I watched ‘Greenland’ the other night. It’s an ‘end-of-the-world-by-asteroid’ disaster film, starring Gerard Butler being all Gerard Butler-ish. It was a fun romp through every ‘disaster film’ trope/meme, with some above average CGI effects thrown in for good measure. I was entertained.
Some time later I was describing the movie to Mrs Widds which, even later still, triggered a bit of an epiphany.
Yes, my friends, I epiphed! … and what I epiphed about was this …
In all of these sorts of movies we see what I like to call the ‘noble sacrifice’. It’s where the, almost always, curmudgeonly elder, usually a disaffected parent of one of the estranged lead couple, dies. (who incidentally almost always have a child, who sports a vulnerability of some sort – in the case of ‘Greenland’ the kid is a diabetic)
The curmudgeonly elder who has survived for their requisite three-score-and-ten (or thereabouts) years quite well, thank you very much, must sacrifice themselves in order to save one or more of the primary characters, after one or more of the primary characters, (or their self-absorbed teenager) has put themselves in mortal danger by doing something breathtakingly stupid.
The curmudgeonly elder has to be sacrificed so the ‘young-un’s’ can live, presumably breed, (usually shown in epilogue, mid, or end-credits scenes – I’m looking at you ‘Minority Report’) and ensure the continuation of the species.
Another perfect example of the curmudgeonly elder dying in order for the brood to survive is the curmudgeonly grandma in ‘Dante’s Peak’, who literally throws herself into an acidified lake to save her precocious grandchildren (another disaster film staple) who came looking for her, along with the lead characters who came looking for precocious grandchildren. (now that I think about it, that movie had another curmudgeonly elder, the senior volcanologist, who died sacrificially too)
Side note: – just because you’ve got a healthy ‘breeding pair’ doesn’t mean that’s necessarily a good thing. Just look at the intro to the movie ‘Idiocracy’ to see a prime example of how that can turn out.
This may have been necessary in a pre-technological/industrial world, when all the ‘rebuilding of a society’, by necessity, would have to have been accomplished by hand.
Young folks = lots of strong hands, and backs (and afore mentioned ability to self-replicate at an alarming rate) … old folks = a waste of scarce resources.
However, in our wonderful and terrifying modern era, it t’ain’t necessarily so.
What we have now is KNOWLEDGE. (and the technological know-how to render those strong backs obsolete)
Unless all life on Earth is reduced to the odd random microbe, (in which case, all bets are off) the most precious resource to be preserved is knowledge. Not the kind of ‘knowledge’ curated by the archiving of every tweet ever thumbed across the digital universe, but the myriad knowledge of how to construct a living breathing society/ culture.
Knowledge is one thing, but then you’ve got to know what to do with it, and that knowledge, folks, resides within the life experience of … you guessed it … The Curmudgeonly Elder.
How apropos in this Entertainment Age, where Youth is eternally sought after, that the sacrificial lamb is actually mutton.
There are so many tangents this wee bit of an epiph could head off into. but this is after all, a wee little epiph, so I’m just going to stop here and leave the rest to your imagination.