If you haven’t read the book, The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, or seen the movie, it isn’t exactly a spoiler for me to tell you that the basic plot is that a large group of teenage boys (and one girl) are placed in a giant maze, with no recollection of their pasts, for some reason that doesn’t become clear until subsequent books in the series. (I’ve ventured into it only in order to know the sorts of ideas being pushed on my children and their peers.)
Apart from Dashner’s annoying tic of insisting that at least one teenage boy per chapter must “roll his eyes,” the first book is entertaining enough. Of course, in the hands of the wizards of Hollywood, even young-adult literature can be dumbed down further, and the movie brings some of the annoying tics of pop culture. The boys spend their nights drinking, in the movie, while in the book they’re keyed to their survival. They swear in the movie, but not in the book. And of course, all of the scenes and settings from the book that I really wanted to see brought to life had been edited out.
But the folks at Twentieth Century Fox really outdid themselves toward the end. (Here comes the spoiler.)
Although they get there by somewhat different routes, at the end of both the movie and the book the group splits in two: the daring group that wishes to chase down the chance that they’ve found a way out of the maze and the scared and heretofore complacent group that thinks it’s better to stay put and cower in fear from the monsters that come out at night.
The most surprising difference in the movie, though, is that it comes to more of a head, with the two groups standing there looking at each other. The daring group, thoroughly multiracial, with the only female, and the scared and superstitious group that had actually wanted to perform a human sacrifice (not in the book), whose leader is dogmatically insistent on “the rules” — all white males.
Actually, no, that’s not correct. If you watch very closely, you can see that the stay-behind group has one black guy in it, but as if to emphasize the racial divide, the director has him crouch down so that he isn’t visible in the close-up shot of his group, and the only time he’s visible after the groups have sorted themselves out is while walking away, from more of a distance.
These sorts of demographic decisions are everywhere in pop culture, and they have to be deliberate. Each one is ultimately minor, but it’s intriguing psychologically and sociologically, and the attention to detail in the great liberal narrative is amazing.
The irony, in the context of the Charlie Hebdo attack, is that it’s clear that it’s PC liberals who will stay behind from the charge toward life and freedom and engage in superstitious cowering, awaiting death.