Taoist Concepts in Hero, Fight Club and Star Wars
“Taoism is one of the great philosophic and religious traditions of China. It has certainly been the most influential of the three main Chinese spiritual currents (Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism) in both Asia and the Western world.” (Livia Kohn, 2001) Taoism is a difficult concept to grasp as its understanding requires an enlightened state of mind. The literal meaning of the word Tao is “way”, “path” or “principle”. Taoism emphasizes on living in harmony with the Tao, which is the divine force that governs the universe. The followers of Taoism believe in Wu Wei, which means non-action or non-doing. According to this principle, people should flow with the events and not try to control them. This can be achieved by leading a simple life in tune with nature.
Taoist concepts are often represented in movies in an indirect way. In this essay, I will analyze how different currents of Taoism are flowing in Hero (2002), Fight Club (1999) and Star Wars (1977). These movies were selected because they are very different from each other in terms of genre and style, but they all have elements that can be linked to Taoism.
2. Hero: Wu Wei
Hero is a martial arts movie directed by Zhang Yimou. The story is set in China during the Warring States period. It revolves around the skilled assassin Nameless (Jet Li) who is asked by the king of Qin (Chen Daoming) to kill three warriors who want to overthrow him. The king promises to reward Nameless handsomely if he succeeds in his task.
Nameless starts his journey and eventually meets Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung), Sky (Donnie Yen) and Long Sky (Zhang Ziyi), the four warriors he was supposed to kill. He falls in love with Flying Snow and decides to protect her instead of killing her. Eventually, all four warriors join forces to kill the king of Qin but their plan fails when Nameless betrays them and kills Long Sky. He then tells the king that he was only pretending to be his enemy so that he could get close to him and protect him from those who wanted to harm him.
The movie ends with Nameless being killed by Qin’s guards but his act of heroism ensures that Qin unifies China and becomes its first emperor.
There are several scenes in Hero that illustrate the Taoist concept of Wu Wei. One such scene is when Nameless meets Flying Snow for the first time. He tries to attack her but she easily defeats him. After this incident, Nameless follows Flying Snow and watches her practicing martial arts. He doesn’t try to attack her again but simply observes her movements and learns from them. This scene shows how Nameless follows the principle of Wu Wei by not trying to control the events but simply going with the flow and learning from them.
Another scene that illustrates Wu Wei is when Nameless meets Sky for the second time. They have a duel which ends in a draw. After this incident, Nameless asks Sky to teach him martial arts. Again, we see how Nameless follows Wu Wei by not trying to control the situation but simply learning from it.
The final scene that illustrates Wu Wei is when Nameless meets the king of Qin for the first time. The king asks Nameless to kill three warriors who want to overthrow him. Nameless agrees but he doesn’t try to kill the warriors immediately. Instead, he follows them and observes their movements. Only when he is sure that he can defeat them, does he make his move. This shows how Nameless follows the principle of Wu Wei by not trying to control the events but simply going with the flow and letting them happen in their own time.
3. Fight Club: Yin and Yang
Fight Club is a cult classic movie directed by David Fincher. The story is narrated by an unnamed protagonist (Edward Norton) who is suffering from insomnia. He goes to support groups as a way to cope with his condition but this only makes things worse. He meets Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) who also attends these support groups and she reminds him of his own mortality. The protagonist becomes obsessed with Marla and starts following her.
One day, he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a charismatic soap salesman. Tyler is everything that the protagonist is not – he is confident, carefree and rebellious. The two men become friends and start a fight club where they beat each other up for fun. The fight club eventually evolves into a terrorist organization called Project Mayhem which aims to destroy society by causing chaos and destruction.
The movie ends with the protagonist realizing that Tyler is just a figment of his imagination and that he has been hallucinating ever since his insomnia started. He then kills himself so that Tyler will disappear forever.
There are several scenes in Fight Club that illustrate the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang. One such scene is when the protagonist meets Tyler for the first time. We can see how the two men are complete opposites of each other – Tyler is outgoing and confident while the protagonist is introverted and shy. This scene illustrates how Yin and Yang are two opposite but complementary forces that exist in the universe.
Another scene that illustrates Yin and Yang is when Marla Singer first appears in the movie. We can see how she represents the feminine principle of Yin while Tyler represents the masculine principle of Yang. This scene shows how Marla and Tyler are two opposite but essential forces in the universe.
The final scene that illustrates Yin and Yang is when the protagonist realizes that Tyler is just a figment of his imagination. We can see how the two men are actually two sides of the same coin – they are both parts of the protagonist’s personality. This scene shows how Yin and Yang are two opposing but interdependent forces in the universe.
4. Star Wars: The Five Elements
Star Wars is a science fiction movie directed by George Lucas. The story is set in a galaxy far, far away and revolves around a group of rebels who fight against the evil empire. The rebels are led by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), a young farm boy who dreams of becoming a Jedi Knight like his father.
Skywalker is trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), a wise old Jedi Knight. He then joins forces with Han Solo (Harrison Ford), a smuggler, and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), a rebel leader, to rescue Kenobi from the evil Darth Vader (David Prowse). They succeed in their mission but Vader kills Kenobi in the process. Skywalker then faces Vader in a duel and defeats him.
The movie ends with Skywalker being awarded the medal of honor by Leia and Solo.
There are several scenes in Star Wars that illustrate the Taoist concept of the Five Elements. One such scene is when Luke meets Obi-Wan for the first time. We can see how Obi-Wan represents the element of Water while Luke represents the element of Fire. This scene shows how the two elements are opposites but they are also essential for each other’s existence.
Another scene that illustrates the Five Elements is when Luke is training with his lightsaber. We can see how he uses the element of Air to deflect Vader’s blaster bolts. This scene shows how the element of Air is necessary for the existence of the element of Fire.
The final scene that illustrates the Five Elements is when Luke faces Vader in a duel. We can see how he uses the elements of Water and Earth to defeat Vader. This scene shows how the elements of Water and Earth are necessary for the existence of the element of Fire.
In conclusion, we can see how different currents of Taoism are represented in Hero, Fight Club and Star Wars. These movies show how Taoist concepts can be applied to our lives in order to achieve harmony and balance.