Philosophy Lessons from the Movie Groundhog Day

Michael P. Foley has a great article in Touchstone Magazine exploring some of the philosophical aspects of the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Ranging from Nietzsche to Machiavelli and Aristotle to Augustine, Foley examines the movie from the vantage point of both philosophy and theology. Here is my favorite excerpt:

Throughout the movie, the groundhog seems to function as Phil’s nonhuman doppelganger. Both are weathermen and they share the same name. Phil suspects a link but wrongly concludes that as long as Phil the groundhog sees his shadow, he will be doomed to relive February 2nd. (This initiates a tragicomic incident in which he kills himself and the groundhog.) But what we eventually come to realize is that it is not Phil the groundhog’s shadow that proves crucial, it is Phil the man’s. As long as Phil wakes up in the morning and sees his shadow, there will be for him more winter, more of the same. But if he awakes without a shadow, he will be given spring, new life.

What is Phil Connors’s “shadow”? It is his vices, his bad habits and sinful ways that detract from and diminish his God-given goodness. The equation of shadow with vice is apposite, since both are, in St. Augustine’s terms, a privation: Shadows are a privation of light, and evil and vice are a privation of the good. Significantly, when one of the townies hears Phil Connors’s name, he teases him with the admonition, “Watch out for your shadow there, pal!” And significantly, the townie’s name is Gus—short, of course, for Augustine.

Great stuff! If you enjoy this movie, definitely check the whole article out.


Related posts:

Leave a Reply