In 2013, Zach and I went to the movies and watched Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise and some other people (I don’t remember who they are, but that’s okay, because they’re not that important for my story). Anyway, we watched it. 124 minutes of SciFi-flavored awesome. Our inner nerds were very pleased by it. It was beautiful. It was like The Book of Eli meets Interstellar meets The Hunger Games or something.
I should also mention that Zach and I are nerds. The BBC, SciFi/outer space movies, Sherlock, Doctor Who, and Lord of the Rings are basically our bread and butter for cinematic and television entertainment. His wife, Kristen, enjoys them too, but this is more of a bro-story than an “Adam, Zach, and Kristen” story. Besides, she wasn’t with us when we watched Oblivion.
So, we watched Oblivion. The theater was basically empty, just a handful of other people (all over 40 and one really old couple) and us. Apparently 11:30 am isn’t usually a very popular time to go to the movies.
Tom Cruise was in the movie doing his space stuff with his awesome looking space suit and cool space house. Really, the movie basically just had Tom in it. Kind of like how After Earth only had Will Smith and his son on screen for the brunt of it.
When it was over, we were in awe, just pure jaw-dropping shock due to the twist ending and the best last line of any movie of all time ever.
The lights came on, the old people grabbed their walkers and left, and Zach and I just sat there, staring at the screen. Finally, one of us giggled and then we both started giggling for a very brief time (2-3 minutes). When the manly giggling fit was over, we did our traditional recap-the-movie-while-sitting-in-the-seats-during-the-end-credits thing.
One of the questions I asked was, “Why do people like these movies so much? Not just the space ones, but the alternate-future reality ones that aren’t very realistic? Like The Hunger Games, Divergent (only a book at the time), After Earth, Elysium, etc.”
Zach’s answer was, “because people want different options for their futures. They don’t like the reality that we have currently. These kinds of movies make people feel like they have control over what kind of outcome they can have for their future. It completely changes reality and gives more options than the only one we have. Oh, and it gives unrealistic emotional false hope for the future. I want cheesecake.”
That’s not a direct quote; it’s paraphrased. That conversation originally happened around two years ago, but it’s pretty close to how it actually happened, I think.
I say all of that to say this: I started reading Dr. John Townsend’s new book, The Entitlement Cure, and I suddenly remembered that conversation. I don’t know if Zach realized it or not when he said it, he probably did, but I think he was onto something much bigger.
This is the quote from the book that sparked that memory:
“Entitlement tells you to be your own boss and determine your own destiny. Entitlement teaches you to say, ‘You’re not the boss of me!’ It implies that you can be and do anything you want, demand of the others around you anything you want, and that it’s lame to depend on anyone. After all, it’s your life, so you need to follow whatever path you choose. But entitlement ultimately leaves you proud, alone, empty, and functionless.”
All of the SciFi-esk post-apocalyptic movies follow a similar thread, especially The Hunger Games and Divergent, which are the ones I’ll focus on.
They both featured a very strong-willed lead female character in her mid-late teens who has severe issues with trusting—depending on—other people and even more issues with authority.
Yes, the ethicality of the authority is questionable, but we don’t definitively know if she’s rebelling because she needs to do what is right or if she’s rebelling just for the sake of rebelling.
If she’s rebelling because she needs to do what it right, that’s awesome, but there are a lot of wrong, ends-justifies-the-means logic in her rebellion. If it’s rebelling just to rebel, then there is a much deeper entitlement issue.
Entitlement is a mix of several different things. The big ones are:
- An attitude of being special. That is, special without grounds for being better than others and being exempt from having responsibility for one’s own actions because they are just that special.
- An attitude of being owed, of deserving something. “I didn’t create the situation, they’re the ones who are always complaining. So why should I do all the work, or even any of it? I’ll just stay away until they’ve cleaned up their mess. Oh, and my bonus better not be any smaller than the others because of their problems.”
- A refusal to accept responsibility. “It’s not my fault I did that. It’s their fault. I did what I did because they did that one thing, which resulted in my actions. Really, they weren’t even my actions, because they did that other thing that forced me to do it. It’s their fault.”
- A denial of one’s impact on others. “It’s a free country, I can say what I want to say. They irritated me, so I’m going to tell them and not sugarcoat it or tone down my language. It’s their fault if it hurts their feelings, I can say what I want, when I want, because I’m special. It’s not my fault, they forced me to say it. It’s their fault they found it hurtful, if they didn’t want it to hurt, then they shouldn’t have been so irritating.”
Anyway, the entire premises of both series are based on Katniss and Tris saying, “You’re not the boss of me! I can do whatever I want, because it’s my life and I don’t need to depend on anyone to be who I want to be and do what I want to do, and I’m going to do that regardless of the impact it has on others. Oh, and I suppose I’ll try to singlehandedly save the world while simultaneously juggling multiple dysfunctional relationships and participating in bad behavior. You’re welcome. #GirlPower.”
So, excessively long story short, I think there is a link between entitlement and post-apocalyptic alternate reality-esk SciFi movies.
Side note: I find it very interesting that all of the females I’ve talked to who have seen/read Divergent and/or The Hunger Games completely identify with Katniss and/or Tris. All of them. And their ages ranged from 8 up to the early 30’s.