“Never google how anything you consume is created. Just never google it because it is going to bum you out”.
The above Aziz Ansari quote is from a great bit in which he encourages his listeners not to look up the origins of anything they use and enjoy. The joke being that when you find out how your favorite things get made, you will be disappointed by the often unnerving circumstances required to make them. The joke rings true and it is easy to see why that is. Did you buy those pants at Wal-Mart? Well, a truly ugly system of exploitation that we tacitly consent to the existence of allows us to get those cheap denim pants. Rarely are people so aware of these exploitative systems and circumstances that allow us to live a great life. Just think of the amount of people who provide only an incredulous stare upon learning that Wal-Mart or Microsoft engages in highly dubious ethical practices to bring them cheap clothes and computers respectively. They just don’t believe the world could be so ugly.
M Night Shyamalan’s The Village is a movie that asks us to confront the part of ourselves that does not question why our world is the way that it is. The world of The Village is predicated on a number of unbelievable circumstances such as humans being able to live comfortably in a wildlife preserve that no one enters, with even air traffic controllers being bribed to direct planes away from the preserve. The film was widely criticized for being too far fetched and unbelievable but I can’t help but think this is exactly the point. “How could they be not realize this!?”, the film invites its audience to shout at the screen as Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) slowly encounters more of what lies behind the curtain.
A key shift in perspective occurs as Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) is stabbed and Ivy Walker becomes the audience POV character. This is Shyamalan telling the audience exactly what he thinks of us. We start out from the perspective of a brave, honest and temperament leading man who seems capable and eager to go out into the woods and bring medicine back for his people. When our perspective shifts to that of the blind Ivy Walker’s, we learn that we have in a sense been blind the whole time and have not even realized it.
When the all of the cards are on the table and the mystery is totally understood by the audience is when Night reveals the Rosetta stone to understanding the film. The newspaper that (in case you doubted it was important) is being held in Shyamalan’s own hands. It is filled with tragedy after tragedy, including a story about soldiers dying overseas. This film came out in 2004, a time where a large portion of Americans were being fed a narrative involving Islam, the Middle East and justifying an invasion. When we enter modernity through Ivy’s POV, it is then that we truly see that each and every one of us does exactly what the characters in the village do. We don’t have a council of elders and looming monsters in the woods but we do have a serious problem of not scrutinizing anything involved with setting the status quo. We craft a narrative that justifies our actions because that’s easier than accepting our complacency and powerlessness in the face of tragedy. Whether it is accepting the warmongering narrative of post 9/11 retribution or failing to question how huge corporations can afford to charge us next to nothing for our latest fixations, make no mistake, we all live in the village.