The Ned Ryerson is GOD Theory
Why is Groundhog Day worth a commission?
I read this article just after graduating college and it was the first time I ever considered the possibility that Groundhog Day was more than just a really good and entertaining comedy. Even though this movie explores some dark subject matter, it isn’t heavy, dramatic or brooding and yet it is taken seriously by a wide community of religious scholars. I think that is so cool. My viewing experience of the movie now is enhanced, not altogether different, I just find that I pick up on more things.
I feel like I am writing for the Westworld podcast- I’m going to keep this short and give you the bullets:
What was with the Ned Ryerson is GOD theory?
Ned teaches Phil the trick for how to manipulate the people stuck in the time loop. This occurs when Ned first approaches Phil, claiming to know details of Phil’s past in order to get Phil to listen to the sales pitch. We have no reason to believe that Ned was telling the truth about going to high school with Phil or trying to date Phil’s sister. Phil understands this trick and uses it to learn about Nancy and manipulate her into a date. This trick evolves into Phil’s mastery of the events within the time loop first for selfish reasons and then later to prove his vulnerability to Rita.
When Ned heckles Phil for walking right into the icy puddle he isn’t just being a terrible salesperson he’s giving Phil a warning. “Watch out for that first step,” could be interpreted as foreshadowing the pain of self-awareness, a pain that Phil has spent his life avoiding. Warning Phil isn’t all Ned is doing with the taunting remark, he’s also using his extremely annoying demeanor to accelerate Phil’s desire to escape Punxsutawney, which hastens Phil’s downward spiral. Phil has to hit rock bottom before he can make himself vulnerable to Rita.
Most importantly- Ned sells life insurance, a product that offers no immediate satisfaction and there’s no guarantee you’ll ever use it. Phil doesn’t need because Phil has no one to look after. Only after Phil purchases life insurance (i.e. commits his resources to the unknown and uncertain) does Phil move on from the time loop. Yes, Phil does punch Ned in the face and after doing so skips over the icy puddle. This is similar to a story in Genesis 32:
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.
Love the podcast, great work and keep it up (and be glad I didn’t commission the other movie I had in mind ; )