September 20, 2017

Lighthouse: How Far Would You Go

Self-sacrifice doesn't appear to hold much value in the United States these days. It used to be touted as an ideal. Now we value money. Money and power. That's it. Any self-serving, criminal, amoral behavior can be absolved if an eventual paycheck is big enough. So when you see a North Korean movie like Lighthouse in which some regular Joe gives up all creature comforts and a "normal" life just so he can man do his small part for the Communist Party, well, you're likely to label him as certifiably insane. No one would do this. No one. He must be hiding something. He's probably got an underground brothel that traffics white slaves or is a drug runner with a big yacht in international waters. The greater good? Never heard of it.

When did "do the right thing" start triggering an eye roll? Why did we collectively begin to doubt that someone might want to do something positive without personal benefit? How do we get back to morality? I don't know what else to call it. I understand why people write off North Korean films like Lighthouse as kooky propaganda created under the watchful eye of a crazy leader who oversees one of the few nuclear arsenals in the world. But could we also, for a moment, acknowledge, that we could do with a few message films that speak to ideals. When did the high road disappear?

The best of our good guys are superheroes — mutants from outer space or trillionaires whose hobby is crime fighting. In a way, they make goodness the domain of the strange. Which is why I liked the simplicity of Lighthouse. I wouldn't want to live in North Korea — with its fascist government and culture of paranoia, its famine and mind control — but America is further than ever from paradise. I'd be willing to live with the antiquated barber tools of Lighthouse if it promised some old-fashioned values as well as a more consistent follow through of walking the walk that goes with the talk.