Monday, March 9, 2020

Philosophy in Fantasy

I found something to watch with Sophie - The Dragon Prince on NetFlix. She watched it because it has dragons in it, specifically a very cute baby dragon. I watched it because it's a pastiche of every fantasy epic ever - there are direct lines and scenes swiped from Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings (including "One does not simply walk into..."), and a dozen other films. It feels like homage, but I'm worried that when Sophie's generation watches those original sources they'll think they are riffing off of The Dragon Prince.

The film is pretty clearing aimed at kids, keeping the bloodshed to a minimum, the romances to holding hands and kissing, and the logistics to entire armies showing up just when they're needed (especially in a scene that totally riffs off of Sansa showing up at the Battle of the Bastards, which of course itself riffed off of Gandalf showing up at Helm's Deep). Despite that, the jokes were well-delivered, the plot was coherent, and the characters were nuanced. In particular most of the tragedy is shown to stem from bad choices made for good reasons.

At one point, however, the show leaps ahead of all of its peers. The king explains Lady Justice has three aspects: the sword, the scales, and the blindfold. He chooses the blindfold so he can know what justice is, and in doing so expresses John Rawl's Theory of Justice in a paragraph. (For those of you who have forgotten, I essentially credit Rawl's theory as the entire underpinning of all morality).

A little research shows I wasn't the only one who noticed this, and as it turns out the author had taken a class with John Rawls. So now I'm jealous and impressed.

I whole-heartedly recommend the show. Its YA-orientation doesn't put me off like His Dark Materials does, for reasons I can't quite name but probably because TDP knows it's for kids and winks at it. And I welcome this trend of real philosophy showing up on TV. Maybe The Good Place has started something.

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