October 23, 2011: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
When the weekly readings start off with the words “Thus says the LORD: You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt,” you can pretty much guess the subject matter of the movie I’ve got in store for you this week. But if you’re expecting Alien Nation or District 9, well, you just haven’t been reading this blog long enough. Oh no, I’ve got something much, much more painful in store. What I’ve got for you is Nukie… and it’s possible you may never forgive me for that.
Nukie is the touching story of two small aliens that kind of look like ET (if ET resembled a monkey sculpted from human excrement) who become stranded on Earth and struggle to reunite. This is problematic because Miko has been captured by the evil American Space Foundation (an organization I strongly suspect is modeled after NASA, mostly because every time they show these guys getting out of cars, the doors have the NASA logo stenciled on them), while Nukie gets stuck in the middle of nowhere Africa hiding from a bunch of ritual sacrifice practicing tribesman, a sympathetic nun (Glynis Johns, hoping nobody remembers her as the mother from Mary Poppins), and a
NASA Space Foundation helicopter pilot (Steve Railsback, hoping somebody, anybody, will remember him as Charles Manson from Helter Skelter).
On the surface that might sound like a decent setup for an entertaining movie, but trust me, it’s not. For those foolhardy enough to watch it (go ahead, I dare you, it’s on YouTube), Nukie will hurt you. The pain starts right away as Miko is tortured by the
NASA Space Foundation scientists while he continuously screeches out NUUUUUKIEEEEE!!! again and again and again and… you get the point. Anyway, simultaneously, Nukie is plodding all over Africa incessantly screeching out MIIIIIKOOOO!!! again and again and again and… all the while failing to wipe his constantly running nose, not even once. (I’m serious. Picture a walking turd with a sinus infection. That’s Nukie.) About all Nukie does manage to accomplish is to talk to some baboons (who talk back!), terrorize a local tribe by causing an earthquake, and spend way too much screen time calling out for the ground to swallow him up and end his miserable lonely existence (which, at one point, it does). It’s all made completely unbearable by the fact that five minutes into the film, you realize absolutely nothing that happens during the course of the movie is necessary because the aliens have the power to turn into balls of energy and fly off into space anytime they want to. But apparently that slipped their minds until the very end of the movie, because neither alien ever does it. Instead, Nukie just teleports around the jungle until the natives reject Christianity (no, really) while Miko uses his powers to escape his prison cell, only to sit in the very next room teaching the NASA Space Foundation mainframe how to have feelings. I suppose it just goes to show that if you’re going to assume the physical form of feces, you’re likely to end up with s@#% for brains.
To make matters even worse (if that’s possible by this point), Nukie leaves you with the distinct impression that it’s trying really hard to say something serious about the United States. I don’t know quite what, but… something. You see, all Nukie knows about Miko’s location is that he is being held captive by America, whom both Nukie and the two tribal children he has befriended mistakenly believe to be an individual person. So basically Nukie spends the length of the film looking for this guy America so he can find out why he’s treating everyone so badly. It all leads to a really bizarre scene near the end of the film where we see Nukie writhing around on the ground after being riddled with harpoons from a spear gun and one of the children curled up dying from a snake bite (wow, they just don’t make kids movies like they used to). Faced with all this carnage, the remaining child shakes his fists at the sky and bellows out, “America! AMERRRRICA! Help us!” (It’s true. May I be struck with leprosy if I’m making this stuff up.)
Look, I’m not even gonna pretend to know what the South African filmmakers had in mind with all this. Is it anti-American? Pro-American? Do they even know where America is? Whatever the specifics, the broad insinuation appears to be that we Americans don’t treat those from outside our country as best as we could, not even when they literally land right on our doorsteps. Now, how much truth there is in that criticism is arguable, but in general, Christians should view any degree of antagonism towards “aliens” as a thing to be avoided. The Catechism explains that “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him. Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.”
Like with many areas involving Catholic social teaching, what the Catechism does here is lay out a guiding philosophy for immigration issues, but leaves the specific methodology of carrying it out to our individual consciences. We can legitimately support or oppose various legislations, even taking an opposite side of the argument from the guy sitting next to us in the pew, as long as our solution adheres to the general ethical guidelines regarding the fundamental rights of the human person and charity towards strangers. For instance, the USCCB is currently throwing its weight behind the DREAM act legislation and makes their case for supporting it at this site. And since the bishops do represent the teaching authority of the Church, it’s not a bad idea to check out what they have to say about the issue. But since the DREAM act is a specific legislation, individual Catholics can still oppose it in good conscience as long as they are doing so for the consideration of the “common good for which they are responsible” and not just out of fear or hatred for the “aliens” it is meant to benefit.
So, which way should you feel about something like the DREAM act? HA! Like you’re really gonna get an answer here. Immigration is one of those issues that requires a lot of thought, and God (no matter what the current crop of uninformed atheists would have us believe) expects us to put the big brains He gave us to the task. Always keeping the guidelines above in the forefront, consider the issue, pray about it, and make up your mind.
As for Nukie though, just take my word for it and avoid the wretched thing. It’s just what Nukie looks like, a big heaping pile of crap.
The idea of Glynis John in a movie about aliens is an awe-inspiringly bad enough casting selection to enduce a love/hate reaction to this movie. The sort of reaction you get to a movie entitled "They stole Hitler's Brain", even before you see the movie. And makes you expect to see Mary Poppins pop out at any time. Distracting. In a way it makes you sympathetic to actors who get typecast; despite any acting ability they may actually have, its hard for them to get cast in a different type of role. Fortunately for us, God can see us in a variety of roles and allows us the freedom of will to explore them, while waiting patiently for us to find the role He had in mind for us all along.
Great point! Still, it was weird seeing her show up in this, especially since she seemed perfectly lucid and sober. Given that she only has one scene with the alien at the very end of the movie, I wonder if she even had any clue just how cheap looking this was going to turn out to be until it was too late.
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