Megamind: Can We Forgive an Ultimate Evil?

January 15, 2011 at 11:06 am, by

I know it was a little late, but I finally got around to seeing Megamind in late December (the 23rd to be precise). Aside from being a very entertaining movie, it is, like many great animated films of late, a story with a powerful message.

The film focuses on a super-villain named Megamind (played by Will Ferrell—one of the reasons I saw the movie) who, after nearly a lifetime of trying, finds that one evil scheme of his finally results in the mourned absence of Metro Man (Brad Pitt), the greatest hero Metro City has known. Without the hero around, Metro City is conquered by Megamind, who finds that his love affair with evil is going nowhere. We watch many scenes of Megamind (who has declared that he will always be a villain) committing great crimes against humanity and vandalizing the property and possessions of others, and the audience can only conclude that this super-villain’s Schadenfreude simply isn’t what it used to be.

Things almost take a turn towards normalcy when Megamind decides that the only way he can find happiness again as a villain is if he can find—or create—a superhero as fantastic as Metro Man had been. But, things get complicated when Megamind seeks to find the person who was closer with Metro Man than anyone else, Roxanne (played by Tina Fey—another reason I saw the movie).

Though Megamind’s initial intentions are that, through Roxanne, he can find—or create—a superhero like Metro Man, the scheme takes a pretty long time and yields a number of results Megamind did not expect, the five most significant of which are: (1) Megamind does end up creating someone with the power to fight against the titular super-villian, (2) Megamind falls in love with Roxanne, (3) Megamind falls out of love with evil, (4) Megamind realizes that he has made a terrible mistake on all sorts of levels, such as (5) Megamind’s attempt at making a super-hero backfires into Megamind’s supposed new superhero turning into a villain.

Teshuvah, though it means “repentance,” literally means “returning” or “turning.” Megamind—though he hasn’t been public about it—seems to have turned into a good guy at some point during which he had already divorced himself from practicing evil. But teshuvah is not complete the instant a sinner changes. The process still requires forgiveness for the sin. Compassionate to the difficulty of forgiving certain sins, Rabbis traditionally teach that if a human does not forgive a changed sinner after three attempts at apologizing, God accepts the teshuvah all the same—because who else would forgive someone for murder, or theft?

Now, once that villain whom Megamind accidentally created has turned on Metro City, the only person who could stop the villain is Megamind—if only the city could forgive this ultimate sinner. The people of Metro City do not know that he has changed, would not be so quick to believe that he has changed, and would rather see both Megamind and the new villain done away with.

The Babylonian Talmud (Berakhot 10a) tells a story of a heretical man who irritates Rabbi Me’ir, and, in turn, Rabbi Me’ir prays that this sinful man be expunged. Beruriah, the wife of Rabbi Me’ir, hears this prayer and scolds him for believing that God removes sinners (chote’im) from the world. She says, rather, God removes the sins (chatta’im) themselves by turning bad people into good ones.

Both Megamind and the Talmud ask some very hard questions: Can all people engage in teshuvah? Are certain people too bad to ever be good people? Can we separate sins from sinners? Are certain wounds too deep for us to forgive and forget those who inflicted us? I won’t spoil the movie or the Talmudic passage, but I will say this: I think that Megamind and the Talmud were on the same page.

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