Hurdy Gurdy Man

Rather than give all of my thoughts about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I'm going to provide a review of one line of dialogue based upon the second formulation of Kant's categorical imperative.

An old woman who is not otherwise an important character says to Benjamin early in the film, “We're meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?” Benjamin might repeat this line later, I forget. I can however, assure you that the movie is not presenting this as a misguided sentiment. Which is weird, since it's actually a horrific example of treating other people as mere means, rather than ends in themselves. Let me explain why it's so bad.

Say someone you love dies, and another person, trying to comfort you, says, “Don't feel so bad, you're still alive.” That would raise some interesting psychological issues such as guilt for actually feeling that sentiment, but it's extraordinarily unlikely that the person saying that will make you feel better, and they're pretty much being monstrously callous.

But the line from the movie is much worse. It goes further than not mentioning the ways in which being dead is bad for this person who you love, it says that you should ignore those and just think about how their death is good for your own emotional development, ignoring whatever ends they had for their life and just thinking about how their death serves as a means for yours. Seriously, it's disgusting.

The movie had good points too.

P.S.: I kind of like this Peter Suderman review, except that he focuses exclusively on the negatives of the film, and since I did that in this post as well, I'm giving a distorted picture of how I really felt about it.