City of Angels: Is it Better to Have Loved and Lost?

Nicholas Cage plays an angel named Seth whose job is to guide people close to death to the afterlife.  While acting as a guardian for someone about to die, he sees Meg Ryan named Maggie, trying very hard to save this man’s life.  Angels do not know what it feels like to feel human emotions.  Seth is curious about this woman.  He learns from an ex-angel that he can become human by giving up his life as an angel.  He gives it up to be with Maggie.   Maggie is later killed in a bike accident and dies in Seth’s arms.

One ethical dilemma that is shown throughout the movie is Seth’s choice between his role as an angel and being with Maggie.  Most of us are often presented with a similar choice in our lives: between love/our emotional side and our responsibilities.  Seth’s is not at all easy considering his choice could change his life for eternity and the lives of others around him.  His choice is to leave his responsibilities to engage in a relationship with Maggie.  He decides that he wants to know what it is like to be human and therefore decides to become human.  The problem I have with Seth’s choice is its selfish nature.  He fails to take into account the number of lives he is responsible for, when making his decision.  He acts on his passions and desires rather than clearly thinking about the situation.  I do not appreciate when people side with their passions on an issue because it takes away from rational thinking.

Another ethical situation the characters presented with is Maggie’s choice to abide by her commitment with her fellow doctor, Jordan, or to follow her heart and be with Seth.  I think you can title this dilemma, commitment versus following your heart.  The question is who do you owe?  Maggie decides that she owes it to herself to pursue what her heart desires which is to be with Seth.  There are always drawbacks on either side of these types of situations.  Her choice was to follow her heart which hurt Jordan.  Maggie made the choice that she thought was right.  If I was in the same situation, I would have done the same thing.  I think that people should always go for what their heart desires.  There might be some casualties, but I think you cannot help but be selfish in this kind of situation.  If you do not take the chance you just won’t ever know.  In my opinion, not knowing is worse than having bad consequences from taking the chance.

Seth abides by the either-or-fallacy.  He believes that he can either have a life as a human to be with Maggie or continue to be an angel without Maggie.  The fact that he can communicate with Maggie while he is an angel is proof that there are more than two options.  He can continue to be in Maggie’s life without becoming human. Although it is not the optimal choice, it is one that Seth fails to address.  In Seth’s mind, there may be only two options; nevertheless, being an angel and being with Maggie are not exclusive.

At first, there is a slippery slope when Maggie dies.  Seth believes it is his fault.  If he had stayed an angel he would have never gone up to her cabin.  They never would have had sex.  If they did not spend the night together, she would not have felt the need to go to the grocery store to make breakfast the next morning.  Therefore, she would not have gotten hit by a car on her way back from the market.  This argument is flawed because that line of thinking does not seem accurate.

If I could change one thing about the movie, I would have Seth tell Maggie that he is going to become human before he actually does.  Knowing before could have avoided many problems.  Then again, that is how Hollywood makes the movie intriguing.

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2 thoughts on “City of Angels: Is it Better to Have Loved and Lost?

  1. I enjoy this movie and have seen it several times. I think you are right in the point you make that the situation that Seth is presented with – his dilemma of being in love with a human but having a “job” with “god” if you will, can be easily applied in almost any real, common life decision. There will almost invariably be some sort of fallout to another or other parts of one’s life when one falls in love. It’s the nature of time and relevance that is the culprit. This is not to suggest the culprit is a form of negatively referring to the causes of love. I’ve seen it and experienced it. It just is. Thus, leaving or reorganizing all or part of one’s responsibilities to any given subject can me an ethical issue, but so can not pursuing your happiness or to be a nit more conservative considering this particular film – the right of chance of happiness.

    • EDITED COMMENT:
      I enjoy this movie and have seen it several times. I think you are right in the point you make that the situation that Seth is presented with – his dilemma of being in love with a human but having a “job” with “god” if you will, can be easily applied in almost any real, common life decision. There will almost invariably be some sort of fallout to another or other parts of one’s life when one falls in love. It’s the nature of time and relevance that is the culprit. This is not to suggest the culprit is a form of negatively referring to the consequences of love. I have seen it and experienced it. It just is. Thus, leaving or reorganizing all or part of one’s responsibilities to any given subject can be an ethical issue, but so can not pursuing your happiness or to be a bit more conservative considering this particular film – the right of chance of happiness.

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