Lots of epic movie sagas have a scene where the main character discovers a whole other layer to his world that he never knew existed. Harry Potter discovers the wizarding world. Special Agent J in Men in Black discovers that aliens are totally real. Neo takes the red pill and is shown the Matrix. It's a common and wildly successful movie trope that can be traced back to one man.
Three thousand years ago, Plato created what he called the allegory of the cave, in which he described a group of men who had been chained up their entire lives facing the wall at the bottom of a cave (because it's not a classic thought experiment without a bunch of people being creepily mistreated). The only thing they ever see are shadows cast on the wall by people passing in front of fires farther up in the cave. Since this is all they know, Plato suggested that they would regard the shadows on the wall as reality, and would gauge intelligence based on who could guess which shape would pass in front of the wall next.
In movies like Men in Black, Harry Potter and The Matrix, the shadows on the cave wall are replaced by what we think of as daily life. Wealth, high test scores and sports victories seem like pointless diversions once you know what Neo, Harry and Agent J find out. Of course, that was totally Plato's point as well. Plato believed that most of us go through life with only an incidental acquaintance with certain byproducts and half-truths of existence, and what reality truly means.
"Yer a wizard, Harry. You never have to worry about math again."
In act two of the cave allegory (and act two of the aforementioned franchises, every movie about superheroes, the Star Wars trilogy or the Star Trek reboot), one of these mere mortals is freed from his chains to see the truth about existence. He has a tough time adjusting at first (think Will Smith quitting before returning to take the Men in Black oath), but soon he realizes that he can't go back to the version of the world he was stuck in.
Act three of the allegory, and of most of the hugely successful movies based on it, sees our newly enlightened former cave dweller return to the men at the bottom of the cave and try to explain the truth to them. Plato came to the conclusion that the men down there not only wouldn't understand what the hell he was talking about, but they would think that he was an idiot because he was no better at guessing what shadow would be cast on the wall next.
"Mark, would you please shut the hell up about these 'boobs'?"
The movies based on his allegory are usually all over the place on the question of how the masses react. Men in Black and Harry Potter are with Plato. People either won't believe you or they won't be able to deal with the truth, and they should be allowed to stay praying to shadow puppets. The Matrix is the one movie that insists on dragging everyone to the surface of the cave to show them the sky.
For a cool real-life example, a 17th century philosopher named William Molyneux wondered if someone blind from birth would be able to recognize familiar shapes on sight if their vision was restored. We actually have the technology to answer him now, and it turns out that the answer is nope, they sure can't. They have to relearn the world by sight and tie that in with the senses they already know, just like the Force.
One thing each franchise's creator probably agrees on is that they're glad that more people don't read old philosophers, since otherwise there's no way they'd be able to get away with this shit over and over again.
For more from Ashe, check out Weird Shit Blog and The Ashe Can.
For more things we've learned from pop culture, check out The 7 Worst Lessons '80s Cartoons Taught Us about Drugs and The 4 Weirdest Lessons '80s Movies Really Wanted to Teach Us.