I love the Austin Powers film, but I love this scene above and beyond the film. Actually, it is possibly my favorite scene from any film, because on its own, it is able to function as an almost cosmic symbol. Now, what of that?
Well, let’s think about it for a moment. This guy knows full well that he is about to get run over. But his lamenting the fact prevents him from actually doing anything serious about it. In reality, getting out of the way would be the simplest thing in the world– take two steps to the left, or to the right.
This seems to me something that I have seen over and over again, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it expressed like this, or at least not in a form that so perfectly brings out the absurdity.
Let’s look at some applications of this scene as a symbol for real world phenomena to see how well it works as a cosmic symbol.
Global Warming: We know Global warming is happening, and that governments are wringing their hands over it; but this should not fool us into thinking that humanity is making a really serious attempt to stop it. We could basically stop it today by using one weird trick. Stop polluting. We were not an industrial animal for eons. Has industrialism made us happier? Any rationalizations we make if favor of it are the rationalizations made under its thrall. Are we envied by non-industrialized people? I digress. I know the idea that we could just stop polluting is absurd. But why is it absurd? Because it would mean that humans would all of a sudden become rational. Is there anything more absurd than that?
Artificial Intelligence: We doggedly pursue machine intelligence, despite what it will do to our society. Imagine millions put out of work because a machine is doing their job. Don’t fail to recognize just how industrialized our society already is. All this could stop right now if we stopped pursuing AI. But we do, as if it was the most necessary thing. This ties to my next point:
Growing Income Inequality: Wages are going down, food is getting more expensive, as is housing. The rich are getting richer, and everyone else is getting poorer. Imagine this gap enlarged by a few decades, and millions of people put out of work. What, do we think the rich are suddenly going to turn benevolent and feed the millions of starving poor? The middle and lower class obsession with consumerism, if it were to suddenly dry up, could stop this inequality almost overnight.
The American Divide: It would be a crazy thing if Donald Trump was elected. Do people honestly believe that Trump would fix America’s problems? Does anyone believe that a Democratic victory would do anything except slow the slide into fascism a little bit. Whether Trump wins or not, the country is fanatically divided against itself. But is anyone making a serious effort to heal this divide? No, they are watching the steamroller approaching.
Idiocracy: The internet could be an amazing educational tool. Too bad it is mostly used just to make dumber, damage our memory, act as a black hole that we toss our spare time into, and fuel to the fire of our vices.
Drug Addiction: This applies in multiple senses, because if you are addicted to something, you experience this slow journey of your fate toward you. The other sense is that that society’s drug problems are obscene and getting worse. Perhaps I am naive in thinking that if people were honest, loving, and not self-righteous then realistic steps could be made toward stopping this trend. But that would require society, en masse, to become sane.
The list could go on and on.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) - IMDb. Dir. Jay Roach. Perf. Mike Meyers, Elizabeth Hurley. New Line Cinema, 1997. DVD.