Although it’s impossible to imagine, the show does a good job of showing us what it would be like to be utterly and completely alone on the planet for nearly three years. Phil and his actions are relatable, if not admirable. With very little dialogue we learn a tremendous amount about him.
Even if he doesn’t seem to have many aspirations, Phil is educated and definitely right-brained. He decorates his new home with some of the greatest works and accomplishments in history, humanities, sports, and the arts. Surrounding himself with these works not only reminds him of humanity but the tangibility of them is his form of respect and identification with the human race.
Eventually, though, Phil loses hope. As he says,
“I just realized that having other people around is really what makes life worth living.”
Agreeably, like many sciences, philosophies, and theologies, the sitcom creators pose Phil’s most basic human needs as camaraderie and affection. Phil interprets these as drinking buddies and sex—all of which require other humans.
For those who haven’t already seen it, by the end of episode one Phil gets exactly what he asks for—a woman, “any woman.”
Unlike Phil, we don’t get the opportunity to understand Carol Philbasian (Kristen Schaal) the way we do Phil and this is a crucial juxtaposition. Phil has defined what is normal and acceptable in dystopian human behavior; Carol is measured against it and fails in almost every way. She is unreasonable, nagging, boring, difficult, obsessive, intrusive, self-righteous, and stubborn.
In a matter of hours, Phil wants to be alone again!
From what we can observe, Carol is left-brained and is coping with her situation with order, routine, and constancy. Her connection with humanity is in her management and ownership of systems. She doesn’t want to lose her place with the human race. She is efficient, sanitary, and sustainable.
This approach is just as valid as Phil’s and, like Phil’s backyard landfill, is not always the best way to do things. Phil hung Washington Crossing the Delaware on his wall; Carol insists on stopping at stop signs. Phil has a swimming pool toilet; Carol wants to restore running water.
It’s a story as old as time. Phil and Carol need each other.
Right and left brain.
Mulder and Skully.
Without other people in your life, you don’t completely see yourself or your potential. If you don’t observe yourself in your interactions with others, you won’t evolve. Iron sharpens iron.
This is the attitude we should have as we walk through life and interact with human beings. “How can I become a better person?”
It seems more and more that society punishes people if they don’t share the exact same perspective. You might say people who are “up” need to evolve and that “down” is the civilized way to be, but when you think this way you are actually stagnant—you have ceased to improve. You’re saying you are the only one with a truth*.
That is not diversity, that is not freedom, and that is not letting people evolve as the awesome, unique, and creative individuals they are.
Phil looked fine until Carol arrived. All we wanted is for him not to be lonely. But, in truth, his idea of women and himself in regards to affection and acceptance is objectifying. His capacity for affection is totally limited by the physical. Instead of judging Phil for that, the hope is that his desire for affection from another human will plumb a deeper and richer regard for himself and others. It’s what makes all of us so darn interesting.
Carol will also need to make some changes. For the sake of storytelling, her vulnerabilities need to show. It’s the same for us. If we’re not vulnerable, if we don’t admit to being wrong, or check ourselves against those around us, we are nothing more than nags who see no value in anyone else beside ourselves.
I’ll Give You a Topic
If you were the last person on earth….
What are some of the things on which you would get your hands, where would you live, and what would you drive?
Besides another person, what habit or practice would you sustain to remind you of your humanity?
What would have happened if we had gotten Carol’s story before Phil’s?
*I know there are plenty of you out there cringing because you believe in absolute truths and it sounds like I think those are malleable. I don’t, actually. I believe in absolute truths, but you can’t even get everyone to agree on what those are. That’s why it makes more sense to just concentrate on making you a better person. Concentrate on the minors and you will approach the majors.