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WMG / Pay It Forward

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Pay It Forward's Broken Aesop is intentional.
It's actually a Hard Truth Aesop about the futility and limits of good deeds. Consider:

Every good deed Trevor does just barely escapes failure. The homeless man relapses into his drug habit; his mother's and Eugene's relationship turns sour not long after Trevor brings them together, and then fails again as her ex-husband comes back; and shortly after that, the ex-husband becomes abusive again. Trevor only succeeds due to what appear to be very calculated plot points, and then with tons of angst on his part.


Also, why do the bullies who murder Trevor, by all indication, got off scot-free? Not only that, but those people who allegedly "pay it forward" like Trevor for some reason don't do a bloody thing against them (possibly out of fright of being killed? apathy?). And what's worse, it's quite likely that many of Trevor's deeds are bound to be undone; for example, his mother might well become alcoholic again, due to grief from her son's death, which then turns their new relationship bad again, and so on.

Also also, the very premise of "pay it forward", as noted in the Broken Aesop entry, can mislead people into thinking that they only need to help people if someone has helped you, and after the quota of three people they don't need to help anyone else again. Who started this project? Trevor, of course—and he's the only one who started helping people a priority. A lot of people might have taken it up only for self-centered reasons, and didn't bother to continue the project because they had their own more important shit to do (which may explain why they never bothered to bring the bullies to justice)


All of this leads to some very unpalatable conclusions:

Adding these all up: it's too much trouble to do good. Just keep to yourselves and you'll be fine.

As for the Glurge-y nature of the film, it might well be a Stealth Parody of similar Glurge stories, and possibly a stealth Take That! towards idealists like Trevor—and by extension, many of the viewers.

  • My God. I... I think I like the film now. Noooooooooooooooo!
  • So the real lesson is, "be self-absorbed, because other people don't count?" I prefer idealism if the alternative is embracing outright selfishness as a "way of life". Not every situation will turn out identically, you just have to be careful about who you choose to help and think it through first.
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  • All in all, the fact persists - he had made some absolutely self-centered and selfish people do something substantial for the others - probably for the first time in their life. That's the greatest miracle which proves that his deeds were not in vain.
  • I think that the message was that good deeds don't always help you, but that's no reason to not help people. After all, "don't pay it back, pay it forward."


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