I went to see 'Cabin in the Woods' again tonight. I am constantly fascinated by the work of Joss Whedon. He uses such common genres to make truly interesting statements about us and the world in which we live. But it can be easily missed; the themes he explores can be easily missed or confused. It is not that what he does necessarily has a particular message, but rather it poses questions about how we view ourselves and our relationship to each other and to the world.
One of the themes that is present in all of his work, but in a real significant way is our relationship to the powers, whatever they may be, and how we let those who are in authority control us. So in 'Buffy', it was the watchers council, and later the system that created and maintained the single slayer lineage. In 'Angel' it was the ‘Senior Partners’ who controlled all the evil in the world. In Firefly it was the Alliance and in 'Dollhouse' it was the Dollhouse itself. In 'Cabin in the Woods' (spoiler alert!) it’s the evil gods who used to rule the world and now are placated by the horror story that is acted out by the unwitting campers.
In every instance the protagonists rebel against the status quo. The idea of doing something because that is the way it has always been done is never an option for the characters in Joss Whedon’s stories. Now this is not unusual for movies, standing up against an evil regime or unjust system is common theme. But where Joss approaches it differently is the idea that the system should be questioned always. In ‘Cabin in the Woods’ the purpose of placating these evil gods in this way is to keep them from destroying the world in a gruesome and terrifying way. Basically the small evil is done in order to prevent the larger evil from taking place. The main characters refuse to participate and the end is world annihilation.
Of course Whedon doesn’t offer any solution to the problem, he never does. There will always be systems that are in place to maintain order, and those systems will always sacrifice little goods for a so called larger good. But he begs the question, is that larger good really good at all if it has to be upheld by the allowance of evil?
I have a lot to say about how Christianity has failed to step up and fight against the status quo(most of which I will not be saying here). The lives of most Christians are no different than the lives of most secular persons. We are just as entrenched in the system that is constantly upheld by little evils. We each like to think that our lives are not tainted by such things, but they are. Look at your clothes, where were they made? Or your Apple product? Or your food, who picked it? Christians, look at your house and tell me that Christ wouldn’t tell you to sell all you have and give it to the poor. We live within a system that perpetuates haves and have nots, and we always think that we are among the have nots, but if you are reading this blog it just isn’t so.
Now of course I am among the worst offenders I enjoy the benefits of a first world lifestyle and generally don’t think about the system that always has me worrying about superficial crap. And I would really like to say that I don’t know what the answer is, but of course I do know, every Christian knows. Joss Whedon knows, and that is why his protagonists chose not to placate the great evil by performing a ‘small evil’ because of course there really is no such thing as a ‘small evil.’