The art of cinema is comparatively new to the mankind, its history dating back to the twentieth century. Despite cinema’s obvious youth, the pace at which it is developing is truly amazing. With its specific ability to speak to the audience directly, it has the most efficient influence on the people, in contrast to literature and the rest of the arts.
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However, the issues suggested by filmmakers can be contradicting and suggesting the ideas which are hard to chew from the start. Such is the series called Torchwood, with the ideas which they speak about very inspiring, yet suggesting quite hard food fro thoughts. In one of its episodes, Children of Earth, the filmmakers exercise the ideas of egoism and altruism as an integral part of human’s character, adding the issue of deontology to the range of the qualities of a man, as the only possible compromise between the two contesting notions.
The Aspect of Altruism: Putting Your Shirt on It
Whenever one talks about altruism, it is presumed that the notion is taken as the most positive pattern for all people to follow and adhere to. With the interpretation which the movie suggests, altruism obtains another shade of meaning, which features people’s responsiveness for what is happening, altruism being the highest grade of admitting one’s fault or duty.
In the traditions of the Marvel comic strips, the movie features the hero who is willing to become a martyr in order to save the Earth from the danger of being consumed by an alien race.
Rather childish and naïve, the story touches the deepest of the audience’s soul, rendering the heartstrings long forgotten by the adult public, and making people feel that there is still something virtuous about the human nature. Understanding that the qualities of a man’s character which are the three pillars of the world and justice are still there in the secret shelter of their hearts, people start perceiving the film as one more reminder of the best of a man.
They are given the picture of the savior who is about to come to the rescue without fearing to perish in the fight, with his long odds which do not leave him the chance to stay alive in the struggle. Next to the image of a hero, three is the world of people shown in the most despiteful way, the remainders of the past peaceful life scattered across the ruins:
“We are shown a bleak, ugly world where there is no hope and savior. Therefore we carve one.” (Ireland 20)
An Egoist’s Point of View: Mine, Mine, Mine!
However, the most touching scenes of he episode also unlock the ideas which lead to the understanding of the nature of egoism. The episode shows the heroes as the only saviors of the world, which adds certain drama and pathos to the movie, yet creates the grounds on which the egoistic features of the lead characters are forming. In the attempt to sacrifice everything what they own, including their own lives, the lead characters cannot but be posed as the martyrs who take the death penalty passed by the fate as the people without a sin. They become heroes in the very sense of the word, half gods, to the amazed public. The Earth dwellers start worshipping them as the rescuers, which has a certain negative effect on the moral qualities of the characters. Indeed, the temptation is too hard to resist, since the image of the martyr has always been considered as one of the most attractive by a number of adults, not to mention the impressionable and sensitive teenagers.
Thus, forming the grounds for the egoistic feelings to flourish, the movie proves to have a certain negative effect on the audience.
This immortality does tend to feed Jack’s superiority complex. He often remains austere and arrogant, separating himself from the crowd and from the joviality that permeates the offices at torchwood headquarters. (Ireland 84)
However, instead of claiming that people who are possessed by egoism as the craving for a better environment and a better life are vicious and do not deserve being called decent and righteous, it is better to fathom the essence of egoism. Ad every philosophic notion, it is supposed to be a double-sided sword, with a sudden positive effect to prove through the thick of the negative features of the phenomenon.
It is quite clear that egoism is a part of a man, and thus it is rather unreasonable to deny one’s own piece of soul. It would be wiser to consider what this piece grants the person with.
However hard it is to admit, it is evident that accepting gratitude without a wink of one’s eye is considered the most vivid manifestation of egoism in the modern world. Thus, a humble acceptance of the thankful words and even the refusal to accept the latter is supposed to be the most natural behavior.
Whereas humble behavior of the kind is supposed to be the model to follow, what the characters of Children of Earth show is claimed to be a double-dyed egoism. Taking no consideration of the specific features of a human’s nature, righteous people make the same mistake of demanding too much of mere mortals.
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Deontology: the Golden Mean, or the Road Paved with Good Intentions
Taking into consideration the fact that the idea of deontology means first of all the golden mean between the notions of egoism and altruism, it is quite understood that the moralizing element of the movie is still present, despite all prohibitions and numerous critical reviews. Like any movie based on a Marvel-like comic strips, it could not escape the omnipresent morality, which can be seen quite clearly form the ways the story unwinds.
Since the very notion of deontology represents a sufficient food for thoughts itself, it is necessary to remind that it is partially resulting from the embracement which gratitude sends to people (Seglow 3). Though such reaction is rather weird from the logical point of view, it is a part of a man’s psychological features, and the numerous explanations for this phenomenon cannot give the full picture of what is happening in a man’ soul as he or she accepts the tokens of gratitude addressed:
Deontology, consequentialism, contractarianism and virtue ethics all have trouble with gratitude. The reason why gratitude is an “embarrassment“ to ethical theory stems from the way these traditional approaches neglect the centrality of contribution (Seglow 3)
With such approach, it is no wonder that people take gratitude with a mixed feeling of pleasure and embarrassment, as if they have been praised for a worthless thing or as if they have been accused of something shameful. Such is a man’s nature that he or she both desires and fears to be praised. Sacrifice is considered as a normal and logical path of behavior in the modern society, though, taking a good consideration on the history of a man’s development it becomes clear that sacrifice has been established as virtue not so long ago.
The history shows that it is more apt to a man to behave according to the law of jungle, than to act in favor of trained for the dangers of life in a less advanced way. Thus, it is reasonable to suggest that the movie gives a good example of what such people’s traits as egoism and altruism can lead to, once they have been too exaggerated. Indeed, the filmmakers have suggested a good lesson for the audience to learn.
Ireland, Andrew. Illuminating Torchwood: Essays on Narrative, Character and Sexuality in the BBC Series. Jefferson, BC: McFarland & Company, 2010. Print.
Seglow, Jonathan. The Ethics of Altruism. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 2004. Print.