The World’s End: An Anthropologist’s Review

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The movies starts out as a grainy, super 8 quality fashback of 1990; Twenty years ago, Gary King and his friends Andy, Steven, Peter and Oliver, embarked on an epic pub crawl called the Golden Mile, consisting of 12 pubs, in their sleepy hometown of Newton Haven. However, they didn’t make it to the end. Now, Andy, Steven, Peter and Oliver are mature, responsible adults with lives, jobs and families. Gary, on the other hand, is stuck in the 1990’s, trying to relive his teenage years. He dresses the same as he did 20 years ago, acts on impulses and avoids modern technology like the plague. He hasn’t seen any of his friends in years, and his relationship with Andy has become particularly strained, thanks to an “accident” that nobody wants to talk about. Gary tracks down his four old friends and coerces them to go with him to Newton Haven and finally complete the Golden Mile. However, they realize that Newton Haven has changed. They find that it’s been taken over by robot-like aliens whom Steven decides to call “Blanks”, who have replaced most of the townspeople. The Blanks want to enforce conformity throughout the town, and will eliminate anyone considered to be different or harmful to society- and they’re after Gary and his friends. Gary and his friends have to complete the pub crawl while fighting off an army of Blanks. It’s really clever with lots of excellent twists and an absolutely epic climax. The World’s End manages to give us strong character development, fantastic action and terrific humor.

Gary King, A Complex Character

Simon Pegg was spectacular as the main character, Gary King. A man who has fallen out of the social norm, who’s social role isn’t acceptable anymore to his society. He’s stuck in the past, he goes and gathers his friends up to make the golden mile so he can feel how he did all those years ago; so he can feel like Gary King once more. He just wants to feel human again an he longs to let go of everything that’s wrong with his life. He acts like this arrogant man, that ‘loves’ himself so nobody else has to. Because he knows that no one really does anymore. He gave up his thrown all those years ago. So for that one night, he goes and sits back on his throne. For that one night, he is once again The King. He is stuck in the past because he has fallen out of the mechanical solidarity of society. He has decided he would rather opt out, than conform to the Norm. This one decision lead to his own self destruction.

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The theory begins here…

The reason he is unhappy is because he has not participated in the smoothly functioning system of his society. Unlike the other characters, Gary isn’t married, he has no kids and no job. He is the odd one out. Why is he like this? He must have been exposed to an unhealthy socialization at a young age. It’s hard to tell with the current script, but maybe a deleted scene on the DVD will cover his history more. In my opinion, I think it was the lack of a positive male role model in his life as he grew up. He only mentions his mum in the movie, maybe his dad left at a young age? Or Maybe he drank too much, or had an affair, or beat his kids. Gary seems stuck in the past, but only in the past he created for himself in high school. he was The King in school but who knows what he was at home. Maybe the past caught up with him, which is why he seems so fixated on the one good time he had growing up. This ultimately leads to his attempted suicide. His character reflects a prolonged sense of not belonging, of not being integrated in a community, an experience, and not having a tether.

What really got me was the big reveal in the end, where we realize that he had tried and failed to end his life, Gary’s attempt was the result of a weakening of the bonds that normally integrate individuals into the collectivity: in other words a breakdown or decrease of social integration. this type of suicide is the result of “excessive individuation”, meaning that the individual becomes increasingly detached from other members of his community. Gary lost contact with all of his friends after high school, with the exception of Andy, who tried to “save” him but ultimately failed. Gary completely detaches himself from normal society and spirals out of control until he is no longer functional. The scene that tugged on my heartstrings the most was when Gary was wearing the “out of order” sign. A human out of order.

Suicide and Durkheim

Those individuals who were not sufficiently bound to social groups (and therefore well-defined values, traditions, norms, and goals) were left with little social support or guidance, and therefore tended to commit suicide on an increased basis. Durkheim discovered that of unmarried people, particularly males, who, with less to bind and connect them to stable social norms and goals, committed suicide at higher rates than married people. Gary is a prime example of this; you can see it, even in the clothes he is wearing. While the other four men wear suits and ties, Gary is seen wearing all black. He sticks out from the group, a rebel that is unattached to the acceptable social norms. Even though individualism is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle, it is essential to maintain a social role that smoothly functions in society’s system. Gary is the exception because he choice to make bad decisions, he drank, used drugs and isolated himself from everything that he loved. The only thing that kept him afloat was that one failed attempt of the Golden Mile when he was 18 years old.

What Does this Film Teach Us?

So, what does this film teach us? Many things, some of them good, some of them bad and some of them ugly. It teaches us about the value of camaraderie, of sticking together no matter what. Amid the raucous comedy, heavy drinking, and (cartoonish) violence is the underlying message that friendship will see you through even the very worst situations. It teaches us to let go of the past, and that nothing good comes out of drinking 12 pints of beer in one night. But, it also addresses the battle of trying to conform to society’s exceptions while still trying to maintain a sense of individualism. Where is this line? To abide by social norms, you are merely a Blank, a duplicate of everyone else in your life but if you rebel against everything you are an outcast. It is a fine line to tread and I think this film addresses this dilemma perfectly. Gary strayed too far from the line, he isolated himself completely . While Andy, Peter and the rest got jobs, wives, houses and met society;s expectations of what is considered “normal” and “successful”. You have to find the perfect mix. Everyone had those Gary King moments, where they feel like they have lept so far off the deep end that they have nothing left. The key is to always, always keep trying. To keep fighting for what you think is right. To not give up, like Gary did, to not submit to the loneliness. I thought Andy’s character was very inspiring, his line at the end “but I always kept fighting, and I will keep fighting to the very end” shows a lot of courage. He made it through because he kept strong and he didn’t give up.

All in all, I found “The World’s End” a compelling, multi-leveled comedy that had good, well developed characters, witty dialogue and fantastic aliens. It’s irreverent and unpredictable, which makes it enjoyable, but its edgy content made it a surprisingly dark, but non-the-less hilarious comedy that is truly enjoyable for both the sci-fi and slapstick comedy movie fans alike.

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