Elf and Star Trek have more in common
than pointy-eared characters.
I watched Will Ferrell?s movie, ?The Elf? last night.
As Christmas movies go, it was enjoyable, though it does not equal classics such as Jimmy Stewart?s ?It?s a Wonderful Life,? or 1947's ?[url="http://</p><p%20style="]Miracle on 34th Street[/url],? starring Maureen O?Hara. However, its theme is more like Star Trek, than ?National Lampoon?s Christmas Vacation.? That's not because both ?Elf? and ?Star Trek? have pointy-eared characters.
Elf and popular Star Trek stories pose the question, ?are we the product of nature or nurture?? Will Ferrell plays ?Buddy the Elf,? a human raised from infanthood by Santa?s elves at the North Pole. He travels to New York City 1 week before Christmas to meet his father, Walter Hobbes, a children?s book publisher, who Santa put on the naughty list. Though carrying his father?s genes, Buddy is nothing like him, despite efforts by Hobbes to make his newfound 30 year old son conform.
The movie plays the same theme with another character, Mike Finch. Finch is a dwarf. In other words, he is an ?elf? born in the ?real? world. In one of the funniest scenes of the film, Buddy thinks Finch is an ?angry elf,? and indeed he is. What made Finch an arrogant, selfish, angry ?elf?? Was it nurture ? the society in which he was raised?
Star Trek has played the theme for decades. Most recently was Star Trek Nemesis, which contrasted Star Ship Captain Jean Luke Picard against his clone, Shinzon, who was raised by a fierce, aggressive, warring species, the Remans. The two had identical genes, but very different life experiences. Picard tries to get his younger clone, Shinzon, to change and conform to his morality without success, much like Buddy?s dad failed to get him to change. Each movie argues we are products of our society.
Star Trek Nemesis played the same theme with androids. The story contrasted Data with B-4, an identical android (his ?brother?). B-4 was tabla blanca; his mind was a blank slate. He had no memories or experiences, so he was very different from Data. B-4?s development paralleled the storyline of ?Search For Spock,? in which Leonard Nimoy?s character became a tabla blanca, a shell of himself, until his ?katra? (life experiences) was restored to him.
Star Trek played the Nature v Nurture theme as long ago as the 1967 TV episode, ?Space Seed.? That story contrasted genetically engineered humans against normal ones. What made us best: genetics or our society? The theme was played further in ?The Wrath of Khan,? and ?In Search of Spock.? In the latter film, Captain Kirk is contrasted with his son much as was Walter Hobbes with his. Kirk?s son, Dr. David Marcus, was raised by his scientist mother to view mankind as equal to God. Thus, Marcum and his Mom were involved in The Genesis Project, which remade planets in the image of their own Earth.
?Elf? and ?Star Trek? demonstrate that a common humanity allows us to change, despite how life's experiences have shaped us. Thus, Buddy?s father could change, as did David Marcus, who eventually recognized the humility of man and his own arrogance.
?The Elf? is the funniest Nature v. Nurture movie I can remember. Will Ferrell is excellent at playing childlike, na?ve characters, as evidenced by his rendition of President Bush. James Caan, ?Sonny? of ?The Godfather,? was excellent in his role, as well. It?s an enjoyable film, which makes you wonder what would have happened if Buddy had conformed to his father?s world instead? Why didn?t he conform? Was it a victory of naivet? vs. sophistry? I?m not sure, but you?ll get some chuckles while thinking about it.