Dr. Moreau and Oshii Mamoru

“The human is no match for a doll, in its form, its elegance in motion, its very being. The inadequacies of human awareness become the inadequacies of life’s reality. Perfection is possible only for those without consciousness, or perhaps endowed with infinite consciousness. In other words, for dolls and for gods…Actually there’s one more mode of existence commensurate with dolls and deities.”

“Animals?”

“Shelley’s skylarks are suffused with a profound, instinctive joy. Joy we humans, driven by self-consciousness, can never know. For those of us who lust after knowledge, it is a condition more elusive than godhood.”

 – Ghost in the Shell:  Innocence

It is inevitable, perhaps even necessary, that animals must suffer for the advancement of humanity, particularly concerning the disciplines of science and medicine.  Unfortunate or not, this can be taken as truth.  However, forcing human awareness upon an animal crosses a boundary that makes it something else altogether.  It is a gross violation of an animal’s innocence, just as is stealing a child’s consciousness and shoving it into a doll, the premise of Oshii Mamoru’s Ghost in the Shell:  Innocence.  Prendick mentions the confusion of the “Beast People”, neither animal nor human, regarding how they should behave, how they should live.  They have lost the “instinctive joy” of animals; they have been given “self-consciousness” without a sense of self.  What Moreau does to the animals in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau is no more than a form of rape.

One of the things that irritates me about the novel is Prendick’s lack of objection after Moreau explains what he has been doing on the island for the last ten years.  Sure, Prendick gives a couple paltry murmurs about the needlessness of it all, but he never seems to have the gall to state outright that Moreau’s actions are wrong.  There’s the possibility that Prendick doesn’t even believe that what Moreau has done is wrong.  Even if this statement is false, Prendick’s objections would more than likely be very different from my own.  What I also find striking is Moreau’s arrogance.  He performs his experiments not with some applicable goal for science in mind, but with the heedless brashness of a child who is told not to touch and does so anyway.  He does so simply because he can.  I wanted to give him a good kick in the face.

“‘We weep for the bird’s cry, but not for the blood of a fish. Blessed are those who have voice.’ If the dolls could speak, no doubt they’d scream, ‘I didn’t want to become human.'”

– Wenting Chen

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~ by bosiedouglas on February 20, 2008.

2 Responses to “Dr. Moreau and Oshii Mamoru”

  1. You get props for citing one of my favorite films, AND relating it to the issues raised by Wells. But to clarify the context of those quotes, Oshii’s stance on consciousness (human or otherwise) is not that one is better than the other. He’s idealized both animals and dolls to voice what our “consciousness-driven” brains seek. In the conversation above, the idea is not that humans specifically want perfection. Living things seek out “pleasurable” experiences and avoid painful ones, so desire is not the issue. The issue is that humans have become attached to a concept of perfection that is physically (and mentally) perfect. But this isn’t nascent, it’s a gradual acretion of concepts and desires that have clouded our way of thinking.

    Rousseau considered children “perfect,” which, in some sense, is accurate. Children are most certainly conscious (depending on how you define it). They have a resiliency and freedom of thought, an “innocence,” that is gradually lost when culturally valuable thought processes are internalized. In developmental psychology, one would say a child has constructed the proper schemes to perform formal-operative thinking. There is value to this, because we can take the positions of other people, emphathize, and create “beautiful” things. But there is also immense self-imposed suffering. We become attached to some idea of what we are, or seem to be, we strive to keep things the same. We create with some hope of saving ourselves. We can no longer “not know,” and endeavor to know everything. Thus Oshii says we’ve developed a lust after attaining perfection, infinte knowledge, etc. This was also seen in chapter sixteen of Moreau, where Prendick reflects on the passions imposed by the environment (a machine) that are slowly grinding away at the islander’s individual existences.

    But the point is we’ve violated our own innocence. We’ve selected these desires and abandoned the “natural” joy of the skylark; we’re not content just being with ourselves; we are foolish to idealize what we’ve made ourselves lose. We’re afraid of letting go, of stopping our habitual way of thinking. If we would realize the sources of our suffering, we’d see that the mode of existence we ascribe to “godhood” was always there. Is this even possible? Oshii doesn’t give a straight answer, but I believe that we feel inadequate, our consciousness seems inadequate, because we no longer perceive things “as they are” but as we think they ought to be.

    Good post.
    -Mt

  2. A post that provokes such a thoughtful response is a good post indeed.

    Prendick, like most people today, doesn’t object to research on animals, providing it is done in the service of a worthy object and care is taken to minimize pain. Wells is in scientific mainstream in that respect.

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