Hollywood Hates HumansOriginally published at First Things
I have noticed a consistent plot in the fantasy/science fiction genre over the last several years. Surely, you have noticed it too. In film after film, the human race is depicted as villainous for supposedly destroying the earth.
The just-released Noah is the latest example. In the Genesis account, God determines to destroy “all flesh” because humans are willfully unrighteous. But the holy destruction also heralds a new beginning: God preserves humanity through righteous Noah, directing him after leaving the ark to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”
That’s not the plot of the movie. In the film version, after being kicked out of Eden, man became industrial. In his greed, he strip-mined minerals, exhausted the soil, clear-cut the forests, and generally despoiled the environment — no trees, ubiquitous toxic waste — a dying planet.
“The Creator” wants us extinct. He assigns Noah the onerous task of saving “the innocents” (animals)—as distinguished from “the foul” (man) — after which he and his family are to beunfruitful and not multiply. Noah believes that man’s demise will be earth’s salvation: “Creation will be left alone, safe and beautiful.”
I was immediately struck by the similarity between Noah and the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In the 1951 original, a space alien named Klaatu sets out to save humans from self-destruction. In contrast, the 2008 remake seethes with misanthropic antipathy. Klaatu is not here to save us, but to commit total genocide to in order to, yes, save the earth. As Klaatu tells the woman who befriends him: “If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives.”
Such explicit anti-humanism is now standard in big-time Hollywood productions. Take M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening (2008), where the earth’s flora mount a rebellion against the environmental deprivations of man by releasing “suicide pheromones” that compel all in the vicinity to kill themselves by any means handy.
Shyamalan tells his apocalyptic story from the perspective of star Mark Wahlberg’s family and friends. Realizing that plants attack whenever a critical mass of human beings is present, Wahlberg and company flee at the approach of a larger group of refugees. As they begin to kill themselves en masse, Wahlberg’s band runs past a huge advertising sign for a suburban housing development that carries the film’s unsubtle message: “Because you deserve it.”
Even children’s movies often teach that humans are villains. For example, in the Pixar-animated, Academy Award-winning mega-hit Wall-E (2008),we have so despoiled the earth that the entire population was evacuated to space ships while robots, known as Wall-Es, attempt to clean up our mess.
But the earth proved uninhabitable, and the robots are abandoned. One surviving Wall-E becomes sentient and falls in love with a female robot. Eventually, through a series of adventures, they induce the humans — who all have become morbidly obese and so lazy they don’t even walk — to return to devastated earth and plant a tree. The planet is saved! Humankind has learned its lesson: From then on, we will live simple and green.
These days, it seems, we are only allowed to root for the human race when space aliens invade. Even then, alien invaders may not necessarily be bad guys. Rather, they are often evil because they plan to engage in the “ecocide” environmentalists ubiquitously accuse humans of committing.
Thus in the rollicking Independence Day (1996) the aliens are a “galactic swarm of locusts devouring each world’s natural resources before moving on to the next one.” Similarly, in The Battle of Los Angeles (2011) — one of the few recent films in which soldiers are depicted as unequivocally heroic — the invading aliens plan to suck all the water off the planet.
Movies these days rarely depict us as responsibly consuming earth’s bounty. Indeed, in Genesis, God instructs Noah to “subdue the earth.” In Noah, that credo is espoused by the film’s chief villain, the king of the humans, a murderous meat-eating descendent of Cain.
Anti-human movies get made because many of Hollywood’s movers and shakers — like Noah’s director, Darren Aronofsky — fervently embrace a radical environmentalism. But the industry values one thing even above ideology: Making money. We will see an end to anti-humanism at the movies when the audience stops paying to see films depicting them and their children as cancer on the earth.