Tuesday, December 05, 2006
*Thinking Theologically about “Happy Feet” (spoiler warning: don't read if you haven't seen the movie)
This occurred to me as I tried to sleep last night, and I set it down now as a way of getting it out of my head so I can concentrate on other work. Traditional Christian theology, as presented to me involves the banishment of chaos by an all-powerful deity who brings order to the world. In the most recent reading for a ministry class, the inherent order present in chaos was discussed, with the theological view that chaos is to be embraced. The reasoning is that every system that survives long term must be adaptable and open to change. A rigidly ordered system that cannot adapt or change will die.
This is visible in the movie, “Happy Feet.” The “different” penguin, Mumble, is shunned by the group. He can’t sing, but he can dance. He’s seen as different - and different is wrong. Mumble, I think, is a force of chaos introduced into an overly rigid system. The leaders of the colony at first reject Mumble, claiming that only strict adherence to a code of behavior and trust in an all-powerful deity/force will save them from certain starvation.
Eventually he is blamed for the dwindling supply of fish which threatens the group’s survival. Mumble decides to find the source of the problem and try to change the situation. He goes on a long journey (a Hero’s journey?), nearly sacrificing himself in the process. He then survives being captured and placed in a zoo, (a dark night of the soul experience?) where he becomes zombie-like and depressed.
Eventually, he snaps out of his coma-like state and begins dancing in response to tapping on the window of his enclosure. This is noticed and an exploration team is sent to investigate the state of the penguin colonies and groups are mobilized to regulate fishing. Mumble gets to dance, and is reunited with his family, friends, and the penguin he loves. I think there's more going on here, but that's all I have time for now.