Jonathan Nolan understands Total Depravity.
In a recent interview writer/director Jonathan Nolan laid down, in his own words, the basic tenants of the doctrine.
“There’s a flaw in our code and it follows us around,” he told the reporter. “Wherever we go, there we are. And we just can’t get out of our own (—-) way. All the beauty and incredible things we brought, and we just consistently find a way to (—-) it up.”
Total Depravity is a Christian Doctrine that states “doctrine that human nature is thoroughly corrupt and sinful as a result of the Fall.” Humans in their totality have been affected, mind, body, and soul. Sickness, hatred, and death have reigned much of human history.
I haven’t seen his latest show he was being interviewed about, Westworld (Like Game of Thrones, it looks spectacular, but I don’t want to watch shows with gratuitous nudity, as it tends only to objectify women – the exact opposite of what we should be doing), but Nolan has a history of writing characters who can’t, as he said, seem to get past themselves. In the Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman saves Gotham with a lie that when found out, tears the city apart. Harold Finch in Person of Interest builds a machine to keep America safe, only to have it used in an authoritarian manner. His characters feel real because they have the same flaw you and I have. Even when they try to do good, evil lies close at hand (Romans 7:21).
Man is not inherently good. Grief, sorrow, and despair define the human experience throughout history. “None is righteous, no not one,” as Paul puts it. We invent evil, and we celebrate those who do also.
As Nolan said, sometimes we just can’t get over ourselves.
He continues: “So you say: At what point does this fix itself? Or are we just stuck this way?”
Like a wound that never heals, the stain of Original Sin has seeped into every one of us. Most are oblivious to its effects, or covered it with a facade of civility. But Nolan pulled aside the tapestry culture covered sin with, and has seen the messiness of humanity. The poignancy of his writing testifies to the ugliness hidden within.
#MeToo and the Hearts of Wicked Men
As Nolan reveals the true nature of man in his fiction, so too has the #MeToo movement among the Hollywood elites.
The #MeToo movement crumbled the ritz and glamor of Hollywood life, which producers used to seduce small town actresses to become household names. Underneath stood the gatekeepers: dirty old men with the power to make or break your career. If you wanted fame and fortune, all it cost was a night with them.
C.S. Lewis wrote his opinion that the evil of the age is managerial in nature. I wholeheartedly agree.
“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”
This movement unlocked and let loose all the dirty secrets and skeletons tied in the basement in the house the American gods built. They tore the thin veneer from the decadently ornate walls, peeled back the ever so small cracks in its paint, and revealed the false foundation it was built on. The men and women who came forward shoved the result of these evil practices in the culture’s face and left those in charge scrambling. The scarred and jaded men and women who had been taken advantage of by wicked men behind closed doors, returned the evil done to them with extreme prejudice.
Tear it down. You cannot repair something built on a false foundation. It must be rebuilt. However, as Nolan also said, we cannot do it ourselves. And the weight we place on the next generation to right our wrongs and forgive our sins is a burden they cannot bear. It’s a vicious cycle.
I agree with Nolan; there’s an inherent evil embedded in our bones and our DNA we need to understand and reckon with. We’ve seen it played ad infinitum throughout human history, and each of the latest #MeToo scandals is another addition to the sins humanity repeats.
A brief aside: The #MeToo movement is not without error, but this isn’t the point of the current article. Mob mentality has overtaken many great causes. This is one I hope can emerge without many innocent casualties.
No one here can ultimately fix the problem of wickedness in the world. And those who rise up to rally the troops to fix it are either martyred, or compromise. “You either die the hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” said one of the characters from Nolan’s pen.
Why Do We Fall?
Thankfully, his protagonists (usually) don’t end there in self-wallowing pity.
As his characters see the brokenness in the world, so they too understand to an extent the grace needed.
Batman is his greatest example. In both the Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises, he shows the selflessness needed to combat a world so depraved. He sacrifices what became his main identity in Dark Knight to protect the fallen Harvey Dent, in order to save the unity of Gotham. Like many good deeds, however, it ultimately failed. But he put into action what he learned from his father all those long years ago.
“Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up again.”
In Dark Knight Rises, he is old, worn, and incapable of keeping up with the new breed of villain: Bane. Bane breaks the Bat. But Bruce gets back up, having learned he can’t save it on his own. He needs the everyman. The people who saw his selfless example and are willing to sacrifice it all to save the city. Sometimes, all it takes is one.
As with fiction, so with reality. All it took was one voice, one woman who had enough of sexual assault; one example of courage, and the floodgates came crashing down.
But, as Nolan also said, “There does seem to be a pattern of behavior that follows us, that history echoes from the past, the same mistakes, the same foibles.”
I pray Hollywood learns from the #MeToo movement. If not, we’ll be reading about it when the next scandle comes around.