Every truly great idea has a birth narrative. This particular idea was conceived while I was departing the theater at the conclusion of the movie Pearl harbor… you remember, the one with Ben Affleck and that other guy… as I was walking to my car, I realized I had seen this movie before… twice… or more precisely, I had seen pieces of this movie in two previous places. Pearl Harbor should have been subtitled: Saving Private Titanic. And that’s when it hit me: Every movie is the Hegelian synthesis of two previous movies.
A brief synopsis for those have never read Hegel. First, don’t feel bad. No one reads Hegel. Everyone just pretends. Whatever else he wrote, only one idea has found traction and been repeated. No one even reads Hegel’s version, he may not have even come up with it. We all just repeat other people who repeated it to us. So here is all anybody knows of Hegel and all you need to know.
Hegel, so I am told, believed that each idea or “thesis” spawns its opposite or “antithesis” which then resolves into a combination or “synthesis.” This synthesis then becomes its own thesis and the process starts all over again.
My contribution is the realization that this process is at work in the movie industry, therefore I boldly declare to you and dub this phenomenon “The Jones Hegelian Movie Hypothesis.”
Once you realize its ubiquity, watching a movie becomes an exercise in determining the movie’s lineage. The trick is not to be sucked in to superficial similarities or easy associations but to allow yourself to make deeper more thoughtful connections.
For example: When Avatar first came out, people were quick to notice that the native population looked like space versions of Native Americans. The movie was jokingly dubbed Star wars meets Pocahontas. But Star Wars doesn’t add anything besides the concept of “outer space”; and Pocahontas not much beyond “primitive society meets technologically advanced society.” A more satisfying resolution is to see Avatar as the Hegelian synthesis of Starship Troopers and Dances with Wolves.
Other examples of this principle at work might include:
- National Treasure = Raiders of the Lost Ark + 1776
- Forrest Gump = It’s a Wonderful Life + The Usual Suspects
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button = When Harry Met Sally + The Notebook
So I offer my theory to the world. Experiment with it. It will test your analytical skills and your movie knowledge. Maybe one day the Jones Hegelian Movie Hypothesis will rival other great road trip and party games like 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon.