The Village as post 9/11 allegory (yep, spoilers aplenty)

(My apologies if this specific topic has been covered elsewhere, but all I could find was “the twist sucks” type threads, and I think this is so different as to warrant a new thread.)

I finally got around to seeing The Village, and I thought it was simply amazing. Not as a thriller, not as a horror movie, not as an “M. Night Twist” movie, but instead as an allegory about the US government’s use of fear as a control device in the post 9/11 era. This is a movie Michael Moore might have made, had he a subtle, artistic bone in his body.

Stick with me for a minute.

There’s a billionaire’s son who sets himself up as a leader, with the help of some of his friends. He basically buys his own country, with the help of his Daddy’s money.


These folks are so frightened by murders and other violent crimes that they decide to “protect” (manipulate) their children and friends by inventing scary things (Those We Do Not Talk About) which may or may not exist. There’s some questionable reports that perhaps these things might exist (a passage in an old book), but they’re not really sure, nor do they really believe that they exist, so they fabricate “proof” of their existence. These scary things are not, incidentally, the scary things which really do exist and should be feared and worked against(murderers, etc.), but they are easier tools with which to control people’s emotions and get them to do what the leaders want.

Forget Al Qaeda in Afghanastan, how 'bout some WMDs in Iraq?

The only safety to be had is in returning to a simpler time, a quaint time when no one was bad or got hurt. Of course, this time never really happened in the way they wish it had, but the leaders can instead try to force people to live the way they wish it had. (Notice the absence of 1897 illnesses, social problems, women’s rights struggles, etc.)

Has anyone else noticed the return of 1950’s fashion in clothes, not to mention doctors and pharmacists refusing to prescribe or order birth control pills on “moral” grounds?

There’s a system of colors to further manipulate people’s emotional state - to get them more scared when they become complacent. Blue is OK, Yellow is safe enough, Red is bad, scary, run-away time.

Terror alerts?

When we learn half-way through the movie that the monsters are in fact fabrications, the terror isn’t over yet. Why? Because the dim-witted member of society has taken the stories to heart. He has, in effect, become that which the leaders feared. He becomes a violent person not because he is evil, but because he is ignorant and believes what those in power tell him. He is fascinated with the idea of the monsters, and so he becomes one, chasing down the woman he loves in a violent fashion. He doesn’t understand the reality of the situation, so he becomes dangerous.

How many people still believe in WMDs, even though reports have been issued by our very government disavowing them? How many people support violence and killing in Iraq because of weapons which don’t exist and never have?

The movie was brilliant as a coming of age story, as well. Blind, fearful Ivy triumphs where strong, unafraid Lucius could not. I’m still trying to work out the archetypal import of Ivy’s blindness – I’m sure it has something to do with Justice, but that’s still working its way through my brain. And “Lucius”: light, illumination, inspiration, etc. Very cool.

As for some other complaints I’ve heard:

“The twist sucked.”
Meh. I don’t think it was the point of the movie. There doesn’t have to be a twist to be a good movie. I’ve even argued with my husband that there wasn’t a twist at all. With my rudimentary knowledge of crops, illnesses and carpentry of 1870, I knew it was modern day long before the end. There were surprising events that unfolded, but no single twist that changed the entire meaning of the movie, as in Sixth Sense. Didn’t matter. It was a good movie without a twist. M. Night has said repeatedly in interviews that he doesn’t want to be known as “the twist” director. (There wasn’t a twist in Signs.) If you go into it relying on a twist, you will be disappointed.

“Town kids would have climbed the wall and found the village, guards or no.”

The village was far, far in the woods (1/2 a day’s walk to the hidden road, then more to the highway). It’s not likely that kids climbing the wall would get so far as to find the village before getting called home to dinner. Plus, it’s unclear how often there was an Elder in TWDNSA costume patrolling the woods. Town kid or no, I’d shit myself if I came upon one of those guys in the middle of the wood.

“What’s with the stilted speech patterns?”

If the village was a purposefully recreated historical site, the history teacher and other leaders could believably have decided to use and teach those speech patterns. The speech was deliberate, respectful and thoughtful, all traits I would encourage if I was trying to prevent violence and confrontation. After just a few days of talking like that, it does in fact come naturally. (Ask people who work at Renaissance Faires or Historic Sites.)

To me, the most terrifying thing was the uncertainty of the ending. Will Ivy share what she has learned? Will she bring enlightenment to the people of the village who have been lied to? Or will she collude with the Elders and keep people ignorant? More chillingly, should she? After all, the system of deception and fear works pretty well. It keeps people under control. It (mostly) keeps violence and murder out of the Village. It reinforces the idea that the monsters are out there in the woods and not in our hearts. And that’s really scary.

I haven’t seen the movie, but once I found out the twist ending, my first thought was

Wouldn’t they wonder what the planes flying overhead were about?

They explained that actually. They bribed folks to keep all flight paths away from the woods. Apparently, when this fact leasked it was the biggest and only security threat for the compound

As for the rest, eh. I think you’re reading too much into it. Yellow wasn’t “OK” it was “The safe color”. I liked the film too, but let’s appreciate it for what it was: a throwback to old-school fairy tales, where the moral was “stay the hell out of the woods”. complete with alen creatures who amde strange truces with humanity", crossed with a general parable about fear and security.

What did Ivy find out from her trip?

She is blind. She doesn’t know what a car is. As far as she knows she was attacked by a monster and not by the idiot.

She will confirm all the lies told them. The only thing is that with one trip to ‘the towns’ for something necessary, some other reason will come for going and then another and another. Now that they know they can kill one of the monsters some of the villagers will want to kill all of them.

Was this a movie about the New Jersey Devil?

Interesting theory, WhyNot, but that might be reading too much into it. I do think that there was a message or meaning to Ivy being sent to the towns though.

You know, WhyNot, you make quite a few good points. I am impressed. While I won’t see the movie (given the reviews, the last MNS film I saw “Unbreakable” sucked, etc.), I’ve been following the spoiler thread for this movie.

It will be interesting to see if this analogy catches on in the mainstream and how this affects the box office of the movie.

But if you want to see a movie that completely attacks post-9/11 hysteria, try “Brazil”. “Prophetic” is an understatement. As for books, you can’t top “1984” (forget the movie).

I honestly thought that the main reason for sending Ivy into the woods (for the movie’s purpose, not in relation to 9/11) was because she couldn’t see. Therefore any modern things she came across, she would not be able to tell.

Also, I think the reason for the speech and the clothing was because the elders themselves were a little out of it. I think they wanted to revert back in time, so they went ahead and did it all the way. Like others have said it would not have mattered to the children if they spoke modernly and wore modern clothing. So other than to set the movie up, I would say they did that because they were simply losing reality.


No sppoilers, obviously, and no long point-by-point analyses, but several critics are making the same allusions.

I haven’t seen it - and don’t plan to - but I did read the spoliers and Anyone who thinks that a post 9/11 government will allow a band of people to live in total isolation from the rest of society is not living in today’s U.S.

Exapno Mapcase, the OP’s point is that it is an allegory. Ergo:

The Village is the US, cut off (socially and politically) from the rest of the world, swathed in irrational fears and consumed with ridiculous pointless rituals. Get your duct tape and plastic sheeting and don’t go into the woods!

For a “safe color,” the boys were awfully scared wearing it. Yes, it was referred to as safe, but there’s safe and then there’s safe. I think the color system is still interesting.

Ivy found out that the monsters were a fabrication, that the Elders had lied to and manipulated the community through fear. Her father showed her the costumes and relied on her help to convince the boys that they were safe only while they had the “magic rocks.” Once they left, she dumped them out and continued on her way.

As soon as she gets back, she’ll find out Noah’s dead. She’s a smart girl. She’ll either put it together or be included as a secret keeper by the Elders. Or she won’t. But she still knows that the villagers are being lied to and manipulated.

I totally agree. I think that this movie’s message might be a bit to subtle for widespread consumption. Makes me sad, but also makes me realize why Michael Moore is screaming at the top of his lungs and getting annoying. It might be too late for subtlety.

I’m not sure what you mean. As long as they are breaking no laws, living on privately owned land and paying taxes, they will be left alone (for now. We’ll see how long that lasts if this administration continues.) A number of friends of mine live in similarly “off-the-grid” communities. They’ve not chosen total isolation, but pretty close. (For obvious reasons, I’m not in contact with communities that have chosen total isolation, but I do hear they exist.) My guess is that one or more of the Elders still has some contact with the outside. As has been pointed out elsewhere, where else would the glass, metalwork, etc. come from? In any case, my point was that the Elders are analagous to the US government.

Thanks for these links. I couldn’t believe I was the only person on the face of the earth to see this! :slight_smile:

I can see where this could have been Shyamalan’s intent, but if so I don’t think it was very well done.

In addition to the links above, Lou Leminick in his review for the New York Post also raised some of the same points.

On seeing his review it occurred to my wife that the position of the boys when they did the bravery game on the tree stump looked like the photos of the Abu Ghraib prisoner when they faked his electrocution. It would have been even stronger if the boys wore their yellow cloaks while doing it.

I doubt that was on purpose, but who knows.

I just saw the movie last night. My friend and I both thought there was a 9/11 allegory.
Reasons not mentioned:

  1. The billionaire’s name is Walker. Hmm… George Walker Bush?
  2. My friend thought dressing up in monster costumes is akin to what ministers do with religion.
  3. I thought the bad colors were more like religion (though I could see the whole terror alert thing if you - ignoring Shyamalan’s use of color throughout his movies).
  4. Noah = a walking advertisement for ritalin.

AmericanMaid- Point One in your spoiler box totally wowed me! And I’m a W supporter! G on your comment about Noah.

WhyNot- the idea of Elders still having occasional contact with the outside is totally negated by their lack of medicines. (A big plot hole is their apparent inability to make penicillin or similar antibodies- wouldn’t the Dr have some idea how that’s done?)

But I’m sold that The Village works best as an allegory/parable/fairy tale.

The inability of Villagers/Americans to “see” the outside world even when exposed to it?

I, too, didn’t think the movie was supposed to have a “big twist” moment - the reality of the Village was far too telegraphed. I was half-expecting to find out that it was the Elders who had commited the acts of violence in the outside world that were alluded to, and that there retreat from the world was both an act of penance and a stab at salvation.

Good analysis, BTW. I, too, had read it as a post-0/11 allegory, but never caught the first point you mentioned (“Walker”), and am now royally kicking myself for the oversight.