Sunday, June 21, 2009

Groundhog Day and Morality

It's one of my favourite movies and for a romantic comedy, it's pretty amazing.  I think Bill Murray is an excellent and uncoventional leading man.  In Groundhog Day, Bill lives the same day over and over again.

If you were in Groundhog Day, and in a relationship, is it cheating to sleep with someone else?

I think it goes to show how much time relates to our morality.  If we live without consequences, then how do we distinguish between right and wrong?  Further, cheating relates to being in a relationship with someone and sleeping with someone else while you were in that relationship.  If you are in a situation like Groundhog Day though, I'm not so sure if it would be.  Even though it appears like he is stuck in one moment, I actually think it is more like the expression of the timeless nature of the universe.  He is stuck in an eternal moment, where all the possible consequences of our actions play out.  He is the sum of all of those different expressions, he is always the same.  So really, it's impossible to say if it is or it isn't.

Or, looking at it another way, in our 'normal' time, it is possible to love and sleep with more than one person, as long as they are separated by time.  In Groundhog Day, each day is a different experience of time.

1 comment:

  1. Ash, this brings up an interesting philosophical idea. One problem with Groundhog Day is that whilst time itself seems to be repeating over and over, Bill Murray's perception of time is still continuing on as normal. Bill remembers events that have happened 'already' to him, but that have not yet happened in this particular instance of the time loop. So really, 'time' is not stuck in a loop, because if it was then Bill Murray TOO would have no idea that this scenario has already 'happened before'. Bill's mind is operating on some sort of meta-time in comparison to everyone else. Bill's time is always going on like normal, but everyone elses' time is stuck in this never ending loop. It's strange and pushes the borders of logic a little. (Why is Bill's mind on a separate time line from everyone else? How can he keep killing his mind but then wake up the next morning? I'm afraid I don't think the model of time used in this movie is very good. Watch '12 Monkeys' for a BRILLIANT movie which shows some very logically consistent instances of time travel)

    BUT, assuming that Bill's mind IS operating on this other time scale, then is he cheating when he sleeps with other people? My answer would very much be YES. Bill's body may not be continuous on this meta-time scale, but his mind very much is. He is psychologically continuous throughout the film. So, if he is psychologically the same person, and he sees himself as being in a relationship throughout this, then he is most definitely cheating on his girlfriend, even if he knows that he will face no consequences. Cheating isn't about whether or not you will be caught for your actions, but rather whether you are breaking a commitment you have made. Since Bill is doing this non-stop then he is cheating.

    One way perhaps he could get out of this conundrum is if he decided that since his mind was operating on a different time scale to his girlfriend, he was no longer committed to his relationship. It would no doubt get awfully repetitive :-)