My Sister's Keeper
©2009 New Line Cinema
Most people wonder at some time in their lives what their purpose for living is. Why were they brought onto this earth? For Anna Fitzgerald, the lead character of My Sister’s Keeper (2009), the purpose of her life was simple and clear – to keep her sister Kate alive.
Anna was conceived by her parents through in vitro fertilization in order to be a genetic match for Kate, who was suffering from leukemia. Although her parents do love Anna, she was basically created to be spare body parts to keep her sister alive. After undergoing years of surgeries, Anna has finally had enough of forced medical procedures and sues her parents for medical emancipation, or the right to decide what is done to her own body. The movie follows this legal process as well as how Kate’s illness has affected each member of this loving family.
As would be expected from a plot dealing with such ethically complex issues, My Sister’s Keeper raises many worldview questions about the nature of human life. It uses a very complex situation within a family to challenge the foundational beliefs of some major worldviews. Viewers are inevitably brought to a place of examining for themselves what they would do in such a situation.
This movie asks some major questions about humanity’s capacity to create and control life. Speaking of Anna’s in vitro fertilization, her dad says, “We went against nature,” and sees Anna’s legal action as the inevitable consequence for he and his wife trying to take control where it was not theirs to take. The movie definitely suggests that creating Anna for the purpose of keeping her sister alive was not ethically right, although it never appeals to God for this moral standard, but to the ways of nature and to Anna’s well-being.
Regarding the origin of life, Anna describes babies “souls flying around looking for bodies to live in” who get put into bodies when people have sex. Anna calls this a coincidence or accident. Even though Anna does refer to souls, the rest of her explanation and the entirety of the movie does not place a high emphasis on one’s soul as being a part of life, and definitely does not attribute the creation of these souls to a God.
And even though the purpose of life is so closely examined in the movie, a conclusion is never really reached. It is strongly suggested that being created just to keep someone else alive is not right. This leaves Anna’s purpose in life as unknown as the rest of humanity’s. Kate’s life is also regarded as having no purpose, or at least no known purpose.
In the end, it seems that My Sister’s Keeper is challenging two major worldviews with postmodern skepticism. It challenges the theistic worldview that says that we have all been created by an all-powerful God for a good purpose. To that, the movie contends that there is absolutely no way to be certain of this, largely due to life’s many difficulties.
My Sister’s Keeper also challenges the naturalistic worldview, which says that humans are machines who must fight to survive. To that, the movie brings up the personal and relational side of humans – the side that knows that creating a human for the sole purpose of keeping another human alive is not right. There is more to life than just surviving, and humans will experience consequences if they try to take too much control over the creation and purpose of life.
Therefore, the heavy plot and hard-hitting ethical issues of My Sister’s Keeper show the weaknesses in two major modern worldviews – theism and naturalism. Typical of postmodernism, though, the movie does not offer any definitive answers to the questions it so plainly asks.