A few months back, I watched the film se7en twice in quick succession, as I knew two people who hadn’t seen it, and thought I might join them. The film actually rewards repeated viewings, which is nice, but I couldn’t stop a particular question from popping into my mind as I watched the film again. The murders in the film, as the title implies, all follow a fairly basic theme, with each based around one of the seven deadly sins. However, I had a bit of difficulty making “sloth”stick.
In most cases, it’s a fairly obvious example of that sin. For “gluttony”, our serial killer had a guy literally eat himself to death. For “lust”, he had another person kill a prostitute. For “greed”, he killed a lawyer. The pattern is quite apparent, not least of which because it’s in the title of the film. However, the victim of “sloth” confused me a little bit. By the way, I checked the on-line dictionary for a definition of “sloth” and the following came back:
Reluctance to work or make an effort; laziness.
The victim here is a drug-dealing pederast who John Doe tied up and doped up in his bed for a year, feeding and maintaining (and sanitizing and bandaging) him, just enough to keep him alive – to the point where his poor victim’s brain turned to mush. It’s fairly obvious where “sloth” comes into the creepy poetic fate Doe has mapped out for the former criminal, to the point that the character can’t actually leave the bed.
However, with one big exception towards the end of the film, Doe doesn’t appear to force the sin he punishes on to the victim in the first place – he just exacts a sort of “poetic justice.” As a rule, looking at the majority of the victims, the sin is major part of their lifestyle before they meet John Doe. The lawyer is greedy, the fat man over-eats, the prostitute makes a living off sex. However, the guy locked in his apartment (and, about a year afterwards, inside his own head), doesn’t appear to have been especially slothful.
He was convicted with having sex with an underage girl, which would lead one to assume “lust” might be a more appropriate sin. He dealt drugs, so he earned a living (even a criminal one). Had he just been a user, perhaps it would seem a better fit – it’s easy to picture a zoned-out stoner as the very embodiment of “sloth”, sitting there and doing nothing all day – occasionally giggling uncontrollably to children’s television.
On the other hand, I suppose, as I sit here thinking about it, you could argue that John Doe wouldn’t consider selling drugs to be a job at all. Or, perhaps, merely fronting for a drug organisation isn’t exactly the most demanding of occupations. From what I gather in popular culture, it works in a fairly simple manner: a few people show up, pay you a large amount of money, and then leave. It isn’t exactly meeting deadlines or pushing paper. However, I think there’s more to it than that.
Maybe the guy was just withdrawn and quite. After all, he’s the kind of person who can disappear for a year without anybody missing him enough to check his last known address. Even the landlord doesn’t seem especially bothered that he never sees his client, only happy paid on-time and not asking any questions. One would imagine that a person must be quite distant from those around them to vanish completely unnoticed. Of course, given the film’s attitude towards life in a big city, it’s entirely possible that the lack of anybody noticing was meant to refer more to the city than the victim in question.
Perhaps there’s an aspect of enablement to this. Perhaps, as the prostitute might be argued to encourage lust, you could argue that a drug dealer encourages and enables sloth – he allows and fuels a lifestyle built around that particular deadly sin. However, in the murder of the prostitute, Doe makes her client complicit – here there’s no such element to proceedings. I don’t think that’s quite it.
I don’t know. This is just one of those minor little questions that occurs to me on watching a film like this. It’s amazing and sometimes bizarre the questions we have after watching a film – particularly after we’ve already seen it, so we aren’t focusing on the plot so much. I find that’s when you start to notice stuff like that. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it and the guy was just a lazy bag of bits, but it’s strange that this grabbed me weird fancy one evening. What strange movie questions bother you?