Conservatives Praise ‘The Giver’ As Cautionary Tale of Failed Utopia

August 21, 2014 - 4:22 PM

 

Jeff Bridges

Jeff Bridges as "The Giver" (The Weinstein Co.)

(CNSNews.com) -- Conservatives are praising “The Giver,” a film depicting a futuristic society that has eliminated both personal freedom and human emotion, as a warning against the temptations of utopianism.

“It’s refreshing to see Hollywood produce a cautionary tale that demonstrates the danger and sadness inherent in relying on government to protect us from all unpleasantness,” former Sen. Jim DeMint, now president of the Heritage Foundation, told CNSNews.com.

“’The Giver’ demonstrates how even well-intended government can wind up crushing individual freedoms, turning utopian dreams into dystopian reality. This is a well-made and thought-provoking film,” DeMint added.

Produced by Walden Media, directed by Phillip Noyce, and starring Hollywood A-listers Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift, the film is based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 Newbery Award-winning novel of the same name.

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas described the film, which was released August 15, as “’Brave New World’ meets ‘The Matrix’ with a dash of ‘The Stepford Wives’ thrown in.”

The movie depicts a rigidly repressive society that has attempted to eliminate all of the human distinctions that lead to conflict. Everyone dresses alike, and ubiquitous cameras observe every interaction. Children are not raised by their biological parents, but by family units assigned to them. Jobs are chosen by the elders.

But when Jonas, the film’s main character played by Brenton Thwaites, is assigned to be “The Receiver” of the society’s institutional memory from “The Giver,” played by Jeff Bridges, he soon discovers that “they hadn’t eliminated murder, they had brought it home. They had just called it by a different name.”

“I tried to make Jonas’s world seem familiar, comfortable, and safe, and I tried to seduce the reader. I seduced myself along the way,” Lowry said in her Newbery acceptance speech. “It did feel good, that world. I got rid of all the things I fear and dislike; all the violence, prejudice, poverty, and injustice, and I even threw in good manners as a way of life because I liked the idea of it.”

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep as an elder in "The Giver" (The Weinstein Co.)

But Bruce Edward Walker, who blogs at the Acton Institute Power Blog, told CNSNews.com that he found the “monochromatic” world Lowry created in “The Giver” even more unsettling than the dystopia featured in the popular “Hunger Games”.

“The insidious nature of ‘The Giver’s’ Potemkin village is far creepier because it forces all of the individuals to adhere to specific behavior. At least Katniss had the ability to exercise her free will when she was able to jump in and save her little sister.”

The film “brilliantly depicts Jonas’ nominal father, who is so totally inured to this futuristic utopian society that he doesn’t even recognize natural law,” he added. “He’s the perfect government apparatchik.”

The film "very subtly refers to religion” as the real answer to life’s vicissitudes, he added. “But the religion theme never clubs you over the head.” Instead, the film "slyly holds the faith card up its sleeve before sliding it across the viewers’ consciousness."

Asked to explain the popularity of dystopian books and movies, Walker replied: “As government becomes more and more pervasive, people are turning to dystopian literature to deal with it. ”