Human Emotion and Two Movies' Conclusion Concerning It

The Cast of Characters

Logic be the name of the game here.
Logic be the name of the game here. | Source
The emotion-based, passion filled character of Kirk
The emotion-based, passion filled character of Kirk | Source
Logic to the left, emotion to the right
Logic to the left, emotion to the right | Source
Passionless action, seemingly, but emotion resides within
Passionless action, seemingly, but emotion resides within | Source

Disclaimer: In attempt to preserve the plots of the two films from being spoiled, I have remained intentionally vague on some of the plot sequence of the films. Any part of the plot that is revealed is nothing more than could be found on the tagline of the movie or a movie description of what the film is about. If you have seen the films and wish to make a comment, please try to keep from spoiling the plot too much in discussing the films.

Personal conviction: the purpose of movies, literature, poems, art and other venues of that nature are to raise interesting questions and attempt to show a different way of thought than is being digested by collective consciousness. Concerning human emotion, the question, what value does emotion have to humanity, might not be the most original, yet as humanity is still trying to sort itself out, it doubtless will be thought of and addressed time and again. More recently, two films touch on the aspect of human emotion and in some aspects come to differing conclusions about it. The conclusions will be explored in some depth in the hopes of better understanding emotion and the role it plays in the actions of humanity.

Two Films, Two Stances

The recent film Star Trek jettisoned a new, major occurrence in the Star Trek universe, allowing for a new series following the first set of characters with more films to be expected. While Star Trek might have the connotation of being for a certain audience, this film delivers fast paced action, witty dialog and interesting plot. The film begins with the high energy conflict of an alien spaceship attacking the Enterprise. The outcome serves as a catalyst with large ramifications for the characters, specifically Kirk and Spock, and the plot that follows deals largely with Spock and Kirk’s reaction to the chain of events this unlocks (while featuring other aspects like the genesis of other beloved, well known characters like the Doctor McCoy and Chekov). Although the film has many perks that make it an instant seller with wide appeal, part of what makes the plot compelling is the way Spock and Kirk act as each others’ antithesis.

The film begins by showing the two characters’ personality traits. Through an action-pumping, death-death defying car chase, the audience immediately recognizes Kirk as the brash young protagonist who acts on emotion first and thinks later. Meeting Spock as a child, we see the different dilemma he faces as one who is half human, half Vulcan. The taunting of some children concerning Spock’s human mother prompts Spock to retaliate with violence. It is this incident that causes Spock to recognize the necessity of delegating his emotion beneath the safety of dispassionate logic. The film also describes the Vulcans turning toward logic not as an indicator of their absence of emotion, but as the logical response for a species that feels emotion deeper than humanity.

As adults, Spock’s actions and thought process are overwhelmingly grounded in logic while Kirk continues to court disaster after disaster by acting on emotion. Not desiring to give away too much of what happens in the film, suffice it to say that the film becomes even more interesting when Spock and Kirk change places. With Kirk having the benefit of logic and distance from emotion and Spock having his judgment sacrificed by his deep emotion that comes into play following certain events, the plot continues to the final conclusion in which dispassionate logic trumps unstable emotion. Even the last few lines of the movie could be read as the conclusion of emotion’s place beneath logic.

Another film that isn’t as recent yet also deals with the question of emotion is Equilibrium. Set in a dystopian society where humans take pills to keep them from the dangers of emotion, the plot provides an investigation of just what happens when emotion is eviscerated from society. Some of the results that the movie imagines include the disappearance of artwork, music and certain nostalgic memorabilia items. John Preston, the main protagonist of the film played by Christian Bale, is a higher up enforcer of the law. The film begins by showing him watching passionless as his wife is taken away to be killed for displaying illegal emotion. As you might expect, the conflict continues to increase when John Preston, unable to take his pill one day, begins to experience emotion. Thus begins his odyssey that will set him up to pull down the system – and this is no more a plot spoiler than the tagline on the movie.

Again, without revealing too many specifics, the movie comes to a different conclusion about emotion and its place in society. Much of John Preston’s actions come from his emotional response to his environment. The film even nods its head to the role dogs play in terms of human emotion – though this might just be the US population in particular. At the end, John Preston’s actions stem in large part from his emotional response to recent events depicted in the film. For that matter, it seems as though Preston’s last major action sequence could not have happened quite as well had there not been the emotional trigger that came before his actions. Unlike the Star Trek conclusion about emotions, Equilibrium’s conclusion depicts Preston’s actions as being grounded in his emotions. Take away the emotions and you take away the actions.

Which Brings Us to What, Exactly?

The conclusions that both films reach regarding emotion and its impact on judgment each have their merits. Star Trek follows the baseline thought that too much emotion can cloud judgment – not the most original conclusion, but one that can be readily accepted by the public. Law even recognizes the role emotion plays in crime by marking the difference between crimes of passion (crimes that occur immediately as an emotional response) and crimes that were premeditated. And in general, we’re trained to distrust films, speeches and material that pander strictly to sentimentality sans logic. In looking at emotion in terms of law, one can see emotion acting as a negative influence.

Yet this example also shows our skepticism of crimes without emotion, with crimes of passion carrying a more lenient sentence than premeditated crimes. Also, do we not as a society express our horror of emotionless actions? Just the common phrase “cold blooded killer” expresses our anxiety at those who kill and don’t feel, seemingly. Very rarely will you hear a colloquialism that negatively depicts a passionate, emotional killer. A person might be a “hothead,” but that’s about as far as we’ll take a negative stance on emotion and crime. In fact, very often a plot will focus on the enigma of someone who has killed multiple times and feels nothing. How can this be? Is this trait not troubling?

Although the two films reach different conclusions about emotion, they each provide a better glimpse at how we might as humans understand emotion. Star Trek capitalizes on our natural distrust of emotion. Emotion can at times be responsible for poor judgment and poor decisions. It is best, as Star Trek concludes, to confine pesky, ruinous emotion beneath logic. Yet to be without emotion is to fail to be human, as Equilibrium points out. Logic will never prompt a response that emotion would. It is not logical to sacrifice oneself for another, but it might be more emotional. Seeing an act of outrageous injustice, our first response might be the emotional one.

And for that matter, aren’t there realms of experience in which, as emotional beings, we become quite vexed at the dispassionate, logical stance taken by others who don’t feel as we do, or, for that matter, seem to feel at all? Are there not other realms of experience in which we remain untouched by emotion while wishing others would be in our state? What good really comes from shouting and name-calling in an attempt to convince others of the validity of a position? So what then do we do about emotion? For that matter, which judgment is preferred – one based on logic with emotion beneath the surface, or one grounded in emotion? Not having any conclusive, question free thought, I remain convinced that this question will again be addressed by other mediums and debate will continue. Yet it is a question that might take on more significance as cloning humans becomes a more tangible possibility.

Star Trek Trailers

Equilibrium Trailer

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Comments 9 comments

Lorenzo C 6 years ago

This is an excellent and provocative theme.

I have to work soon, but what you state as emotion is sometimes linked and intertwined with INSTINCT and Intuition, and these make "judgment" an interesting and complementary phenomena to logic in regards to "decision making." Make sense?

Many animals do not use logic but avoid danger based on instinct, and humans are no different although "emotions" do interfere, even in the memory of animals.

Logic helps in many decisions, but how each (logic and emotions) function in accurate and proactive decisions is sometimes nebulous and mysterious.

Now, animal instinct functions under ANY environment even in outerspace, with humans. Have you read "Animals in Tranlation"? Read it, it is amazing how logic functions even in instinct, and how emotions are connected to instinct and logic.

If we look at things from the frame of reference of "animal instinct" and how it functions in the "reptilian brain" it is interesting what is similar to human behavior and some fundamentals of LIFE under any "emotional" response to an environment.


My 2 cents.

~ L

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

This is my understanding of your first point (and correct me if there's some point I'm failing to notice): young Alice sits in her room, trembling. The sun has disappeared and she automatically feels afraid because she doesn't like the pitch dark of her bedroom. The night light is just a few paces away and Alice wants to turn it on, but her parents told her she was getting older. Besides, she had no reason to be afraid of the dark. She shouldn't even need the night light anymore. Alice forces herself to remain on her bed, but no matter what her parents say, she can't stop being afraid of the dark.

So in the story, Alice's fear of the dark (emotion) is based on instinct (possibly a survival instinct bred into humanity from days before when the dark meant vulnerability to attacks from the wild). Yet the logic comes from what she remembers her parents saying: she shouldn't be afraid of the dark. It is the logic that keeps her from turning on the night light even when instinct tells her she wants the light.

It is interesting that you recommend Temple Gradin as I've been meaning to read more about her work for some time. Oliver Sach's talks about her in Anthropologist on Mars and it's interesting to see her varying perspective on the world. By the way, have you ever read any of Jane Goodall's stuff? I'd recommend any of her books as her writing is very compelling and the observations she makes about chimpanzees and their societal structure is interesting. I think I was the most surprised by some of the abnormalities she noted in the chimps with mother/daughter relationships.

The video on snakes was kind of disturbing (the part with the king cobra eating the other snake) and interesting. What was especially striking to me was the two king cobras wrestling, not biting. Yet the king cobra will bite other, different snakes. Sounds very human in that we treat those that are perceived as the same differently than those we perceive as different. Interesting comments, again!

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Hope my understanding makes sense. I tend to understand concepts better if I can put them in story form.

Lorenzo C 6 years ago

I have read all three authors, but not all their books. ;-) Mr. Sacks' "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat" and "Awakenings" were both quite good. I have Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation" and listened to her interviewed, she is incredibly SHARP and insightful and her site is great for info too.


Lorenzo C 6 years ago

The brain has levels of active relevance, the oldest parts are very powerful. they are more powerful than "logic" and "reason."


Thus "logic" and "reason" often follow instincts of the "reptilian" level of human brains.


I can buy into that idea, because many cultures and subcultures are actually based on the instinct for a type of survival in a particular environment.

Although somewhat simplified, the way of viewing "reptile" level behavior explains what intellectual "tools" are used to defend that behavior. Make sense?


~ L

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 5 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Some of those ideas make a much sharper picture of the brain and human decisions. The fight/flight/freeze reaction seemed the most compelling idea in terms of the freeze reaction and its relationship to trauma. Specifically, if you've ever read Watership Down, you'd come across tharn, which would mean freeze and is related to the deer in headlights.

In looking at human action, then it's not just as simple as emotional/logical but taking all three levels of the triune brain into account. Makes sense. Examining the interplay of the triune brain could then be complex. People could easily use logic to defend their fight instinct.

Interesting research articles! Thanks again for sharing. The brain is quite fascinating.

Yungswaggin54 4 years ago

intresting facts i cant belive i just read this whole article

shitstarter 4 years ago

great info just wat i needed for my outline

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 3 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Hope you enjoyed it, Yungswaggin54!

Good luck with the outline, shitstarter!

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