The Phoenix Zine

Top Five Worst Movies About Organ Donation: Number One

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Last but not least, the movie that started it all:

Number One: Seven Pounds

I first saw this movie in January 2009, and ever since I have been waiting to write this post.  When I saw the trailer for Seven Pounds, I was intrigued.  The tagline was “Seven Names.  Seven Strangers.  One Secret,” and I wanted to know what that secret was.  After I watched it though, I realised the most talented person involved with this movie had to be the person who cut the trailer, because from it you’d never know what the movie is really about: grief and organ donation.

Tim Thomas (Will Smith, known as Ben Thomas throughout most of the movie) is a man understandably overcome with guilt and grief over his responsibility for the car accident that killed his wife and six other people. 

What amazes me is how many people consider Tim to be a heroic, romantic figure.  I would be the first one to tell you that I consider my donors to be my personal heroes, but Tim crosses the lines between heroism, megalomania and a profound need to atone for his mistakes.  After I watched the movie I found myself wondering two things.  How Tim was physically approved by doctors to donate part of his lung, part of his liver, a kidney and bone marrow all within two years, and where all the social workers and psychiatrists were who would have screened and refused him as a donor on the grounds of his motivation.   

And maybe I’m not as familiar with the American health care system as I am with the Canadian health care system, but I do know Seven Pounds encourages organ donation misconception number ten: You can will your organs to specific people.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again: part of the beauty of organ donation is that it is a gift.  The only way to determine who gets the gift is if you happen to know someone who needs a bone marrow, kidney, or liver transplant and you are a match.  Then you can decide to do a living donation to that specific person.  Emphasis on the living part.  Once you’re dead, you don’t get a say anymore.  Your family decides if your organs will be donated or not, and a computer database determines the people with the most need and the best match who will get your organs.

Last but not least, I read on IMBD that Will Smith and director Gabriele Muccino consider Seven Pounds to be a “modern love story.”  Let’s explore that.  I have been where Emily has been, waiting for a heart transplant or eventual death.  From that space I can tell you that hope is important.  False hope, on the other hand, is an insult.  There’s this one scene where Tim and Emily are lying in bed talking after having sex.  (A miraculous feat in itself, considering in a previous scene Emily collapsed while climbing three steps.)  Emily begins to speculate about the future, wondering what her life could be like if she receives a heart transplant and it works.  Tim then contributes to her speculations by including himself, saying “What if we had children?”

Later that night after being told by Emily’s doctor her chances of getting a heart in time are 3 to 5 %, Tim kills himself to ensure Emily has a second chance at life.  And that is the part of the movie that makes me want to break the tv.  For one, transplants are challenging enough emotionally without throwing in having your now deceased love one’s organ keeping you alive.  And for two, if Tim knew he was going to kill himself anyway, then he should have just let Emily speculate on her own, not fill her head with dreams and hopes he knew would never even have an opportunity to come true.  That to me is unforgivable. 

Not to mention the fact that Tim is making an assumption here.  He’s assuming that Emily is going to want to live her life without him.  Talk about messing a woman up for any future relationships she might have.  Can you imagine how a conversation about past relationships with the new boyfriend might go?  “My last boyfriend loved me so much he killed himself to give me his heart.”

Okay, perhaps I’m being overly dramatic here, but I remember being a kid and having trouble getting used to the idea that I had a liver from a little boy.  Imagine having a 24 hour reminder of your ex beating in your chest.  That’s considered a modern love story?  I’ll stick to the old fashioned kind, thanks.

One Comment

  1. Wow. I love your writing, and that movie did make me really uncomfortable. You make points that make me gafaw out loud. What a treat to read your points of view!

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