WARNING: contain spoilers!

Surrogates movie posterThe podcast episode and these show notes contain spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled, then come back to this episode later. If you interested in the family-friendliness of Surrogates, then we recommend reading Plugged In Online’s review.

Safe from within our separate homes on a cold rainy night, we discuss our initial reactions after seeing Surrogates in the theater. Over all, we both liked the movie, though Eve thought the ending was anticlimatic, and Daniel expected a plot twist at the very end, but it never came (the plot twist, that is. Surrogates did actually end, unlike The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). The previews made us expect something like a cross between The Matrix and I, Robot, but Surrogates really stood on its on, not really close to either movie. Despite our low expectations for Surrogates to contain much to discuss, we actual found a lot of things to approach with Christian critical thinking.

God-view and the answer to social problems?

The geeky FBI agent who was watching through all the surrogate feeds commented about it being like God—able to see through anyone’s eyes. But this is not really accurate because God doesn’t look through our eyes, He is omniscient without having to bring Himself down to the human level, although He has chosen to do so in the past (e.g., the Tower of Babel, Genesis 11). True wisdom comes from looking through God’s eyes and not the other way around.

Near the beginning, surrogates were called the next evolutionary step for mankind. If evolution is a biological process, how could a step out of biological existence be the next big step in evolution? Within the same news montage was that surrogates solved all social issues such as gender stereotyping, discrimination, violence, and crime. In reality, it seems that surrogacy as presented by the movie, would dehumanize people. It reduces one-on-one interaction. But separating us from each other does not remove us from our sinful natures. And real humans are still behind the interactions of the surrogates.

We currently live in a type of surrogate culture, where we communicate largely via the Internet and really have no real knowledge of the true identities of the people with whom we interact. Like in the movie, someone who is claiming to be a woman, could actually be a man, etc. We already see this a lot within the popular Second Life world.

The movie’s portrayed culture is extremely dependent on its surrogates. People have problems living in the real world because the world is too overwhelming when experienced that way—too loud, too bright, too hard.

There is a scene of soldiers fighting some kind of war through surrogate soldiers. The general called it a “peace-keeping” operation but there were a vast amount of soldiers fighting it. But as Eve pointed out, what were they fighting over if the surrogate program had solved all social problems?

Death and suffering

We can almost agree with one statement made in the movie, “death is not an ending, it’s only a beginning …” and that sacrificing yourself for the survival of others allows you to keep living and that is what being human is about. Sacrificing ourselves on behalf of another is not only human, but it is exhibiting a “divine” love (John 15:13). This definition of humanity could not arise by means of evolution, because evolution is a selfish struggle for life (“survival of the fittest”) but humanity, as God created it, is built upon selfless love.

Tom Greer’s wife is taking many pills to get through her days. Daniel was given the impression that her “drug” habit is a bad reflection on the supposed safety of the surrogate program. Eve had a different impression. She thought it had more to do with the woman’s inability to deal with the grief of losing her son (who had died some time in the movie’s back story).

Always (virtually) beautiful?

Surrogates did a good job of showing the difference between surrogates and humans. Surrogates were always perfect and beautiful. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain.” But the relationship Greer desired with his real, flesh-and-blood wife rather than her perfect surrogate, was refreshing amid a world of the “perfect” people. There is a “drug” scene in which Greer’s wife does avoid partaking.

Is there really a need for the technology of the surrogates? If everyone is going to live vicariously through some kind of virtual stimulation, why not just drive it through software in a virtual world rather than going to the expense of building actual machines. It seems a slight hole in the premise of the movie. But we speculate that a virtual world would have made it too close to The Matrix and that was possibly why they avoided that premise.

Destroying his own creation

Canter, the genius behind the surrogates, is the character that is revealed to be trying to destroy the surrogates, his own creation. Is this a parallel with God’s judgment of the world with the global Flood? Only partially. Canter is not very Godlike; he’s acting out of vengeance. So what is the difference between what God did and what Canter tries to do in the movie? Canter is a man acting out petty vengeance with a man’s fallible judgment of who is “evil” and who is “good” based on an amoral decision. God acted out of righteous judgment by destroying a world that was in total rebellion to Him. But this begs the question, is choosing a surrogate really amoral? Neither of us think this would be a sin. Yet this is the decision alone that puts people on Canter’s death list.

Near the end, we learn that The Prophet was really a surrogate being controlled by Canter. Religious leaders are usually portrayed as false leaders in Hollywood (large and small screen), very often a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who convince their followers to be against something that they themselves secretly partake or endorse. This is just one more way that the Hollywood culture attempts to discredit religion as a whole. Was this an underlying agenda behind the script? It’s hard to tell.

Canter gave a reflective monologue just before committing suicide. He told of what he wanted the world to once again become. The reason he had originally created the surrogates was to help the disadvantaged people to live like everyone else, but it had gotten out of hand. Canter felt that people shouldn’t live so removed from experiencing life. This reminds us of Jesus’s miracles while He walked the earth (Matthew 11:5 and 15:31, Luke 7:22). The last statement of the movie, “For now, we are on our own,” left us with thoughts to ponder. That experiencing life, with all its joys and pain, is an important part of being human, but that we should remember that our current condition of humanity is that of sinful and fallible human beings. We should always strive to better ourselves by not being more perfect in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense through Christ. To be holy (1 Peter 1:14–16).

Share your feedback!

What did you think of Surrogates? We would like to know, even if just your reactions to the trailer or the topics we shared in this episode. Or what general critical-thinking and entertainment thoughts or questions do you have? Would you like to suggest a movie or TV show for us to give a Christian movie review with critical thinking?

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About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters training, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcasts covering how to podcast, clean-comedy, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, all under the umbrella of Noodle Mix Network and having received nearly 20 award nominations. Daniel and his wife, Jenny, live near Cincinnati with their newborn son, "Noodle Baby."

4 comments on Initial Reactions 3: Surrogates

  1. Scott says:

    Haven&#039t seen Surrogate and really don&#039t intend to so I went ahead and read your review. Good stuff. Figured I would answer this:

    "Near the beginning, surrogates were called the next evolutionary step for mankind. If evolution is a biological process, how could a step out of biological existence be the next big step in evolution?"

    Many scientists would argue that humans are the first species capable of directing their evolution. Raymond Kurzweil predicts that in the next 40 years or so we&#039ll be using machines like robots and nanobots to extend our lifespan and that AI will truly begin to flourish. And while evolution is undeniably a biological process, the word has come to apply to profound change in general.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Scott! Did you get to listen to our full discussion?

    "Evolution" is an easily misunderstood and misused word. Many people use it to imply simple change within a kind of animal, such as the process of natural selection to create and refine varieties of fish. Others will use "evolution" to imply change from one kind of animal to another, like reptiles to birds, ape-like creatures to humans, etc. Technically, these are called micro- and macroevolution, respectively.

    Although technology can certainly enhance our lives and help defeat lethal diseases, I really don&#039t believe that technology will extend our lifespans beyond how long our "healthy" bodies would otherwise survive.

    Artificial intelligence will always improve as better algorithms are written. But that&#039s all it really is, preprogrammed algorithms. These algorithms are glorified "if > then" statements.

    Thanks for reading and I hope listening!

  3. Just Surfing says:

    Let me start by saying that you wrote a nice critical piece on the movie Surrogates. Kudos! I liked the literal and unilateral parallels between the religious passages and the movie. I wish to comment on your last post.

    So far, I mean in the history of humanity, have we not had many paradigm shifts? Like the one from believing in demonic spirits that can use bodies as hosts to the earth being flat to the earth being the center of the universe to the possibility of alien life forms (Vatican has now approved this notion) and so on… So, it is reasonable to say that we humans shelter belief systems that aren&#039t always true or for the greater good of mankind. Now, let&#039s assume that we don&#039t have any power over our future. What is that called again? Destiny, I believe. Then, through a set of cool looking religious sun glasses, this means that God has a master plan for everything he created. That he knows what we are thinking what we will be thinking till the next apocalypse and then some. Maybe, God has intended for us to achieve longevity through the use of nano technology? Or maybe, it is an illusion that we are again sheltering? Who knows?
    My point is exactly that, who knows? It doesn&#039t matter what God has intended because we don&#039t know what it is he did intend for us. We can only keep trying to survive with our beautiful gift which is our honesty. Intelligence is useless if it is not honest.
    “You will burn in hell because you say the earth isn’t flat!” Poor old Galileo he was a great honest man.
    So let&#039s be honest with ourselves, we know that nobody has ever witnessed heaven or hell and lived to tell the tail except Jesus. And if we rely on our past and current methods of tracking history which is not very honest, we can say that maybe there is a possibility that Jesus never existed physically (I can explain this in more details). We can understand that a nonexistent witness witnessing something isn’t very credible. This in return means that nobody has witnessed heaven or hell. This underlies that heaven could just be a lullaby to comfort our confused souls before we lay to rest. Yet again we are faced with a new paradigm: the one that doesn&#039t comfort us from the event of death with the existence of places like heaven.
    Now, let&#039s face it, if heaven doesn&#039t exist then I don&#039t really want to die at 90 years of age if I had the possibility to live till 200 years old for example. Wouldn’t you agree?

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