This Saturday evening finds me watching the excellent animated movie “Megamind” with two of my housemates while knitting! It is quite relaxing and bonding and productive, if you’re interested in making a scarf. All was well and the movie was wrapping up when suddenly, familiar words and concepts starting flowing out of the mouth of the animated superhero man! I listened and watched, amazed, as the superhero Metroman’s monologue lined up exactly with what we had just talked about in my political theory class!
I took the liberty of typing up the very scene. If you haven’t seen the movie, 1. you should and 2. I will try to sum up what brings this scene about: Metroman, the superhero, has been good all of his life and Megamind, the villain, has been evil all of his life. Metroman was tired of the same old charade, as you will read below. So, during one of the usual fights with Megamind, he decided to fake his own death. His monologue begins while he, with his super-speed, takes a break during one of their battles.
Metroman: “So, using my super-speed, I decided to go clear my head.
Then I realized. We had done this same silly charade our entire lives! I tried to get my mind off how I was feeling, but I just felt stuck. I began to realize, despite all my powers, each and every citizen of Metro had something I didn’t: a choice.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had to be what the city wanted me to be. But what about what I wanted to do? Then it suddenly hit me!
I do have a choice! I can be whatever I want to be! No one said this hero thing had to be a lifetime gig! It can’t just quit, either. That’s when I got the brilliant idea to fake my death.”
If you watch this scene in context, it is much more exciting (around the 1:08 time), but you can get the picture from these little lines. In my Political Theory class we are reading Plato’s Republic and on Friday, our professor, Dr. Maloney, was wearing his Socrates hat and getting us to think about what a state should actually do.
In the book Plato’s Republic, Socrates just introduced something called “The Myth of the Metals.” Basically he wants to trick the people of Athens to make the most efficient city state ever. When everyone is born, they will be either gold, silver, or bronze, depending on their talents, and the gold and silver people will become Guardians (protectors of the city) and Leaders while the bronze will become the merchants and farmers. People are sorted based on their talents and work ethic and general smartness. We were trying to figure out what was wrong with this, and the main objection we came up with is that a lack of choice makes you unhappy.
This movie proves our point exactly! Why else would a superhero not want to be good anymore if not for the simple fact that he never really wanted the whole superhero gig in the first place? It is not inconceivable to think that this is transferable to ancient Greece. A Guardian might rebel against being a Guardian not because it’s a bad thing, but because he or she simply never wanted it. And that would be enough to cast doubt on the whole system!
And so, dear readers, take heart in two things: 1. the rich liberal arts program here at St. Thomas (namely the philosophy classes) truly prepare you for a lifetime of learning and 2. never underestimate the lesson of a good animated movie, even if it is directed towards 10 year-olds.