July 17, 2012

Groundhog's Day - Phil Connors is a Pitiable Killer


   Groundhog's Day is one of my favorite films and I can't really put a finger on why exactly that is, but I can think of many reasons why I like the movie so much. I don't think I need to announce that this post will contain many spoilers for the movie, but I just did anyway. This post also ran a little longer than I like to aim for in a blog post so it will be broken into two riveting parts, and I can only hope that excitement can be contained until the second installment is posted.
     Anyway, I first saw Groundhog's Day before I knew what philosophy was and just appreciated how funny, yet the odd tale was, but later I realized how interpretable this film is. There is a lot to think about in this film and I'm only going to write about what I thought about on one a sleepless night not so long ago, but before that, I'll give a brief summary for those unfortunate philistine's who haven't seen the film.

   The movie starts with Bill Murray playing the main character, Phil Connors. He one of the great miserable asshole's Bill Murray has played in his career and also a TV weatherman for a medium-sized TV network doing a segment in a small town for, you guessed it, Groundhog's Day. He ends up getting stuck in a town he hates because of snow and wakes up the next morning to find out that it is Groundhog's Day morning again. The same things that happened to him yesterday are happening again today; He is stuck in a loop which doesn't seem to have an end.
     Phil Connors then goes through a progression of different goals for the day. He just lives it up having fun and gorging himself with food and women, and then gets hopeless and tries to kill himself.After that he tries to find meaning by saving an old homeless mans life, but alas, but as Bill Murray's character repeats each day, this meaning also dies each time at around midnight.
    After numerous attempts at all sorts of things, the right answer is found when Phil stops being the miserable asshole and starts being a genuinely kind and good person. This is the secret and after a day of being a good person he gets the girl, they live happily ever after and it's a good ending...or is it?

    When Phil Connors travels to the next day at the end of the movie it is celebrated with cheers of triumph. Yet, when Phil is kissing the hotel manager out of happiness, one person isn't enjoying the festivities, as when the loop ends the homeless person Phil was staying to save is no longer reborn. In traveling to the next day Bill Murray's character has ironically found the only way to really kill the man he earlier was so desperately trying to save. If he had not closed the loop the man would have continued to be reborn and lived his life forever. Morally Phil Connors might have been in a position to try to stay in Groundhog's Day forever if he knew the consequences of his actions.

   There is another interesting consequence of the loop being closed at the end of the movie. It could be taken further and argued that Phil Connors shouldn't have been celebrating the end of Groundhog's day, and instead been mourning its demise.

   Albert Camus would view the situation that way as he explains in The Myth of Sisyphus. In Camus's  view what matters most is not the type of life lived, but the amount, as the continued struggle against the absurd is what matters. People would argue, as Bill Murray's character surely would, that if Phil Connors doesn't travel to the next day of his life than his life is meaningless because there is no progress or time. The major question than is, is there a meaning of life?

    42 jokes aside, there isn't an external meaning of life that can be found and pointed to and Camus realizes this, making life a battle of living without meaning, or in short an absurd existence. In this battle for meaning the absurd is where one can find enjoyment, even if you are only rolling a rock to the top of a hill for eternity. In fact being able to continue that fight for eternity makes you not someone to be pitied, but someone to be envied. Phil Connors didn't have a rock to push, but he did have the potential to fight against the absurd and reflect on life for an eternity thus making him a hero. Instead through celebrating the ending and closing of the loop he is no longer the Sisyphusian hero, and instead a nice guy and a killer.

Thanks for reading,
-the moral skeptic  


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