8 Interesting Interpretations of Groundhog Day
In the more than 25 years since Groundhog Day’s original launch, fans have invested plenty of time and precious web bandwidth trying to decode the alleged layers which exist just under the surface. Groundhog Day as a metaphor? These eight theories say yes.
1. BILL MURRAY IS OUR SAVIOR.
One of the first bands to embrace the concept of Groundhog Day were Buddhists, who were moved by its story of rebirth. Within a talk at New York City’s Hudson Union Society in 2009, director Harold Ramis spoke about the many people who had been moved by the movie –such as his own Zen Buddhist mother-in-law.
She is not alone. Within an article titled “Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me,” Spiritual Cinema Circle co-founder Stephen Simon calls the film”a wonderful human comedy about being given the rare opportunity to live several lifetimes all in the same day. Of course, that’s not how the film was marketed but, for our purposes, I believe that concept is at the soul of the story.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Angela Zito, co-director of NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, noted that the film illustrates the Buddhist idea of samsara, or continuing rebirth. “In Mahayana [Buddhism], nobody ever imagines they are going to escape samsara until everybody else does,” she noted. “That is why you have bodhisattvas, who reach the brink of nirvana, and stop and come back and save the rest of us. Bill Murray is the bodhisattva. He is not going to abandon the world. On the contrary, he is released back into the world to save it.”
2. PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL IS JESUS CHRIST RESURRECTED.
Bill Murray is not the only apparently otherworldly figure in Groundhog Day. In precisely, the same New York Times attribute, movie critic Michael Bronski noted that the Christ-like features assigned to Punxsutawney Phil (yes, the groundhog) in the movie. “The groundhog is clearly the resurrected Christ, the ever hopeful renewal of life at springtime, at a time of pagan-Christian holidays,” he noted.
3. PUNXSUTAWNEY IS PURGATORY.
From the space between hell and heaven, in accordance with Catholic Church doctrine, is purgatory. And in Groundhog Day, purgatory is your city of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania itself–a place where Phil Connors must undergo his own new purification in order to determine the destiny of his own afterlife. Writer Jim Ciscell scouredthe World Wide Web to come up with the “Top 10 Reasons Why the Movie Groundhog Dayis Actually Set in Purgatory,” which includes Connors’s own assertion in the film that he is “a god.”
4. IT’S A METAPHOR FOR JUDAISM.
5. IT’S A METAPHOR FOR PSYCHOANALYSIS.
The comparisons have continued. In 2006, the International Journal of Psychoanalysis printed an essay entitled, “Revisiting Groundhog Day: Cinematic Depiction of Mutative Process,” which explained that the film “shows us a man trapped by his narcissistic defenses. The device of repetition becomes a representation of developmental arrest and closure from object relatedness. Repetition also becomes a means of escape from his characterological dilemma. The opportunity to redo and learn from experience—in particular, to love and learn through experience with a good object—symbolizes the redemptive, reparative possibilities in every life.”
6. IT’S A PERFECT COMPARISON FOR MILITARY BOREDOM.
7. GROUNDHOG DAY AS ECONOMIC THEORY.
In 2006, economist D. W. MacKenzie published an article on “The Economics of Groundhog Day,” noting that the movie “illustrates the importance of the Mises-Hayek paradigm as an alternative to equilibrium economics by illustrating the unreal nature of equilibrium theorizing.” Say what?
“In economic terms the final reliving of the day constitutes what economists refer to as a perfectly competitive equilibrium based on perfect information,” MacKenzie goes on to explain. “With full knowledge of how to realize every possible gain during this day, Connors is able take advantage of every opportunity for gain. The difference between his first time through the day and his final reliving are dramatic. While this is of course only a movie, it does serve to illustrate the wide gulf between the economists’ notion of perfectly competitive equilibrium and reality.”
8. IT’S A SELF-HELP BIBLE.
For motivational speaker Paul Hannam, the key to self-fulfillment can be found in Groundhog Day’s 101 minutes. His book, The Magic of Groundhog Day, forms the basis of his transformative program of self-improvement, which promises to help its users “learn how to unlock the magic of the movie to transform your life at home and at work” and to “break free from repetitive thoughts and behaviors that keep you stuck in a rut.”