To directors, the best thing about movies is that they can teach philosophy without giving the audience hours of lecture classes. Let’s find out how.
What Is Philosophy?
Philosophy drives a story. It is a study of the fundamental nature of knowledge – a guiding principle for behavior. There are many types of philosophy but let’s take utilitarianism as an example.
Utilitarianism is a philosophy that states an action is considered right if it benefits most people. The more people gain the benefits, the more likely an action is considered to be correct.
In Man of Steel, Superman applies utilitarianism. When General Zod wanted to terraform Earth to create a home for the remaining Kryptonians, Superman considered it morally wrong. The billions of lives of the entire Earth outnumber the lives of a dozen surviving Kryptonians. Superman was right, and Zod was wrong.
So, utilitarianism is morally good, right? Well, the best thing about movies, you can make people doubt it.
Let’s take a look at Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
If utilitarianism is truly your tenet, then you should root against Miles Morales. Saving his own father from the Spot is considered morally wrong as the fate of his entire universe could be destroyed. The amount of lives in the entire universe outnumber the life of one person.
By that logic, Miguel O’Hara is the good guy.
So… is utilitarianism a good thing?
Movies aren’t using philosophies to state if you’re wrong or right. Movies use philosophies to create a good conflict. A good conflict is when the audience has a hard time deciding which side is correct.
In the third Captain America movie, you are left with two questions. Is it better to let our favorite superheroes be free without being controlled by politics to save the world? Or is it better to let every single super-powered individual take justice into their own hands just because they wear colorful costumes?
In the second season of Daredevil, you are left with two questions. Is it morally right to end the lives of scumbags to prevent them from hurting more people in the future? Or is it morally right to rip away the chances of these criminals to change and learn to be good?
In The Dark Knight, the audience is left with two questions by The Joker. Which boat should detonate the bomb? Is a boat filled with innocent civilians or is it a boat filled with criminals?
In the cinematic realm, philosophies unfold not as rigid doctrines but as dynamic forces, sparking compelling dilemmas that thrust audiences into moral mazes, challenging them to navigate the complexities of virtue and choice with every frame.
If you would like to read other movie-related posts, you can check them out here.