Sunday, November 25, 2012

A child is rather horribly perfect

Good science fiction movies for kids are hard to find, but The Last Mimzy may qualify.

Helena and I watched The Last Mimzy this weekend, finally, many, many months after the IT guy at my office (since retired) recommended it. (Actually, we'd watched the beginning on Youtube but had been unable to find all the movie's parts; conveniently, a DVD turned up to be included among Helena's birthday presents.)

You may recognize "mimzy" as "mimsy," a word occurring in Lewis Carroll's "Jaberwocky," which served as inspiration for Lewis Padgett's 1943 short story, "Mimsy Were the Borogoves":

How can an immature human understand the complicated system of social relationships? He can't. To him, an exaggeration of natural courtesy is silly. In his functional structure of life-patterns, it is rococo. He is an egotistic little animal, who cannot visualize himself in the position of another, certainly not an adult. A self-contained, almost perfect natural unit, his wants supplied by others, the child is much like a unicellular creature floating in the blood stream, nutriment carried to him, waste products carried away —

From the standpoint of logic, a child is rather horribly perfect. A baby may be even more perfect, but so alien to an adult that only superficial standards of comparison apply. The thought processes of an infant are completely unimaginable. But babies think, even before birth. In the womb they move and sleep, not entirely through instinct. We are conditioned to react rather peculiarly to the idea that a nearly-viable embryo may think. We are surprised, shocked into laughter, and repelled. Nothing human is alien.

But a baby is not human. An embryo is far less human.

The story is rather philosophical (as all the best SF is), and uses a mathematical paradigm to demonstrate its thesis. The film diverges greatly from its source material, and at times comes across as more new-age-y than scientific. But it embodies a similar, even broader, spirit to the story, and it is nonetheless thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Full text of "Mimsy Were the Borogoves."
William Shatner reads "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (in 6 parts).

1 comment:

Sam Frederick said...

I watched it with my grandchildren a few years ago. I think I enjoyed it more than they did! Parts of it were filmed near Chilliwack, BC.