Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Tron and the Jewish Question

Why the sci-fi movie is one of the most important Holocaust films in recent memory

Print Email

Forget about the rerelease of Shoah; for a Holocaust film geared towards the digital generation, go see Tron: Legacy.

Much like the 1982 original—one of the great, unheralded masterpieces of contemporary American cinema—the sequel is, in large part, a tale of religious persecution. The movie’s villain is Clu, a computer program run amok; much like anyone who’d ever been exposed to Windows 7, Clu is enraged by the existence of glitches and errors, and dreams of a perfect world. His first step en route to world domination is capturing his programmer, Kevin Flynn. His second step is genocide, directed against the ISOs, sophisticated and self-generating programs that are human, all too human, and therefore imperfect, all too imperfect. Flynn and his son, aided by the last of the ISOs, battle Clu and his minions against a backdrop of Wagnerian religious imagery that includes an Olympus-like mountain abode, a character named Zeus, and Jeff Bridges in white clothes and a white beard, looking a lot like what we, in our happier moments, imagine God to look like.

What makes the religious theme more than a mere flourish, however, is the complex relationship between Clu and Flynn, the former played by a digitally rejuvenated Bridges, looking just as he did in the 1980s, and the latter by the man himself, three decades older and infinitely wiser. Flynn created Clu to improve the world; young and impatient, he had unbound faith in software and its ability to redeem mankind. And Clu isn’t evil: like any creature made of code, he aspires to nothing but the elimination of chance. The humans and the ISOs, whimsical and irrational and driven by emotion, scare and disgust him.

The original movie’s creator, Steven Lisberger, spoke about this duality in a recent interview. “My father was a German Jew,” he said. “And my mother’s side of the family put him in a concentration camp.” The intricate bonds between good and evil were never lost on Lisberger.

As we become increasingly dependent on software to navigate each and every element of our lives, we may want to take a long look at Clu and realize that while rogue machines are probably not a clear and present danger, our increasing propensity to think like machines is. The more we allow programs to mediate our interactions with each other, the more we leave our calculations to computers, the more we trust algorithms to help us find a job and a home and a soul mate—the more we do all that, the less human we become.

The loss of humanity is Lanzmann’s great theme, and it is Tron’s, too. For all of its virtual flashes, the film deserves to be taken seriously.

A Q&A with Tron Creator Steve Lisberger [Greg Lindsay]
Related: Monumental

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Jerry Goodman says:

We should recall an earlier example of a similar creation, the Golem of Prague. No hi-tech like Clu, he was made out of clay and when life was breathed into him he was meant to protect the Jews against pogroms (genocide?). The Golem begins to take on its own life and runs amok. The creator, the good Rabbi of Prague, must destroy his creation originally designed to improve the life of the Jewish community.

Wow is this a reach.

One needs to be careful not to confuse personal/cultural influences of the director/producer with a clear intent to overtly convey the Holocaust via a Sci Fi movie.

KLD said WOW is this a reach, I say WOW is this a QVETCH !
Sci-Fi does not relate well to the mad men who gave us the
Sy Fort Lee NJ

What a joke, Jews trying to profit from the Holocaust again. Frankly, most of my generation care little for this narrative, a movie is meant to be entertaining and thought provoking. Another rehashed plot about genocide or accusations thereof are to the majority of the audience inane and since I’m being honest here, exaggerated to the sense that one thinks its a parody. For example Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It’s not the populace, but the Jewish dominated media which keep publishing this garbage, when will the realize that no one cares for it.

That is really fascinating, You’re a very professional blogger. I’ve joined your feed and sit up for searching for extra of your magnificent post. Additionally, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

I’ve said that least 2660208 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

I simply wanted to make a quick remark to express gratitude to you for these nice points you are placing on this website. My particularly long internet look up has at the end of the day been recognized with pleasant ideas to share with my co-workers. I would declare that we website visitors are undeniably fortunate to live in a decent site with many outstanding professionals with helpful pointers. I feel very blessed to have encountered your entire web pages and look forward to some more exciting moments reading here. Thank you once more for a lot of things.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Tron and the Jewish Question

Why the sci-fi movie is one of the most important Holocaust films in recent memory

More on Tablet:

How To Make Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables

By Joan Nathan — Video: Filled with warm rice and unexpected spices, they’re perfect for a cool autumn night—as a side dish or vegetarian entree