If you were around in the primordial soup days of YouTube, you might remember a video called Kiwi! It was voted “Most Adorable” of 2007, but there’s something much more profound going on here as well. Watch:
All three of my kids loved it. Connor (11 at the time) watched it again and again, sorting out the implications and emotions around the kiwi’s decision.
Erin (9) watched it once and declared it sad. Then a minute later, I heard her clapping and woohooing. I asked her what happened.
“THE KIWI LIVES! He doesn’t die at the end! He LIVES!!”
She’d clicked on one of the recommended videos in the sidebar. Somebody had created a 15-second remake of the ending:
Oh my glurge.
Half of the comments were some relieved version of YAY, HE LIVES, THANK U4 THIS!!! — the Easter quality of which should not go unnoticed. The other half were irate responses from people like me who think the rewrite robs the story of its poignancy and power. I don’t like what it does, but I love what it reveals: the essential unacceptability of death, let alone freely-chosen death, to the human mind. It’s just not okay.The original video intersects with issues about the right to die, the consequences of free will, the power of the creative spirit, the dangerous beauty of singleminded dreams, and much more. It’s rich and provocative. If instead you prefer a dose of denial with your entertainment, the revision’s for you. The parachute is a spot-on metaphor for that religious response to mortality I’ve always found suspect. Religion (at least the Abrahamic kind) is a similar rewrite of the human story, one that sidesteps the knotty problem of death by declaring that it doesn’t really happen after all, yay! And just like the execrable ending to Lost, it manages to reach back and drain the rest of the story of its precious bodily fluids.
Another rewrite of the Kiwi ending makes the religious connection even clearer:
But for the real mic drop, look no further than this comment on the first revision — perhaps the most concise capture of the religious impulse I’ve ever seen:
Featured image YouTube screenshot