Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

The universality of life in stories

Jerry Stratton, February 17, 2016

Baby Bender

Doritos just got in trouble for a commercial in which a fetus has the presence of mind to want a nacho. NARAL called it an anti-abortion advertisement. Bill Whittle thinks NARAL is angry because the baby has a personality, but every mother at that stage in her pregnancy will tell you, their baby has a personality.

The Doritos ad is, of course, just a joke, but it’s hard to make stories involving pregnancy were we do not recognize both the humanity already there, and the potential humanity that will grow from it. Stories by their nature recognize humanity and they recognize narratives, which means they recognize future value. They are naturally biased toward individualism. It’s a joke among conservatives that some of the best conservative heroes come from the minds of very left-wing writers: Stephen King’s Gunslinger, Joss Whedon’s misbehavin’ Captain Reynolds, Gene Roddenberry’s Captain Kirk.

I’ve been slowing working my way through Futurama on Netflix, and while watching an episode from the Comedy Central era, it struck me that the natural individuality of narrative applies just as well to life. We naturally cherish it.

In the episode Lethal Inspection, Bender is going on about how robots are immortal and humans inferior, and the only human he cares about is “inspector #5” because inspector 5 recognized that Bender was perfect.

Bender discovers that inspector 5 erred, and sent him out with a defective backup unit. This means he is not immortal after all. He tries to track down inspector 5 to punish him for approving him without a backup unit.

But it turns out that inspector 5 knew Baby Bender was defective—and refused to discard him for destruction. It doesn’t say, but it looks like discarded robots from the assembly line get used for their parts, like Planned Parenthood abortions, though the episode came well before the recent revelations.

Inspector five knew Bender wasn’t perfect, but allowed him to live anyway. He loved him regardless of his imperfections. Afterward, inspector five quit his job because he couldn’t handle taking part in (robot) abortions.

I doubt that the writers deliberately set out to write an anti-abortion episode. It may be that they didn’t even notice they’d done it. It’s just that we are as humans naturally cognizant of the value of life, and stories amplify that knowledge. Our natural reaction to a pregnant woman dying is instinctively that more than one human life is lost. As Scott Ott points out, women who lose a child to miscarriage know that they have lost a child not an undeveloped mass of cells.

Accepting that abortion is a wrong does not mean it should be illegal. Many things that are wrong are not, and should not be, illegal, and many wrongs are balanced by other wrongs—sometimes every choice is a bad one. But accepting that killing a child is a wrong does change how we approach the industry. Evil doesn’t win by being evil. It wins by convincing us that it is virtuous. Abortion should not be illegal, but it should also not be minimized. Minimizing their story is a disservice to the mothers going through the abortion process.

It’s the difference between helping people through a tough time and expecting them to treat the process like some trivial thing when they know, literally at the core of their being, that it is not.

“There are a million things in this universe you can have and there are a million things you can’t have. It’s no fun facing that, but that’s the way things are.”—Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek.

  1. <- Iron Sky
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