One reader wrote in about “The Book of Eli.” I love his response and you can see how passionate he is about the message of the movie–things that you and I may have missed on. We’ll give him an identity–we’ll call him, “The Scholarly Engineer.” Thank you for your refreshing response Scholarly Engineer.
You see, the Book of Eli is nothing more than a modern day analogue of the stories of the past. You may or may not recall it, but in the time period shortly following World War II, there was a huge movement for personal rights. After seeing Nazi Germany and Socialist Russia, the people of America and other free nations became very afraid of one thing – oppression. Out of that spawned cultural revolutions, such as beatniks and hippies. Many stories, and parodies of stories, were made to fulfill one of two purposes: spread the idea or capitalize on it. Books and movies were made, such as 1984, Soylent Green, Sleeper, and Fahrenheit 451.
People were very afraid of losing their freedoms, rights, and even identities. These stories took place in not-too-far-off futures where “big brother” was always watching. Perhaps these were all made in an effort to keep the people aware of the government so that they did not fall victim to it, but they were all widely accepted and popular.
In these modern times, we face a new fantastical disaster: the apocalypse. People are no longer afraid of losing their identities, but rather their lives altogether. You’ll easily notice a trend of stories and movies that depict the end of mankind. With this age of climate change, everybody wants everybody else to wake up and save mankind from a catastrophe.
In Fahrenheit 451, the oppressive government burns all the books of mankind in order to keep men uninformed of culture and identity, where as in The Book of Eli, mankind burns books in an attempt to deter its extinction. In Soylent Green, the oppressed are forced to eat the dead in ignorance, while in The Book of Eli, the dead are eaten out of necessity.
I believe that this movie is a very intelligent criticism of the change of mankind’s fears. This would slip past the normal person as merely an action movie in a post apocalyptic world. Perhaps I am seeing connections where there aren’t any, but I believe that The Book of Eli could be interpreted as a parody of past stories.
Perhaps the movie is reminding us of the past books and movies in order to remind us what they taught. In this day and age, we no longer fear the government, but rather want to protect it more than ever. Movies like Live Free or Die Hard and Eagle Eye teach us to blindly protect our government. In the end, we may fall victim to what the past decades vehemently warned us against.
Perhaps this movie is criticizing the fact that our current generations are ignorant of the past, and that we’ll buy the same book our parents did if the cover were changed just a little. It’s the easiest thing to change a past trend and put a new face on it for the next generation to eat up. Maybe this is a sign that the oppression warned about is already occurring. The ignorance of the populous allows the powerful to manipulate it. It may be for money now, but money is just a form of power, and a sign that greater oppression is yet to come.
And that is the true identity of The Book of Eli revealed. I may be an engineer, but I am quite the scholar.