by Quentin Bet
WARNING: This article contains spoilers from Bird Box.
Netflix touted Bird Box as the streaming platform’s most successful film premiere, garnering an impressive 45 million views in just one week after its release in mid-December. This success should come as no surprise—the movie’s name has cropped up in even the most remote corners of the internet, and has piqued the curiosity of many. The thriller’s popularity remains strong even a month after its release: it has blessed us with a plethora of meme material, and even inspired its own (potentially dangerous) blindfold-themed challenge. Perhaps the movie’s greatest contribution, though, is the excess of theories and speculations its plot has generated. While some viewers accept Bird Box for what it is, others can’t help but ask themselves: “What does it all mean?”
The film’s premise is fairly simple: single mom-to-be Malorie (Sandra Bullock) attempts to survive in a world plagued by mysterious monsters. As we soon find out, the shadowy beings don’t use physical violence to kill their victims; instead, people who look upon them are instantly driven mad and commit suicide. Essentially, if you look, you die. Malorie finds refuge with a ragtag group of survivors, including big-hearted veteran Tom (Trevante Rhodes) and self-serving cynic Douglas (John Malkovich). The group resorts to tactics such as using blindfolds and blacking out car windows to avoid gazing upon the malevolent beings.
Though we never see the monsters for ourselves, one survivor believes the entities are actually demonic beings that emulate the victims’ worst fears. Aside from this postulation, Bird Box never explicitly focuses on spirituality or religion. Despite not overtly delving into these topics, the movie is brimming with religious parallels and has spiritual threads woven throughout. People have extensively dissected the film, relating it to everything from social media to racism to mental health; however, I think its most prevalent theme is one of spiritual death and rebirth.
The off-screen beings seem to epitomize fear and darkness, and may even represent sin itself. While eyeing the demons could lead to certain death for Malorie and Co., succumbing to sin leads to spiritual death for humanity as a whole. Though opening their eyes would allow the survivors to move about more easily, doing so would almost certainly end badly. Ironically, the temptation to take off their blindfolds parallels our temptation to turn a blind eye to God and embrace sin.
As the movie progresses, we learn that some people have a different reaction to seeing the demons; instead of instantly committing suicide, they devote themselves to making other survivors open their eyes as well. Just as Satan seduced Adam and Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, the acolytes tempt their potential victims into removing their blindfolds. At one point, an infected disciple calls on Malorie to look, exclaiming, “I’ve seen the truth—it’s beautiful!” Perhaps even more threatening than the demons themselves are those who do their bidding.
Despite the hopelessness and death in this post-apocalyptic world, the goodness of humanity shines through. Self-sacrifice is a recurring theme of the film. At one point, a woman leaves the safety of her own home to rescue Malorie from the chaos of the outside world. Later on, a survivor tackles an infected madman in order to save the rest of the group, killing himself in the process. At other various moments, people sacrifice themselves so their peers may live on, just as Jesus’ own sacrifice saved us from sin.
Overcoming sin is certainly no miniscule feat. It’s easy to become enraptured in things like money and social status, and ignore those important questions, like “Am I living life as God would want me to? Could I be doing better?” By ignoring these questions, we avoid the discomfort that comes with self-reflection. I think we can all relate to Malorie when she humorously comments, “I find it comforting to focus on the wrong things.” We’re human. We sin. Sometimes the force of temptation is overwhelming and we take off our blindfolds, but we can take comfort in knowing God’s love is the most powerful force of all.