Note: This post contains spoilers for Passengers (2016) and Whisper of the Heart (1995).
I haven’t seen Passengers yet.
That being said: I’ve read enough about Passengers that I feel I can give my two cents on the film’s controversial choice.
Chris Pratt plays Jim Preston, a man who accidentally wakes up 90 years too early on a voyage to a colony.
Unable to go back in to hibernation, and with suicide not an option — he considers it, but doesn’t go through with it — Jim wakes up a fellow, female passenger (Aurora) in order to keep himself from descending into loneliness-induced insanity.
There’s been a lot of controversy about Jim choosing to wake up Aurora, dooming her to his fate. Aurora’s life has been deliberately derailed, without her consent, for the sake of pleasing a man.
Here’s why I think Jim’s choice, if not the worst thing ever, isn’t as bad as people seem to be making it out to be.
Suicide isn’t an option. Jim considers suicide, but doesn’t go through with it. He is going to keep on living. So: If you’re going to keep on living, than you need something (and/or someone) to live for.
Jim wakes up a woman he “loves.” Aurora is a journalist. Jim falls in love with her through reading her articles on the ship’s computer. In a way, Passengers is like Whisper of the Heart in space: A man who loves to read develops feelings for a woman who loves to write.
That is how Jim decides that Aurora is the passenger he’ll wake up. And to that I say: Understandable. Why? Because: If you had to spend the rest of your life with one person, would you spend it with someone you were infatuated with, or would you spend it with someone you found repulsive?
To put the question another way:
If you were Jim, would rather wake her up:
Or wake her up:
(There is more to Cortana than her good looks. I picked Cortana as an example of the kind of woman Jim would want to spend the rest of his life with because there is more to her than her physical attractiveness. She’s got a good heart, too.)
Aurora freely chooses to stay with Jim. At the end of the film, given the option to go back in to hibernation and continue to live her life how she had wanted to live it, Aurora chooses to stay awake with Jim. I’ve heard Aurora’s choice be called Stockholm Syndrome: Aurora is staying with a man who did the unthinkable to her because of the feelings she has developed for him.
But: Jim only did what he did — wake Aurora up — because he was lonely. If, after the 1 year Jim had spent alone on the Avalon, all the crew had woken up, than his feelings for, and relationship with, Aurora would have never developed. Jim wasn’t, for example, a serial killer, waking up women and then luring them to their death with lie after lie and promise after promise. Jim doesn’t want to condemn Aurora to his fate, but he nonetheless chooses to wake her up because he refuses to go through with suicide.
I am reminded of a line in the My Little Pony fan-fic “Starting Over Again”:
That’s what it is, Twilight. Selfish. I’ll happily admit it. You said it yourself years ago: I’m trapped in this time loop until the end of time itself. There’s no escape for me. I’ve ‘died’ dozens of times, only to come right back here. Do you know what that means I have to look forward to? I will still be here millennia after you are all dust. I will still be here when the world is a barren rock. I will still be here to watch the stars snuff out, one by one. I don’t care if it’s selfish. I’m not going to sit by your graves. Alone. Forever.
It is the possibility of companionship that gives Jim hope: that gives Jim one reason to not walk out of the airlock without a spacesuit on. And that, I believe, is one reason why Aurora chooses to stay awake:
Aurora doesn’t want to condemn a man to a life of loneliness. A life that could end with a walk out the airlock: An ending that she will know she could have prevented.
To end this post:
At the heart of Passengers, I believe, is a question:
Should a man kill himself so that a woman won’t choose to give up her career?
Think about it:
Would people be as upset with Passengers if Aurora could do, on the Avalon, everything that she wanted to do on Homestead II? (The colony she’s traveling to.)