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- Hope in the Shadow of the Empire: Star Wars and the Jewish Identity
Monthly Archives: July 2015
Philosopher David Hume disclaimed the idea that man was “the rational animal.” He argued that a human being’s capacity for reasoning was as much a slave to the caprices of passion and the weakness of will as in the simple creatures his contemporaries looked down upon. He once wrote, “Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.”
I sincerely doubt that Philip J. Fry was inspired by David Hume, but in “The Why Of Fry”, he expresses a remarkably similar sentiment. In a pivotal scene, Fry learns that his journey to the future was no random mishap, but rather that the Nibblonians chose to cryogenically freeze him and send him a thousand years into the future, without his knowledge or consent, in the hopes that he would one day fulfill a prophecy to save the universe. Fry is outraged, and Nibbler pleads with him, “You were the only one who could help us. What is one life weighed against the entire universe?” Fry responds, clearly devastated, “But it was my life.”
“The Why of Fry” is about the relativity of importance, the way that a person, or an idea, or indeed the whole of existence can be magnified or shrunk in the funhouse mirrors of our minds. Fry is inessential to the Planet Express crew, but to the Nibblonians “the fate of all that exists and ever will exist” rests with him. Chaz has an inflated sense of importance as the Mayor’s aide, but when shown in a different light, he’s quickly revealed to be a puffed up nothing. Leela often feels lonely or isolated or uncared for, but unbeknownst to her, the fact that someone does care about her saves the entire universe from destruction.
Now that Harry Shearer has agreed to return to The Simpsons, we will never know whether showrunner Al Jean’s earlier statement that the show would recast all of Shearer’s parts was an empty threat. It would be a tall order to replace characters as diverse and as central to the series as Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Principal Skinner, and Reverend Lovejoy, not to mention God, The Devil, and Hitler.
But I’m inclined to believe that Jean really meant it. During tense contract negotiations in 1998, Fox executives went as far as hiring casting directors in five states to replace its disgruntled stars. And as hard as it is to imagine someone new voicing Dr. Hibbert, let alone Bart Simpson, this latest round of negotiations may have proven a proposition that has vexed and delighted the show’s die-hard fans in equal measure — The Simpsons may never end.
Death is a currency in blockbuster films. Faceless henchman are wiped out indiscriminately. Nameless bystanders are consumed in explosions and buried in rubble. This is the loss of life that makes up the dark matter of the standard action flick — those deaths that are just out of sight or out of focus, but which are intended to give weight to the larger forces of the plot and the choices of the main characters.
Jurassic World embraced this summer movie season truism wholeheartedly. Scores of interchangeable soldiers in the film quickly turn into dinosaur cannon fodder, with little more than blurred security footage and a few ominous beeps to remember them by. Dozens of random park-goers are snatched up by winged dinosaurs in a prehistoric take on The Birds, but it’s always off in the distance, always just for a second, to where the most notable moment in the rabble is Jimmy Buffett shuffling indoors with a pair of margaritas.
But two deaths in Jurassic World stood out, and they were not necessarily the ones I might have predicted when I walked into the theater.