Peter Sellers, Welfare, and Religion (and a Dash of the Space Program)

Heavens Above!How’s that for a trifecta of a blog post topic? You’d think it would be another one of my (soon to be patented) Out There rambles, where I draw on all sorts of different ideas and end up with a jumbled mess. You’d be wrong.

In this case, all three of those topics come together in a single movie: Heavens Above! Take your classic movie the old familiar “preacher with a heart of gold saves _______” trope. Make Peter Sellers the preacher, but then twist it. Raise his positive outlook to a borderline delusional level, turn the people of the town into more “real world, milk it for all its worth” sort of folks (instead of your typical “misunderstood, downtrodden souls” sort) and step back and watch the craziness ensue.

In this film, Sellers uses the power of the church to try and change the outlook of an entire city. He lets the poor stay in his house. He starts giving away meals for free. He believes 100% that his efforts will start a wave of renewed faith and happiness. People are just waiting for someone to set a good example. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the results are far from typical.

Denisa and I watched the movie, and we kept waiting for it to come to a conclusion that would enlighten us–we wanted some guidance on how to balance the need for charity and watching out for your fellow man with the inherent desire of some parties to try and get something for nothing. Where should the line be drawn? Because (as this movie admirably illustrates) if you never draw that line, chaos can ensue.

It’s a tricky topic, and this movie does a great job of exploring the mess it can cause. (It, unfortunately, doesn’t offer any real concrete answers to the subject–in fact it ends up being fairly anti-religious, I’d have to say–but maybe I’m expecting a tad much from a Peter Sellers movie.)

In any case, I recommend the movie. Not necessarily because it’s great (although it’s not bad), but because it uses absurdity to explore a topic that at times takes up a big chunk of my thought processes.

Any comments?

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