting is Western (or else be deemed ‘tokenistic’.)

Black Panther gives those of us who are white the chance to engage with art in a deeper way than logical nit-picks, Cinema Sins-style bullshit, and arbitrary star ratings – for once we can just shut up and listen.

For many black viewers, it’s clear that Black Panther means something very special. Representation matters and everyone deserves to feel empowered by what they see on screen. Black Panther is crushing it at the box office because people have wanted this shit for so long, and to read the writing of both black critics and general black moviegoers permits us an insight into the responses of those who this film is truly for.

It’s also important to remember that the black response to this is not homogeneous, people have reacted in different ways. After all, no white film maker has ever had to carry the burden of capturing all differing white perspectives so we shouldn’t expect the same from Ryan Coogler.

For example, Christopher Lebron, Associate Professor at John Hopkins university, has described the film’s central arguments as racist.

He warned on Twitter that ‘black folks should always be a little suspicious when white #liberalmedia crowns a work of black art as revolutionary, because that usually means they think all the work has been accomplished by the art and their part is over, when it’s just supposed to be starting.’

Can a film with a predominantly black cast, made by a black director, be racist? I guess if you see it only as an extension of the Disney machine then yes, even if you’d have to cynically see Ryan Coogler as selling out or ungenerously presume he’s too stupid to see what he’s doing. Yet there’s undeniably something instinctively gross about a white CIA agent shooting down the tools of liberation for the oppressed as the film’s victory moment – especially if divorced from the larger context of the movie.

Whilst I certainly prefer Film Crit Hulk’s interpretation that the movie is much more of a dialogue than that, and actually about the duality of the black experience, it’s important to recognise the many reactions to this movie in the black community (whilst acknowledging, of course, that it is overwhelmingly positive).

I also found Stephen Bush’s article in the New Stateman to be a really interesting perspective. He’s much more interested in seeing a black hero who is incidentally black than a hero who is defined by it, but he goes on to concede ‘for a young child whose blackness is more important to them than mine was to me, Black Panther will be a seminal moment not because of what it might portend, but because of what it is.’

There are plenty of issues to be worked through, and it’s almost a relief that the white perspective on them is irrelevant. It’s the perfect antidote to today’s ‘everyone has to have an opinion on EVERYTHING’ mentality – not because we should be passive zombies, but because we need to recognise people have unique worldviews, experiences and backgrounds which make their opinions on certain topics better informed and more vital.

I think Black Panther as a movie is itself a dialogue and has gone on to create a healthy discussion. It’s on us to learn from what is being shared.

To be clear, it’s important to point out I do not mean to appropriate a cultural landmark and make it about what white people can learn from it. The representation provided and debates about said representation in the black community are absolutely the fundamental good from Black Panther. Only as a secondary good, from the periphery, do we talk about what we can learn from this.

So let’s hear differing perspectives with empathy so we can begin to understand experiences beyond our own. There are so many good pieces on this movie out there – go and read them! Yes, let’s talk about Black Panther, but let’s also listen.

That’s part of what makes Black Panther so awesome. That’s why it’s incredible a film like this has been released as a tentpole movie. Wakanda forever!

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Film, Musicals

The Greatest Showman review – Very far from the greatest!

Ughh, I really wanted to like this movie.

When it comes to musicals, I’m a pretty easy lay. Give me half-decent showtunes and a bit of choreography and I’ll usually enjoy myself. Heck, if it’s a good musical I’ll probably declare it my film of the year.

So it’s quite damning that The Greatest Showman doesn’t even clear my low hurdles. Despite an insanely talented cast bringing their a-game, they can’t compensate for a film that is misjudged in nearly every way, and from beginning to end feels fake and emotionally hollow. I’m sure Michael Gracey had the best of intentions, but it all falls flat (this is his directorial debut, and it shows!)

Perhaps the biggest misjudgement, but the one that’s strangely easiest to overcome, is a film about PT Barnum being the saviour of the downtrodden is slightly distasteful. I’m sure there’s plenty of nuance to be discussed, but the real Barnum was a con-man who did exploit ‘freaks’ to make his fortune, and was also responsible for introducing animal performers to the circus (a cruel trade we’re still trying to bring to an end.) That being said, this isn’t a biopic and I’d be happy to have switched my mind off and just embrace this starry-eyed rags-to-riches version if the film was any good…but it isn’t.

Firstly, there’s the hideous CGI. Look, I’m not one of those guys who hates on all forms of CGI, it’s often a necessary part of modern filmmaking and vital to many blockbusters, but here it’s overused and utterly ugly. If you’re expecting the audience to feel a sense of awe when you first show the circus, you’re really undercutting yourself when it’s plainly visible most of what we’re seeing only exists on a hard-drive. Perhaps if the film had some strong stylistic choices it would make it more forgivable (Baz Luhrmann regularly uses CGI to make hyper-stylised settings and it often works to great effect), but The Greatest Showman lacks any such vision.

And then there’s the music…oh God, the music. I won’t deny that there are two or three catchy tunes in the pack, but it’s all been over-produced in a studio somewhere, and the use of autotune is all too obvious. The moment I can tell Hugh Jackson is merely miming to a backing-track, my suspension of disbelief is dispelled. And, again, there’s no real consistent style for the music choices, it all just feels like generic pop music you would hear in the charts. You could literally insert Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ into the movie and it would fit perfectly (not that there’s anything wrong with that song, per se, it’s just hardly the stuff of high art!) Whereas Luhrmann used anachronistic music choices in Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby to shocking affect (like two creepy old men singing ‘Like a virgin’), the decision to use generic sounding modern fluff just feels uninspired here. In fact, the whole movie feels like a Baz Luhrmann picture if he had just had his balls cut off the day before.

Finally there’s the script, which is less a story and more a bunch of half-gestated clichés glued together. Loads of stuff happens (in fact the film piles on problem after problem for our characters), but none of it matters because we’re never remotely emotionally invested. The ‘freaks’ really are just freaks, with only Keala Settle as the Bearded Lady coming close to having anything to actually do (although she’s as bereft of character as everybody else.) When she starts her big speech about how Barnum gave her a family it just feels so unearned, a classic case of telling not showing.

In fact, the film doesn’t put the legwork into setting anything up at all. Characters fall in love, face social pressure and make up again in about five minutes of screen time – conflict really only works if we actually get time to feel it. A number of times characters break into acapella song reprises to remind us how bad everything is, but it feels mawkish and cheesy because it’s so fake. I’ll say it again, it’s dramatically unearned. It feels like watching Emma Stone’s audition song in La La Land, but if the character had only been introduced a few minutes ago and had just suffered her first failed audition. Say what you want about High School Musical, at least it had a solid grasp of investment, conflict and pay-off – The Greatest Showman is dramatically inept.

It really should be emphasised that everyone involved is fantastic though. As someone who couldn’t put one foot in front of the other on the dance floor, any criticism of this movie has to be couched in the acknowledgement that the talent is out of this world. Hugh Jackman is giving a great post-Wolverine performance which shows his incredible range, Zac Efron is always a good screen presence and Zendaya is a mega-star in the making. The choreography is also, at times, very impressive. In particular, there’s a sequence in a bar where, for a rare moment in the film, everything comes together, let down only by the lingering artificial feeling that can’t be shook-off.

In the end, The Greatest Showman is all climax and no foreplay. The movie knows what it wants you to feel, but has no idea how to make you feel it. There’s not even any levity, the film’s earnest to a fault. It’s like watching a two-hour long X-Factor singer intro, where they manipulatively play sad music over contrived editing. It’s way too sanitised and over-produced.

Before the movie started, a trailer for Mamma Mia 2 played. All the way through I kept wishing I was watching that – whatever you think of Mamma Mia, at least it bothers to make sure the audience is having fun.

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Philosophy, religion

10 terrifying things that should scare us much more than they do

As it’s still the season of good cheer, now seemed like the perfect time to take a look at 10 terrifying thoughts/facts that we should find way scarier than we actually do.

What? This piece would be more suited for Halloween, you say? Shh you, it’s all planned…wait, you don’t think I have a strict editorial calendar? You think I just come up with these random ideas when I’m bored and write them without thought for their appropriateness? How dare you! I resent the implication.

As humans we spend so much time worrying about trivial things, like whether we set Geordie Shore up to record, we forget (or maybe choose?) to not ponder terrifying facts about our existence.

So here are 10 scary things I really think we should give more thought to. Each gets progressively worse and number 10 is…disturbing. Number 10 will make you question everything you thought was good and could potentially drive you to madness so I won’t be offended if you choose to quit at number 9. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Up to you!

 

1) Nearly 50% of all marriages end in divorce

Look at your partner. Flip a coin. The chances of staying together pretty much come down to that. Still, you might be one of the lucky half who get the happy ending. Well, I say happy ending, one of you will still die first…so happy ending within reason.

 

2) Your opinions don’t matter one iota

What did you think of the latest Star Wars movie? What’s your favourite colour? Which Elvis song is the best?

Spoiler alert…no-one cares!

As conscious beings we are the centre of our own universe, and so we give an extraordinarily disproportionate amount of weight to our own opinions. But most of us shouldn’t bother having them, for what they’re worth. We’re like cattle being lead to the slaughterhouse, mooing away, placating ourselves that we mean something until the bolt enters our brain.

I mean, sure, maybe our political leanings might get heard in an election. A two-party system is SURELY going to represent your views and what you stand for in a meaningful way, and it’s not as if a politician has ever failed to deliver on what they’ve been voted in to do.

But what is Twitter if not just millions of people shouting out their opinions into the void, occasionally going ‘me too’ when one of the rare people who are listened to say something. Some people might even write lengthy blogs that no-one’s going to read, just to feel validated. Could you imagine?

 

3) Living in the moment might not be all it’s cracked up to be

We all know that we should ‘live in the moment’, yet so many of us struggle to do so. We take loads of photos when we go on holiday. We film concerts whilst we’re watching them (seriously, why go to see a band live and then watch it through your phone screen?)

Why do we do this? To capture happy memories, we tell ourselves.

But what if it’s a darker, more insidious reason?

What if the reason we don’t live in the moment is because the moment isn’t as great as we imagined it would be, and looking back on a photo in a year’s time with the benefit of nostalgia and rose-tinted goggles is actually more rewarding than being there in the first place.

What if photos are just a lie we tell our future-selves. Remember how much fun that holiday was? Bet you can’t wait for the next one?

‘Love, did you pack the camera?’

What if photos are just promises to our future-selves of a happiness that doesn’t really exist…

 

4) Almost everything you believe is culturally conditioned

We humans like to think we’re so autonomous, freely choosing what we do and don’t approve of. But, really, everything from our manners to our morality is a product of where and when we were born.

This doesn’t seem so shocking until you’re asked to ponder whether you, should you have been alive during the slave trade, would have condemned slavery. Of course we’d like to think we would, but statistically that just doesn’t seem the case.

Every culture seems to have a ‘moral blind spot’, something terrible that everyone seems to accept – whether it’s slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia or whatever. Chances are, if you were born into that culture, you’d be subject to the same moral blindness.

And even if you could recognise the immorality, would you do anything about it? I think there’s a good case to be made that many of us would at least indulge these immoralities until it became socially disadvantageous to do so. Speaking of which…

 

5) Most humans sustain themselves on the cruelty of animals

It’s kind of horrific, in many ways, that when we celebrate love and good-will at Christmas, most of us do so around a carcass of a dead bird – a bird that had parents, wants and needs, and was probably murdered only a few weeks ago (Christmas reference – see, this post IS seasonal).

It rather torments me that so many of my favourite foods come from the body of a creature who just wanted to live their live. By eating meat we are complicit in an unimaginable number of slaughters each day of animals who probably did not have the best of existences.

And it’s not just meat. Did you know to eat dairy, we require calves to be dragged away from their mothers at a young age when the maternal bond is still strong? Did you know by consuming eggs, we create a surplus of male chicks who have to be ‘disposed of’?

Is this not our moral blind spot? And, oh dear, maybe we’re not blind to it after all. Maybe we’re indulging in this cruel luxury simply because it’s not yet socially disadvantageous to do so.

 

6. One day, you’re going to be dead. Forever.

Sometimes I lay awake at night, thinking about this. Imagine not existing. Not just for a long time, but for an eternity. There really will never be another dawn, just an eternal cold oblivion.

Aldous Huxley once said most people live their lives as though ‘death were no more than an unfounded rumour.’

But when you give it some thought, it’s totally terrifying. And, of course, totally inevitable.

 

7. We are trapped within our senses

It’s weird to think of our senses as a prison, but they kind of are. We can only experience what our senses allow. Anything beyond our senses is unknowable. Like, could you imagine explaining colours to someone who is blind? What are we missing out on with our sensory limitations?

Here are a few interesting thoughts. If our senses evolved to help us survive, does that guarantee that what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch are what is real? Or are they mere expedient approximations evolved for survival, not for truth?

And are there things beyond our five senses that we can’t begin to understand? What could it be? It might be beautiful. It might be horrific.

 

8. You can’t know anyone else is real

If our senses are a physical prison, our mind is our epistemological one. To indulge in some first year philosophy, how can we know anyone else is real? Well, we can’t.

We know we exist (well, our mind at least) thanks to Descartes – ‘Cogito ergo sum’, ‘I think, therefore I am.’

But we don’t know that everyone else isn’t a product of our imagination. We might just be a brain in a vat, and everything around us a simulated illusion. And even if the person is physically before us, we have no means of knowing they have the same complicated thought-processes we go through. They could be mere automatons with the illusion of free-thought.

We must assume others around us are real but we simply cannot ‘know’.

 

9. We could be wrong about everything

Imagine an ant. When they see a giant boot nearly crushing them, can they begin to comprehend what it is, what it belongs to and what goes on in that creature’s world? Do they even have the remotest capacity to do so?

We may just be (in fact, we probably are) like the ant – utterly oblivious to an existence we couldn’t begin to comprehend. This might bring a sigh of relief after all the terrible things listed above, but the universe does seem an uncaring and indifferent place, so who’s to say what we don’t know is better than what we do?

What if consciousness isn’t dependent upon an alive brain, but still connected to the physical body? What if death is total paralysis, but your consciousness remains?

What if there really is a wrathful God who sends most of us to burn for eternity?

What if immortality is a result of the same blind processes that formed the universe, and it’s a state of eternal ethereal torment?

It’s all a little horrifying to ponder.

 

IT’S TIME FOR NUMBER 10.

FEEL FREE TO STOP READING NOW AND GO BACK TO YOUR PEACEFUL LIFE IN BLISSFUL IGNORANCE, YOUR MIND FREE TO REST EASY THIS EVENING.

I WARN YOU, ONCE READ, IT CANNOT BE UNSEEN.

YOU SURE?

WELL, OKAY. BUT YOU CAN’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.

 

10. Jurassic World is the fourth highest grossing movie of all time

I’m sorry, I tried to stop you. But yes, Jurassic World is the fourth highest grossing movie of all time*. This just sums everything up, doesn’t it? The stupidity of humanity. The cold indifference of the universe. The complete lack of justice. I mean, did you see this fucking movie? (well, statistically speaking, you probably did.)

It’s such a garbage fire. The characters are boring, it’s mildly sexist throughout, Owen Grady is an asshole, the kid keeps doing that fucking creepy staring at girls thing, John Williams music is used completely inappropriately, the secretary lady is given the worst dinosaur death ever for no reason other than she’s not particularly maternal, they keep talking about using dinosaurs in the military, it’s shot in the most pedestrian way…

Jesus Christ, this movie sucked. Out of all the great movies ever made, people went to see this one. I saw it. Worse than that, I saw it in Imax 3D. I’m part of the problem. Who knows if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself. And they’re making a sequel. WE. ARE. ALL. DOOMED!

 

*This isn’t adjusted for inflation. One tiny flicker of light in the darkest of shadows.

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