WARNING: contain spoilers!
The 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).
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