Jun 17, 2016

The Giver: Heterosexist Conformist Dystopia

The Giver (2014) just showed up on my Netflix recommendations.   It was about a teenager who "thinks thinks" in a conformist dystopia -- pretty much the protagonist of every young adult movie -- and discovers that "the adults are lying -- only real is real," pretty much the plot of every young adult movie.

But the boy has two friends, a boy and a girl, and there's something about a younger boy who also "thinks thinks," so I figured there would be some moments of gay-subtext buddy bonding, plus the muscular Brenton Thwaites shirtless in at least one scene.

Thwaites plays Jonas, who, along with his inseparable childhood chums Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (Odeya Rush), has just graduated to adulthood in a close-knit community with no name -- although there are others, according to the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep), who appears mostly in holograms.

It's like the Village in The Prisoner tv series, with sculpted grounds and lovely architecture, and everyone always polite to each other. with everyone constantly being monitored, drugged, and lied to. For instance, Jonas' father (Alexander Skarsgaard) has the job of testing newborn babies and killing the rejects -- but because of his daily drug injection, he believes that he is "sending them to Elsewhere," a beautiful Otherworld.

People who are too old to be productive citizens are also "sent to Elsewhere." Shades of Logan's Run.

Also, everything is in black and white, no one is taught the history of what happened before, and no one is allowed to fall in love.  Shades of Brave New World.

I wonder what their high school classes are like.

After their graduation, Asher is assigned a job as a drone pilot (shades of Star Wars),  Fiona goes to work at the baby-killing facility, and Jonas becomes the apprentice to the Giver (Jeff Bridges), an old man who lives in a cabin at the edge of the world and is the only person permitted to lie, be impolite, and remember the past.  He shares memories  of the past with Jonas by touching him.

The memories are of everyday events from "back and back and back":  a gypsy wedding; a Jewish Shabat; some kind of Hindu festival; someone riding a sled to a cabin with a Christmas tree; and lots of people laughing and hugging and kissing.

The past was great!  Jonas concludes.  People felt things then!  They experienced love!

Trying to feel what they felt in the past, he stops taking his daily drugs, and becomes aware of the horrors of the Village.

His parents brought home a new baby, Gabe, but it failed its Maturity Test, and so must be sent "to Elsewhere."  Jonas knows what that really means, and vows to save Gabe.

He asks Asher and Fiona for help.  Guess which one helps, and which one rushes off to tattle to the Elders?

Yep -- guys always betray you, girls are true blue.

Freudians say that the goal of adolescence is to move from the "latent homosexuality," with same-sex pals, to "mature" heterosexual love.  It's complete garbage, of course, but this movie is definitely selling it.

So Jonas grabs the baby and rushes out of the Village, down the steep cliffs, and into the northern California wilderness, being pursued by a murderous Asher (who relents at the last minute and just throws him into a river to drown instead of zapping him).

He didn't bring any baby food or diapers, but Gabe doesn't complain through at least 24 hours of falling off cliffs, nearly drowning, and finally sledding through the snow.  Their fate is ambiguous; presumably they freeze to death.

BUT: Jonas' defection has somehow turned off the memory-zapping device, and now everyone remembers things that happened long before they were born.  So the world is saved.

I guess.  I don't understand it, either.  I'm still angry that EVERY young adult movie is about a Boy and a Girl falling in love, with the Male Friend, when he is present at all, turning into a betrayer.

Another contender for the worst heterosexist movie of all time!

By the way, nobody takes their shirt off.

See also: Logan's Run; 

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