Friday, October 28, 2005

The Dark Side

As for the numbers of criminals here being so high because of poverty, we just need to look at countries with higher levels of poverty than us, and look at their incarceration rates and crime rates to realize that poverty, by itself, is not responsible. In fact, as a country, the US is generally regarded as the wealthiest nation in the world, and yet, as a nation, we have the highest number of prisoners in the world – by a significant margin. So no, I don’t think it is driven by poverty. Maybe poverty in the midst of wealth leads to more temptation. There might be something there. But remember that most people around the world do see movies and TV occasionally where they see wealth being portrayed. So that envy effect is not just limited to here.

Another thing I noticed is that the attitude toward the ‘bad boy hero’ has evolved over the years.

When I was a kid, the good guys were the heroes, and we always wanted to be the good guys. That seems to have gradually changed. I remember the first time I noticed the attitude shift. It was about a car. We were adolescent age. A friend and I were admiring this customized car, and he said “It looks MEAN! It looks EVIL! That is so COOL!” It occurred to me right then that that was the first time I had ever heard anyone say that something that was mean and evil was cool and desirable. For the first time I heard someone WANT to be mean and evil. It was a new understanding for me.

Think back to our movie heroes. Remember Roy Rogers? Squeaky clean. Dressed in white. Never even uttered a curse word. He was the kind of clean, good-guy hero we had in those days. Remember Superman? Captain America? Then the completely clean hero evolved into the next level. The James Bond type, who sometimes had to resort to doing a bit of dirty work to get the job done in the interest of the greater good. Then came the hero who was a kind of diamond in the rough. A guy who had a heart of gold inside, but his exterior looks and ways needed polishing. He was flawed, but mostly only on the surface. The John Wayne style of hero. Bruce Willis carries on this tradition. Then we got to the Dirty Harry point where the good guy was almost as bad as the bad guy. He would fight and kill people – but only bad people. He fought for the law, and still protected good people. Rambo. Cobra. And it kept gradually evolving to eventually get to today’s heroes like Vin Diesel. Either as XXX or as Riddick in the Chronicles of Riddick, he is a criminal. A bad guy through and through. A mass-murdering evildoer. But he might be persuaded to do this one good act – not because he wants to save anybody or anything, but just because the other bad guys pissed him off. Plus he is just trying to survive himself. We even have female versions of this. Elektra is one. Kill Bill is another. A cold, calculating female assassin. Then we, the public, sit back and watch things blow up and see the body parts fly.

Is this what happened? Did we evolve from clean good-guy heroes to dirty bad-guy heroes? Did Hollywood lure us to the dark side? Like Anikin Skywalker being lured to the dark side to become Darth Vader, hated and feared by everyone on BOTH sides? Or did we always have the bad guy heroes? I have all of Humphrey Bogart’s movies in my little collection. 33 movies. He usually played a bad guy of one sort or another. Either a hardened criminal like in High Sierra, or a misunderstood good guy with some bad guy traits, or a criminal by deed, but a good guy by heart, like in Passage to Marseilles. Or a selfish, self-serving guy who deals in petty criminal activity, but who redeems himself by one act of noble self-sacrifice in the name of love, like in Casablanca. But we liked his style, didn’t we? And there was George Raft, and Edward G Robinson, and others. There were always some bad guy heroes.

But there did seem to be a shift from a case where we had some heroes being bad guys to almost ALL our heroes being bad guys to varying degrees.

Do you suppose these movie heroes reflected out society, or set the standards for our society to follow?

Did this create our goals? Is this how we sank down to where we are now? Did we, as a culture, cross over to ‘The Dark Side’?


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