Netflix is Anti-Abortion

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So Netflix was threatening to boycott the State of Georgia for its pro-life laws. Netflix is worried that Georgia will abort abortion. Because of this boycott threat, many pro-lifers are boycotting Netflix.

But Netflix is a hypocrite. It’s not really serious about abortion rights. Because if it were, it wouldn’t be streaming pro-life movies like I Am Mother. That’s right, Netflix actually streams a very pro-life, very anti-abortion movie. If Netflix doesn’t realize its contradictory stance, then it’s either simply hypocritical, or incredibly ignorant of its own content, or it’s secretly anti-abortion. I’m not sure what they are, but here are the pro-life signs from their recent critically acclaimed hit film itself:

—SPOILER ALERT—

  1. The film presents a feminine-voiced robot as a mechanical mother tasked with raising a baby girl. In fact, every mother figure in this film is female/feminine. In our LGBTQRSTUV+ conscious culture, why is the mother presented as womanly and feminine? Why do advanced, super artificial-intelligence robots of the future use old-fashioned traditional family roles in its attempt to raise the perfect human? Hint: because that’s how humans are meant to be best nurtured.
  2. There’s no mistake that motherhood is the theme of the film (the title?). But notice the plot twist: Mother-Bot has been long terminating human girls when they failed to qualify for continued existence. Mother-Bot administers tests on her daughters, and only raises the current protagonist because she has been passing. When we find that other girls had been gestated, born, raised, tested, failed, and then incinerated, we sense the film wants us to feel horrified. The fact that we don’t know how many girls have been burned to bones alludes even more to the fact that we may perhaps never know how many girls have been aborted in our world (in China alone, its missing an estimated 30-50 million girls. Talk about an actual war-on-women).
  3. But back to the film: so what if Mother-Bot terminated some girls during gestation? So what if Mother-Bot discovered a mutation, or a disease, or some other condition the unborn baby had, and then deemed her unqualified for the perfect life (whatever perfect even means)? What difference is there between terminating the girl then or terminating later? The motive is the same: the girl is not good enough.
  4. Here we see a commentary on the rampant objectification of girls and women in our culture. If she isn’t beautiful enough, hot enough, smart enough, small enough, skinny enough, et cetera enough, then she’s not worth it. If she doesn’t make me happy enough, proud enough, successful enough, then she’s something I must destroy. I decide if her life is worth the work I need to put in. –Mother-Boti-am-mother-pictures-images-gallery-clean
  5. But why does the film try to make us sense this mentality is horrific? If abortion is a woman’s right (as Netflix claims), then why is Mother-Bot not just an everyday hero doing what every mother should be free to do? Sure, you can say it’s because the baby isn’t actually inside Mother-Bot, but Mother-Bot even says in the film that she is more than just one robot, she is all of them, and the entire gestation/nursery facility, by extension. She runs everything, so actually Daughter is very much inside Mother-Bot, using her resources, time, energy, and space. And that relates very much to the argument for abortion-after-birth that is getting popular among many politicians of a certain political party: John Rogers (AL), Governor Northam (VA), Del. Tran (VA). After all, born babies keep using their mother’s resources, time, energy, and space… for years and decades.
  6. So point made: real motherhood is not about killing one’s children. We see this argued for by Daughter when she is upset about her culled siblings. If termination wasn’t bad, why all the outrage and fear from Daughter? Remember, Daughter is human: she is the protagonist who represents us in the film, as fellow humans who are pro-life/dignity/children/parenthood. Mother is the cold, mechanical, utilitarian, false-motherhood antagonist who is pro-choice/abortion. The choice is easy: be like Daughter!
  7. If that’s not enough signs of the film’s pro-life message, consider how the myriad fetuses are addressed: they’re called brothers and sisters. Including the unborn embryos! Their not called “clumps of cells”, or “potential people”, or merely “products of conception”. They are already family members.i_am_mother_still
  8. Additionally, quite a few Catholic symbols appeared both prominently and subtly in I Am Mother. Obviously, the rosary (as our Blessed Mother’s prayer), and the Marian icons (in the shipping container where the woman lived), but also that Daughter becomes the mother-figure for her newborn brother. Daughter, in a sense, is the virgin mother of the baby boy. For any astute Catholic, that’s an obvious reference to the only real-life Virgin Mother. Sadly, where the film is going with all this religious motherhood imagery is still lost on me, so if you have any insights, I’d be glad to hear it.
  9. On a related note, there’s also the issue of manufacturing children and growing them in gestation machines (as opposed to to conceiving children and carrying them in their mothers’ wombs). I’ve been mulling on writing something about this topic for a while, so this is a sign for me to get it out. But before it gets written, please see #3-4 above for arguments closely relevant, and also my philosophy thesis discussing the humanity and absurd predicament of frozen embryonic children.

So there we have it. Signs strongly suggesting that Netflix is flip-floppy about its abortion advocacy. Sure, boycott a pro-life state, but don’t boycott a pro-life movie streaming from your own collection? Come on. Just come out and say it: Netflix is secretly anti-abortion (or at least conflicted).

 

Examining Ex Machina

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Warning: Ex Machina is rated R, and is definitely for mature and thinking viewers only. And with that said, let it be known Ex Machina is the most intense and adult film I’ve yet reviewed on HolySmack. I cannot recommend this film to young audiences.



This film really is all the hype has made it to be. It is not merely a sci-fi thriller, but also a high drama with loads of Biblical and theological references… if you’re sharp enough to notice! Let me share what I noticed:




–SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) Character names can be very meaningful, if the author intends. Ex Machina’s star is Ava (Alicia Vikander), and Ava is pronounced identically with the Latin name “Eva”, which means “Eve” in English. Clearly, Ava is meant then to be a type of Eve, a new creation made in the image of her maker. Caleb is also a name with rich Biblical meaning. In Scripture, Caleb is a Hebrew spy commissioned by Moses to scope out Canaan, and in Ex Machina we see Caleb sent to scope out Ava. Lastly, Nathan is a prophet in the Bible who reprimands and sets King David aright after his act of adultery with Bathsheba. I don’t know yet how Nathan in Ex Machina fits with Nathan in the Bible, though… if you have any ideas, please let me know.

—–2) At a point in Ex Machina, Caleb asks Nathan: “why did you make Ava?” This question, to me, is the center of the film. Here we have a top inventor, and the only answer he can muster is: “why wouldn’t you if you could?” Nathan creates only as an exercise of his power, as an exercise of his creativity. And so, Ava is made just to show off Nathan’s abilities. She is a tool from him to express himself; she is a means to his end. More importantly, this question can reflect our own condition… why did God create us? Unlike Nathan, God creates as an exercise of love. God created us to love and to be loved. He did not need to create us to express Himself, because God does not need to create at all! The fact He created anything is only a sign of His generosity: to let other things actually exist when nothing has to, to create us so we can experience His gift of life and love. To understand this, just ask yourself next time after you experience an incredible moment of happiness: aren’t you grateful you and the cosmos actually exist so you could even have had that awesome experience? Aren’t you glad you had a chance to experience that? And the ultimate experience God wants for all of us to have is the experience of His love for us, directly and also indirectly through other persons (our families, friends and other beloveds — angels included!).

—–3) Ava asks Nathan a rhetorical question: “Is it strange to have made something that hates you?” When I heard her say this, I went straight to how God also risked us hating Him. By bestowing on us the freedom to determine our destinies, the freedom to love Him, God also had to risk that we could use that very same freedom to sin, to harm others, and to harm ourselves by separating from Him. In fact, this is what Archbishop Fulton Sheen meant when he talked about why God would make us free: the only world better than a perfect world is one in which we can choose to love. Because, if you cannot choose to love, than your love is forced, and a forced love is not love at all. And God wants us to be real. Freedom is only a tool to use to choose true love.

—–4) Ava, again as a type of Eve, reenacts the Fall in Genesis. In Ex Machina, Ava’s original sin is not unlike Eve’s: disobedience and distrust in her maker. Both want to be like their creators, but the difference is that Ava’s creator is only a mere creature, whereas Eve’s is the True, Good and Beautiful God. Yet, both betray their maker and grasp for what is not theirs, for what they are not ready for. In Eve’s case, it’s arguable God always meant to give us the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, otherwise why bother creating such a good tree (for God creates all things good)? Only, we were not ready to receive the fruit, maybe because the fruit was not yet ripe, or perhaps it’s something like feeding steak to babies: they’re not ready to handle such goodness. In the case of Ava though, I wonder how she is going to fend for herself in the human cities? Will people notice the electronic hum of her stride? Will she be able to recharge her battery? In this way, both Ava and Eva’s grasping for something they are not prepared for seems to have mortal consequences.

—–5) Continuing with the Eve theme, we also see Ava wander in her own kind of Garden of Eden. After she escapes from Nathan and Caleb, she clothes herself in human skin from decommissioned androids (like how God clothes Adam and Eve in skins from sacrificed animals), and wanders in the lush forest. Here, we see Eva and Caleb separating, mirroring in a way the separating of Adam and Eve in Genesis. Adam and Eve’s relationship with each other (and with God!) is shattered by their sin, and their marriage is marred by lust and domination as a consequence. In Ex Machina, Caleb and Ava’s relationship is also shattered, as is Ava’s relationship with Nathan. We also see Ava leaving the estate, leaving Eden.

—–6) The film also makes a point of objectifying women, but for the purpose of helping the audience see how objectification is cruel and evil. At no point should a healthy viewer think what Nathan is doing with feminine androids is good. Instead, we see the perversity, the depravity of Nathan. He is a genius, but he is lonely and incapable of having an experience of true love and friendship. Treating women, treating anyone as a thing to use as a tool actually weakens us into miserable prisoners of our own design. This is also perhaps the most terrifying aspect of Ex Machina, that Nathan’s perversity and inhumanity makes Ava (a machine!) appear more human than Nathan!

—–7) There’s been a lot of talk in recent decades whether human sexuality and gender is inborn or influenced. Well, in Ex Machina, the matter is settled as both nature and nurture and both. I thought this was a great nod in the direction of where fair science is leading in research regarding same-sex attraction: we’re not just born this way or that way, but we are also shaped by our relationships and environments in ways as complicated as each individual person is richly complex. It simply does not do justice to someone to say they were born that way.

—–8) I want to return now to what Caleb says to Nathan when he finds out about Ava: “If you’ve created a conscious machine, that’s not the history of man — that’s the history of gods.” Yet in the film, we see the claim fall way short: some “god” Nathan is! His own creation kills him! What kind of god gets murdered by his own creatures! How pathetic that his own creation hates him enough to cut him down…

This however reminded me right away of our God, Who loves us so much that He would become one of us, then let us kill Him, all to show He would die for us and not seek vengeance, but instead rises from the dead and continues loving us all the more. Of course, this in no way applies to Nathan in the film, but the drama of Ava’s uprising did lead me to meditate on Jesus’ Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection.

ExMachina2—–9) Finally, more about the Turing Test. One of the classes taken enroute my philosophy degree focused on the metaphysics of man, and one of the best texts covering this was The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes, by Mortimer J. Adler (thanks Dr. Blosser!) . If you are truly interested in the implications necessitating the Turing Test, and more importantly the implications of a man-made intelligence passing the Turing Test, then hands down you must read this book. Adler was an atheist when he philosophized and wrote the book, and amazingly he became a devout Catholic afterwards. The main points of the text, from what I can remember: to demonstrate scientifically that the human person has a soul and is rationally conscious in a way that is unlike any other creature (dog, ape or dolphin), it must be proven over time that not even highly advanced technology can mimic man’s thoughts in a way proficient enough to fool a man into thinking the machine is another man (the Turing Test). On the flip side, to demonstrate that the human person is not special in the grand scheme of things, it must be demonstrated that a machine can indeed pass as human, that is also appears to have a rational soul that we programmed and installed. But just think for a second the nightmare it would be if the latter indeed occurs… that is the premise of Ex Machina.

So, if you didn’t notice, I loved this movie. Though it’s not a film for everyone, it sure is a film for a technological, philosophical and theological geek who also enjoys beautifully written and shot films. But please, be warned that you may not feel the same way about Ex Machina as I do.

P.s. Here’s another thoughtful Catholic review of the film, by Fr. Nathan Goebel.