Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Cosmic Horror of "The Book of Life"

I have seen several people talk about Jorge Guiterrez's film The Book of Life. However, I found few people are talking about what I found to be the most interesting part of the film: the horrifying implications of the cosmology presented.
Let me give a disclaimer before I start. When I first saw the movie, I thought the cosmology was based on some Mexican religion or mythology I wasn't familiar with. Doing some research debunked this. For reference's sake, the death gods, Xibalba and La Muerte, are named after a Mayan afterlife (but not a Mayan god) and an unofficial saint popular in Mexico.
The cosmology presented in the film is focused on death and afterlife. After a person dies, they are either sent to the Land of the Remembered or the Land of the Forgotten. The Land of the Remembered is a 24/7 party for those who are remembered in the mortal realm and is ruled by La Muerte (a woman made of sugar who has insanely huge hat and hair). By contrast, the Land of the Forgotten is a dark and deary cavern for those forgotten in the mortal realm (known as "the Land of the Living"). The inhabitants can be turned into dust by the winds (although it is unclear if this permanently destroys them or not). This cheery place is ruled by Xibalba (who looks like the offspring of Disney's Hades and Discord from Friendship is Magic wearing a menorah). If you go to the Land of the Remembered but everyone who remembers you dies, then you go to the Land of the Forgotten. Let's deconstruct this a little.
Apparently, your popularity is the determining factor on whether or not you are doomed to the Land of the Forgotten. Morality has nothing to do with this. Don't believe me? In the movie, the dead member of the Sanchez clan mention if their hometown is destroyed no one will remember them thus they will be doomed to be exiled to the Land of the Forgotten. This is despite the fact all the Sanchez members we see are morally upright and incredibly heroic (often to the point of getting themselves killed). So, you can a freaking saint yet never get rewarded in the afterlife for all the good you have done. 
Also, it seems that people eventually end up in the Land of the Forgotten. As mentioned before, people are sent to the Land of Forgotten if no one in the mortal realm remembers you even if you are in the Land of Remembered. Considering everyone has to die at some point, everyone who remembers you will eventually die. When that happens, you are trapped in the Land of the Forgotten. If turning to dust destroys you in the afterlife like theorized before, every mortal is doomed to oblivion. As such in the grand scheme of things, the Land of the Remember is a nothing more than brief break you get before suffering for either eternity or until you die a second time by the winds.
Even then, the Land of the Remembered doesn't sound that great. I imagine that constantly partying would wear thin pretty quickly. It would probably be hell for shy and introverted people who don't do well in parties. 
Now, I know what people are probably going to say: Jorge Guiterrez made some comment about the film's universe that deal with these problems. Firstly, this post is based on what is in the actual movie. Secondly, if I have to read supplementary material to understand your story taking place in your own original universe, then the story is flawed. 

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