Monday, December 23, 2019

Small Potatoes

So, I recently watched The Mandela Effect with some friends. Spoiler alert: the plot of the movie is basically as follows: Video game programmer Brendan must find a way to reboot the Universe in order to rebalance reality after the death, and subsequent non-death, of his young daughter.

The movie uses the Mandela Effect theory as a backdrop for a movie that seems intended to showcase the strength of parental love, although Brendan quickly starts to come across as a jerk who really only cares about two things, his daughter and himself, and this made it difficult for me to really care about the outcome. It also lent the movie a strange air of triviality. If a man could literally program the Universe to reboot itself from the moment of the Big Bang, changing the life outcome of only a single child seems like something of a waste.

The movie would have, I think, been much more engaging if the goal had been to radically remake the world. Had it been up to me, I would have aimed much higher, and likely delved into a bit more overt science-fiction. What would the world be like if, say, the Armenian Genocide had never happened? Or if the opening of North America to European settlement hadn't been such a disaster for the native people? Or if the Black Death had been contained? There are any number of large-scale historical catastrophes that one could imagine setting out to undo. Although I suppose that this is somewhat in line with the way people see the Mandela Effect operating in actual history; the name of a brand of peanut butter or of storybook bears aren't really pressing issues in our society. Even the date of Nelson Mandela's death, the namesake of the effect, doesn't have much historical heft, in the grand scheme of things. You would think that if the effect were actually caused by parallel universes or somesuch, that larger events would feature more prominently.

I presume that standard Hollywood sensibilities are at work here. I can see people being upset by the idea that some significant part of history is worthy of being erased, especially if that history were caused by direct human action at some point in the past. The Holocaust is an obvious exception, but it might be touchy to imply that it's not a universal reality. (Bringing the Mandela Effect and Holocaust denial together could quickly get out of hand, and spark a public relations disaster.) Which is kind of too bad. Applying The Mandela Effect's use of the Simulation Hypothesis to larger world events would allow people to explore a possible outcome of those events unfolding differently, or not at all. I'm not sure how well the concept would play in the box office, but it could be useful as something to discuss.

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