Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Giver: The Importance of Life

I first watched The Giver back in August.  I was all alone in bed at 12:30, and I was an emotional mess because that movie rang with so much truth.

I watched it again on my Birthday, January 12th, and the whole message about the importance of life and the raw beauty of it touched me just as deeply the second time. With the March for Life taking place this month, I decided to do a post on the Giver and how it shows us that all life, not matter how big or how small, how flawless or how damaged, is important and valuable. All life is precious.

For those of you that don't know, The Giver is a dystopian story about a society that has rebuilt itself after some global catastrophe. They've built a world of happiness and contentment where everyone is equal. There is no war or suffering, no hate, no anger. In fact this world seems downright perfect.

However, as the story goes on the perfection of this painless world is called into question. In this society, each man and woman is placed into a specific line of work after graduation which they will pursue until they retire to Elsewhere. The main Character, Jonas, is placed into a critical position: He is the receiver of memory. Even in a world where emotions are held in check and the history of our world is no longer passed down, the 'Elders' (AKA Governors) sometimes need to consult past mistakes to better plan for future laws, decisions, and problems. This means that there has to be someone who does remember the past, who does know what the world was like before everything changed. This person is The Giver. From the time our New World began there has been a Giver, one person in the hundreds who knows the truth of our past and heeds it. The Elders need this Giver, but is a delicate job as the memories and knowledge cannot be shared with anyone else for fear of causing a rebellion. People would get curious about the past, about their feelings, and eventually they'd want that back. The Giver holds the memories for the Elders, and passes them to the Receiver when his time is over - in this instance, Jonas.

But Jonas is not your average Receiver and as he learns about the past, about the emotions humans you to have, and the beautiful diversity of our lives, he realizes that a perfect society is not worth what we had to sacrifice for it.

What I loved most about this movie was the amazing Pro-Life message. Not just with children either, though I will get to that in this post. The whole movie was a message about why life is worth living, even if there is pain and strife and horror. Everyone deserves to experience the wonder of life. Whether they be young or old, weak or strong, deformed or beautiful, crippled or fit, slow or excelling, handicapped or ingenious - everyone deserves to live, and life isn't something you should take from anyone.  It had a beautiful message about how sadness and cruelty is worth the experience of joy and goodness. Knowing love is worth Enduring the hate that is bound to follow.  Happiness is worth the suffering. Where there is good there will always be bad, but that doesn't make the good any less wonderful or brilliant.

This is a very applicable message and story for us today. In our society, life is treated badly. The elderly aren't cared for properly. Children are carefully scheduled into a couple's happy marriage so that they don't have too many and aren't inconvenienced - that is, if they have any at all. Often babies are killed before they see life outside the womb. The Giver brought each of these problems to light, and many more.

In The Giver's world, individuality is gone. No one is allowed to be different from anyone else. There is no "she's smarter than me," or, "He's better at that than I am." No one is higher or lower than anyone else. Everyone is the same. Everyone has the same comforts, the same rules, the same teachings. Nothing is ever surprising, or hurtful. There are no fights. No passions. No private dreams or goals that might conflict with another's. Everyone has their path chosen and assigned to them from the government. There is no freedom of choice. You do what you're told, you obey the rules, and everyone is happy.

Our Society isn't as bad as The Giver's - at least not yet. But I can't help seeing some frightening parallels. For starters, "Precision of language." How many of us are really allowed to say what we want without some bad repercussions? You must be very careful to never hurt anyone's feelings by saying something too deep or too honest. In a way we do have to monitor our words.  Just think of how hard it is to say "God" or "Jesus Christ," in public. Or how about, "I believe in marriage between a man and a woman," or "I don't agree with this person(s) opinion, because my belief is such-and-such," or, "I think men are better at such-and-such a thing than women are."  And we do have to apologize for saying or doing anything even remotely hurtful or irritating to someone else. Heaven forbid you make somebody feel bad or *gasp* maybe think a little; about who they are, about what they do.

How about emotions? How often can we really express our interest/beliefs/feelings? Everything is very surface. We carefully walk on eggshells around our fellow humans to keep from upsetting anyone, or causing a problem. Society is teaching children some very strange things about feelings. Don't get angry if someone disagrees with you - that's there opinion. If someone is bothering you, maybe try to confront them with words and if that doesn't work, just walk away. If you're feelings are hurt, talk about it. You have a right to feel hurt. Experience it, express it. Have a hug. Go off alone and sit until you feel better.  It's all about you feeling like you are comfortable enough to go on. Face your feelings and figure out a way to get back to a calm balance. Does anyone else see a disturbing connection here? Let your feelings out and then forget about them. Don't dwell on feelings because then you can't be in a comfortable place.

Uhm. Life doesn't work that way. You are going to get hurt. You are going to grieve. You are going to be heartbroken. And that pain will last, sometimes a really long time. That is part of life and that is part of your development as a person. If you never have to struggle or fight, or face some hurt, you will never learn how strong, brave or resilient you are. And that's sad! Children don't need to be coddled, to identify their feelings, talk them over, and quickly drop them because really, It's Okay. Children need to understand that feelings grow out of emotions, and emotions are a good thing. Should you be in control of them? Absolutely; they're dangerous. But they are also necessary if you want to be a person of any character and depth at all.

Feelings are fleeting. They’re on the surface. But emotions, are deeper. They linger. - The Giver

Feelings are petty and altogether too much importance is placed on them. A feeling doesn't last long. You need to know that having your feelings hurt happens and to tough it up. How are you going anyone in life if you are so fragile that someone saying, No, you're wrong, or the like, is going to shatter your tiny comfort globe? That is a silly way to live. In the long run, feelings are fleeting and don't last long, they are just a natural instinct which stem from something much stronger. Emotions. However, emotions are almost disregarded, and beliefs and passions are looked upon with a most tolerant, almost mocking view.

This is what I loved about the Giver. How it looked at the facts of our world and brought them to light in all their honest fact. The pressure for children to behave just so. The pressure for adults to raise their children just so. The old being relatively useless. The young carefully modeled into perfect citizens. The rebels found and quickly silenced. Beliefs being okay so long as they aren't voiced too loudly or for too long; keep your opinions to yourself, thank you, and don't violate anyone else. It's an idea world where no one is allowed to quarrel or disagree. But that also means no one is allowed to form deep, emotional ideas, or have deep, emotional relationships because that's way too dangerous. Don't share unique ideas! That leads to conflict which leads to pain! Don't hold hands! Holding hands leads to caring, caring leads to hurt, hurt leads to anger, anger leads to violence... on and on.

The Community in The Giver acts as though it cares about each individual but really it only cares about the whole. The Community acts as though it cares about your ideas, thoughts or concerns, but really it doesn't. Your own feelings don't matter, you must believe and follow the ideals of the Community. They act as though they want everyone to be happy and live in comfort, but they force that false happiness and comfort upon you, so you have no choice but to live in blissful carelessness. The Community acts as though life has value, but they don't practice that. They kill off anyone too weak or inconvenient - Oh, excuse me. They send them to Elsewhere. *squints* Nothing must be violent or appalling, so even death is given a new name and painted as some type of reward, a peaceful retirement. No one mentions the ending of a life. That is too brutal. We simply no longer need this individual so we will quietly dispose of them. Sound familiar?

The Community can choose to get rid of whomever they want, whenever they want to. The old, the young, the innocent, the infants. There is absolutely no regard for the individuals life. Once there usefulness is over it is time to be rid of them. I liked how this movie showed that losing emotions and morality meant losing our respect for life. It rang with so much truth - especially when you think about the Pro-Choice activists in society today. Actually, one of my favorite things about this movie was the situation with the babies. How those infants the Community deemed "worthy" or "strong enough" got a chance at life, but those too weak or problematic got scratched off the list. It was painted as a Choice, a necessary action with no need for regret, but it wasn't necessary and it was horrible. Any baby they weren't sure they should keep was placed in "Uncertains," and if they decided that baby just didn't have the capacity to be in this world, injection, the baby was gone. Just like that. No tears, no mess. Just a dead baby, a box, and a trash can.

"That's death.[ ]He doesn't know what he's doing...? He killed him!" -Jonas.

It was all so familiar. It's what happens today, all over the world. Unwanted babies are treated like trash to be thrown out. Infants are murdered fresh from the womb. They're not even given a chance. There is a lot of talk about how life in the womb isn't life, but then why does "it" have a heartbeat? Why does "it" grow? Why does "It" suck his thumb? Roll over? Have brainwaves? At what point does this "it" decide to become a baby? Is a seed, planted and taking root, not alive because the flower hasn't grown up from it yet? Of course not! The seed will grow into a tree. The Infant will grow into an adult - if he is only given the time to do so. It is evil to destroy him before he even has the chance to break soil.

Jonas recognized the evil. He knew that the world no longer understood death, but he had the memories, he had the passions, the faith, the emotions. He did understand. And he was angry and hurt and confused. The baby was alive and then he was dead. For no reason! Didn't he matter? Didn't they care? I found myself relating to Jonas on a spiritual level. LIFE MATTERS. No matter what life it is, no matter how old, how young, how useful, how necessary, each life matters. Every life has the potential to be everything and anything in this messy world of ours. I loved that Jonas realized that and took control. He realized the last Receiver had been killed for not being able to complete her duties, that retirees were killed because they were no longer useful, that anyone deemed unworthy was sent to Elsewhere: AKA, murdered. But he only learned these truths when he saw the helpless, innocent baby killed without hesitation. That was when he realized what the Community really did. That was when he decided it was time for things to change. No amount of balanced comfort was worth the cold indifference mankind had acquired toward the value of life.

Once Jonas understood this, he understood two other things as well. He needed to bring back the memories, the right and the wrong, and he needed to save the baby, Gabriel, who was next in line for the injection. A baby his father had brought home from the hospital only a few days before in an attempt to make him strong enough to be able to 'live.' A baby who was now back at the hospital, awaiting death.

gabriel, tumblr, and heartit image

I'm going to say right now, Jonas running in and saving an innocent infant from slaughter was without a doubt the best part of the movie. He broke all the rules, got himself marked as a criminal and hunted like an animal, all to save a baby. And when he took that life in his arms he ran. He ran to save life once and for all. He ran to save the value of life, to save the meaning of life. He ran to bring back the beauty of life, the wonder, the pain, the joy. He ran to save all life that the child in his arms represented. The lives of his friends, his family. The lives of the old and the young, the unique, the damaged, the different. The baby in his arms represented every life that had been lost because of empty cares and false comfort. That baby was the future. He was warm. He was beautiful. And he was alive. Not too weak. Not too problematic. Alive, breathing, and capable of so much more.
And in this way, a baby saved the world from an empty, cruel existence. It was the baby that gave Jonas the strength and courage to change the horror. To fix the emptiness. To bring back love. A baby brought back beauty and joy. A condemned baby, who should have been dead. A baby Society marked as inconvenient and unneeded. A baby that touched the Receivers heart and gave him the strength to go on when he was scared, cold and alone. It was the baby

Gabriel saved the world! He was a baby! And yet he saved the world!

It really makes you think, doesn't it?

"Gabe, there could be love."
- Jonas, The Giver

I will just leave this here; life matters. Even if you suffer, even if there is pain, every life is worth and every person deserves a chance at that life.

*swings around cape and leaps off stage*



  1. Amazing review! Excellent comparisons between the film's "precision of language" and today's "trigger words." I hadn't noticed that parallel.

    Ugh, yes, I get so tired of "motivational" quotes that say things like "Respect yourself enough to walk way from anything that makes you feel unbalanced." Or whatever. Because that kind of thing puts your feelings first, rather than what's right. Rather than what you and others *need*.

    I need to watch this film again!

    1. Somehow this comment was still awaiting moderation. 8-O Sorry about that!

  2. A toast to this post!
    It's true, we do need pain as well as beauty; and we need the weak as well as the strong.
    It encourages me to see such a popular book/film bringing these much needed messages.


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