Cyber-punks, Doctor Who, and Blissful Ignorance
In the spirit of Halper and Muzzio’s essay, we spent part of a discussion section commenting on the prevalence of a theme of truth vs. ignorance in film (mostly sci-fi).
We mentioned films early as 1927, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and as recent as Spielberg’s Minority Report and even Dinsey’s WALL-E. We discussed that film has a reputation for questioning whether utopian life is a life worth living – especially when the utopia has a secret to hide. The idea of blissful ignorance is rejected by Hollywood.
Well, here’s another example comparing The Matrix and an episode of the latest season of the Doctor Who reboot, entitled “The Beast Below.”
We all know The Matrix. Neo gets unplugged and he’s in THE FUTURE where humanity lives underground, basically in a submarine, under the constant threat, and in complete and total fear of, machines. At some point in their lives, each of the central cast decided to become unplugged, choosing to live in a world of fear rather than accepting the lie of the Matrix.
So it all comes down to one question, asked by a big intimidating dude in a shady building, after basically just being kidnapped by a bunch of cyber-punk weirdos wearing super-reflective sunglasses, even though it’s night-time.
The blue pill or the red pill? Take the red pill, and life stays the same. You wake up in the morning, go to work, have family and friends, and just live. The blue pill is the truth. The lies are removed and you are unplugged. Of course, Neo chooses the blue pill. And we’re behind him; we would take the blue pill, too, because the truth is what makes life worth living.
“The Beast Below” paints a different picture of human-kind. Set in the distant future, “The Beast” finds our heroes aboard the Starship UK (the show is British), propelled through space – the Earth was forcibly evacuated due to solar flare activity – with the entire population of Great Britain aboard. The Doctor, a meddlesome fellow, realizes that the ship has no apparent means of propulsion (the engines are off) but the ship is moving through space, nonetheless. In his attempt to solve the mystery, The Doctor stumbles upon a lie centuries old, perpetrated by every citizen.
Doctor Who asks a very simple question: do we dissent, or do we consent? If faced with a horrible truth, would we choose to forget, remaining ignorant, or announce the truth? For centuries, the citizens of the Starship UK, including the Queen, Liz X (read as Liz Ten) chose to forget what they learn about the nature of the ship’s propulsion.
The only one who does not is The Doctor, the hero, the man that we admire most. And we are inclined to agree with his: truth is important. We would never allow these things to happen. But would we? Would we chose to live in a lie, or uncover the truth, no matter how horrible?
Are we living vicariously through our heroes? Do we admire them because they do what we cannot, or because we imagine that our own actions and moral discrepancies align with theirs?
Are we learning from those who we admire, or are we allowing their actions as a substitute for our own?