Monday, January 15, 2007

Children of Men

I saw the recent movie Children of Men, and thought the premise was intriguing: in a world in which women are no longer capable of bearing children, how will society respond? According to the movie, and the book upon which it is based, the answer is clear: paranoia and extreme societal dysfunction and ultimate collapse.

The execution, though, was merely adequate. But I didn't think it warranted further comment. Then I read Anthony Sacramone's review in the conservative Catholic journal, First Things. Sacramone lambasts the treatment of the original allegory as written by P.D. James. I haven't read the book, so can't say much about the veracity of his claims. But one theme struck: Sacramone claims that the original book was infused with religious (specifically Christian) undertones and many of the key protagonists were committed Christians. A leading woman character is seen as "the new Eve, the new Mary, the hope for the salvation of the world." When reading this, I then realized why this movie had made me uneasy in the first place. The implicit themes of sin, redemption, and salvation were all there, but pretty much ignored and debased.

What have we instead? The director (Alfonso Cuarón) instead includes among the "good guys" a hodge-podge of pop-Buddhists, aging hippies, and violent revolutionaries. How passe! The left really needs to lose its fascination with a romanticized view of eastern religions and Che Guevara wannabes. It has always bugged me that it sympathizing with Stalin was considered a lesser evil than sympathizing with Hitler. And, here, in the movie, we see the most jaded of 1960s leftist canards raise its ugly head one more time.

But I don't want to let First Things off the hook either. Sacramone practically sneers at the notion that Cuarón has Bush in mind when he paints a society that denies basic liberties in the face of some nebulous attacks on "security". But since Bush has indeed curtailed basic civil liberties, imprisoned without charge, and legalized torture, Cuarón's analogy is entirely legitimate. The right also needs to let go of its Bush-fetish, even if that requires a huge mea culpa for the past few years. Criticizing the movie for wiping out all sense of religious allegory is a valid conservative criticism, attacking it for making fun of dearest Bush is not. And that is a difference lost of the First Things crowd (though they are far from alone).

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