Recently, the Breakthrough Fellows at GCO watched and discussed M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. This movie, for those who haven’t seen it, chronicles a religious, cult-like community that lives deep in the woods. This community is watched by “those we don’t speak of,” who have a standing agreement to not enter into the community so long as the border outside of the community’s village is not breached.
As the movie progresses, the social fabric of the village begins to erode. This erosion reaches its pinnacle when Noah Percy, played by Adrian Brody, stabs Lucius Hunt, played by Joaquin Phoenix, over jealousy of Mr. Hunt’s impending marriage to Ivy Walker, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. This stabbing and the different reactions to it offer three valuable lessons that can be applied to any community.
First, human nature has a base and evil element. This lesson is seen in Noah’s jealousy, which leads him to stab Lucius. Despite the effects of religion or different social constraints, humanity has base desires that will lead to civil unrest and societal disorder. The primitive innocence was not able to create the social conditions necessary to eradicate the evil desires in Noah’s heart.
Second, the village was founded on a “noble lie.” In Plato’s Republic, Socrates explains that the City in Speech – a utopia – must be founded upon a “noble lie,” which gives a false account of the city in order to trick the citizens into supporting the endeavor. Similarly, in this movie, we see that the village was founded on a noble lie. This noble lie was agreed upon by the elders in hopes of creating an innocent society without the presence of evil. As they discuss how to respond to Noah’s stabbing of Lucius, the village elders have to reveal the noble lies that the village was founded upon.
Finally, utopias are not founded upon reality. Given the previous two points, it stands to reason that a utopian society would be founded upon untruthful presumptions about human nature. It can thus be concluded that utopias would lack a proper conception of reality. As we see at the end of The Village, Ivy steps out of the woods and into a completely different, very modern world. By receiving the medicine needed to save Lucius from the real world, Ivy shows the inadequacy of the utopia and the importance of engaging with reality.
Here at GCO, we work to remove barriers to social and economic barriers to opportunity. As we learned through this discussion, it is futile to try to overcome these barriers without realizing the importance of grounding our solutions in reality. In our work, we hope to take into account the many barriers that are an every day reality for Georgians and tailor our solutions to provide opportunity that is grounded in that reality.