Dennis O’Neil: What the World Would Be Like if “Noah” Didn’t Exist
Okay, let’s begin by looking at today’s Times. Bad news, there above the fold: A U.N. panel says climate change is getting worse. Melting ice caps, acidic coastal waters, sea life migration – all negatives caused by ecological woes that we noble humans are causing.
And did you see last week’s Vice on HBO, the story about how Greenland is literally melting?
As Bill Maher observed, in other nations conservatives and liberals disagree about how to deal with global warming, but neither side denies that the problem exists. Not true for us.
Seen Noah yet? Me either, but apparently some religious folk are upset because the filmmakers have taken liberties with the source material. Maybe somebody in a film seminar someplace will tell us how one could avoid taking liberties with that particular source material. I mean, there’s not a whole lot of source material to take liberties with and… hey, I’m not going to enter the debate about the literal truth of scripture — I’m old and I don’t need anyone else hating me — but two of every living creature? Every one? In one boat? At the very least, that needs some explaining, and since no such explanation is given in the source material, any such explanation would be taking liberties and… you can see the problem.
Why did Darren Aronofsky, who does not deny being an atheist, decide to direct this particular flick? Maybe if I see it, I’ll have a clue.
I wonder: could it have something to do with our American monomyth?
Before we get to that, allow me to offer a definition of monomyth from the indispensable Wikipedia: A monomyth is “a basic pattern that its proponents argue is found in many narratives around the world.” Now, on to the American monomyth. Those of you unfamiliar with [[[The Myth of the American Superhero]]], by John Sheldon Lawrence and Robert Jewett, might appreciate the following explanation, taken from the book:
A community in a harmonious place is threatened by evil: normal institutions fail to contend with this threat; a selfless superhero emerges to renounce temptations and carry out the redemptive task…his decisive victory restores the community to its paradisal condition; the superhero then recedes into obscurity.
Our worshipping brethren insist that ours is a Christian nation. That’s debatable (Know any Jews? Buddhists? gol-dern godless atheists? Perish forbid — any Muslims?) But let’s go with it for now. Put yourself in a symbolic and/or metaphorical frame of mind and you can see, in the American monomyth, a recasting of the New Testament story. Someone (superhero, cop, private eye, firefighter, healer, deity) comes from outside (in the case of a deity, way outside) and saves us, and then doesn’t stick around for the afterparty.
This story is told in much, if not most, of our popular entertainment, as well as in the Bible. Surely, it must influence us.
What are we waiting for?
I’ve heard that some evangelical types believe that the world won’t end in ecological catastrophe because the Lord won’t let it end.
Tell that to all the folks who didn’t get onto Noah’s boat.