Beware the Ever Present Bogeyman

A couple nights ago I watched another movie on TV that I’d avoided on its release because I’d expected religious propaganda – with good reason.  M. Night Shyamalan’s previous film ‘Signs’ was a very bad, blatant attempt to say that keeping faith in god will save you.

But ‘The Village’ is a much more intelligent, thought provoking, and honest movie.  The story is set in what appears to be a nineteenth century Mennonite type village.  Life is simple, people are innocent and respectful, and old world values are adhered to.  A council of elders are in charge and their edicts are abided by.

This may seem idyllic but the village is in an isolated valley, surrounded by woods inhabited by hostile creatures.  Only the elders seem to have been around before the current truce.  The rest of the community takes their word that there was trouble in the past.  To keep the creatures away, the colour red is banned because it supposedly attracts them.

There is a metaphor here for religion and politics.  There is a clearly defined boundary at the edge of the woods which must not be crossed.  When Lucius Hunt wants to visit the outside world for medicine that would benefit the community, he is forbidden because he would have to pass through the woods.  Medicine?  Science?

One day, Lucius ventures into the woods and is seen by one of “those of whom we do not speak”, as they are referred to.  The red-robed creatures invade the village that night and leave red warning symbols on doors.  This provides the elders an opportunity to reinforce the rules and the consequences of breaking them.

Later, the village idiot stabs Lucius out of jealousy over the legally blind woman they both love.  She volunteers to go to ‘the towns’ to get the medicine Lucius needs to survive.  The elders allow it and, when she asks what she should do if she encounters the creatures, one of them reveals an astonishing truth.  There are no creatures!  It is the elders in costumes who terrorize the village.

We later discover that the elders, all traumatized in the past, had established the village as a shelter from the outside world.  They invented the creatures as a way to control the people and prevent them from leaving or seeking the outside world.  In the end, the elders decide to continue the lie.

A hierarchy creates a bogeyman to instill fear, control people, and preserve a way of life that suits them.  The colour of passion is banned, innocence is emphasized.  Science cannot be pursued if it challenges the rules.  Sound familiar?

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4 Responses to “Beware the Ever Present Bogeyman”

  1. C. Fraser Says:

    I like Shyamalan movie; I”m a pretty big fan. Signs is actually my favorite of his offerings. I don’t think it was ‘religous propaganda’, but it is motivated by the idea of faith. The main character was a former priest, but the religous content of the movie is minimal at best. Faith does not have to equal religion. I don’t see how Signs was religous propaganda.

    Anyway, nice blog!

  2. paulmct Says:

    Thanks for the comment, and welcome back to Canada. I’d take it easy on the treats, though. Looks like you have to recover correct spelling.

    I really preferred ‘The Village’ because of its depth, insights, and metaphors. It just rung true. The constant air of menace was engaging, too.

    ‘The Sixth Sense’ was OK, but just a ghost movie. I read about another of his movies that I haven’t seen, but it looked potentially interesting.

    As for ‘Signs’, the main character was a minister who lost his faith when his wife was killed in an accident. He regains his faith when his wife’s dying words turn out to be advice based on insight into the future from some divine source, or god. I don’t recall if he decides to become a minister again, but it doesn’t matter. It was already clear to me there was an agenda.

  3. DAVE ID Says:

    Signs was ruined by the simple fact that the aliens were once again brownish almond-eyed earless noseless evolved beings with inverted knees that traveled millions of light years to colonize a planet and they conveniently forgot to check if that planet isn’t infested with that little poison that instantly kills them and gives the primitive talking monkeys the upper hand in the end.

    If water burns you like acid do you move your civilization to a planet that’s mostly nothing but water and where water falls from the sky? That stupid lack of respect for the intelligence of the viewer was enough to turn me away from the movie.

    Though the kids party scene shot with a handicam was priceless.

  4. C. Fraser Says:

    Well, for one thing they weren’t going to colonize the planet, they were harvesting humans, and perhaps other things too. Main point being — not going to stay on Earth.

    Secondly, as was also noted in the movie, all the crop circles were away from water.

    Third, if it did happen to be raining, I’m sure they would be intelligent enough to stay in their ships, take shelter, or carry an umbrella. Or maybe a raincoat.

    Fourth, they do have to worry about kids with water-guns, though. An army of five-year olds running around squirting aliens…now that would have been fun!

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