Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What Does Our Proclivity to Root for the Bad Guy Mean in Terms of Our Morality?

What Does Our Proclivity to Root for the Bad Guy Mean in Terms of Our Morality?

How many movies have you seen where the protagonist is what we, in real life, would consider a 'bad' person, yet you found yourself gleefully cheering them on?

For example, I recently watched Grosse Pointe Blank, in which John Cusack plays a hitman for hire who goes to his high school reunion while in town to do a 'job' and reconnect with his old high school sweetheart. The guy was, right from the outset, made out to be the 'good' guy, while the character played by Dan Akroyd, also a hitman, was made out to be the 'bad' guy, as he was out to kill John Cusack's character. So here's me, a person I'd like to consider moral, watching a movie that features two men who kill people indiscriminately for money, embroiled in a plot to kill one another, and I am rooting for one of the hitmen over the other. Not only that, but I am rooting for the 'good' hitman to 'get the girl.'

Sure, one could argue that the agressor hitman is the 'bad' guy in the first scenario, and so rooting for Cusack's characer is the right choice, but, even though that's STILL wrong (get to that in a secpnd), the second one isn't so easily explained. I am rooting for this nice, average girl to look past the killing for hire thing and get with the hitman (with a heart).

What the fuck is that? Would I accept this in real life?


As for cheering for the 'good' hitman to prevail over the 'bad' one, as he was in the right.....well, would I accept his actions in real life?


What about calling the authorities? What about going into hiding? He, without question, jumps to murder, and I am right there with him. “FUCK YA” I think, “MURDER HIS ASS!”

Now, I can already hear the arguments:


It's NOT REAL!!”
And this is true, but I also find myself wondering if it's something deeper. Perhaps our innate tendencies find themselves aligned with these sorts of actions, and our air of morality is just that- a pretentious air, piled upon our true nature. A social human construct which is predicated more upon bullshit than it is true biological and social leanings. Sure, morality was a necessary consequence of our social nature, but is it aligned with our base inclinations?

I don't know. I mean, some guy murders my wife, my instinct is not to call someone in a uniform for help. My instinct is to thank the gu-er, I mean, kill the guy (love you honey!)

*winks at the audience *

Am I arguing that morality is something we should do away with? No. All I am positing is a question:

When we say something is “right,” do we mean it? I mean, truly mean it? I say that vigilante justice is WRONG, period. Throw me in front of a movie like Death Wish, however, and I'm rootin' for that vigilante son of a bitch from the time his family is killed to the time the last asshole bad guy's bloody corpse hits the ground. Is that just escapism, or is it something that is in tune with my natural inclinations? Are we really as moral as we say we are? Do we mean what we say when we speak of right and wrong, or are these just pretensions on some level?

I'm not saying there are. Just putting the feelers out there, as this is something that occurred to me and I thought some feedback would be beneficial.

What do you, the reader, think?


  1. If a film doesn't characterise the good guys well enough then often the bad guys seem more charismatic.

    The film "Tormented" comes to minds when the bad guy is a ghost who is an overweight victim of severe bullying who committed suicide and is now exacting revenge on his tormentors. You're cheering that the bullied ghost slaughters in the bullies in the most horrific ways; and it delivers!

    I think it's more the film rather than our character traits.

    And you think vigilante justice is wrong?

  2. "And you think vigilante justice is wrong?"

    Absolutely. I suppose you could propose some hypothetical in which I would agree that the vigiliantiism is warranted, but as of now, yes, I have to say that I feel it's wrong. 100%

    Do you have any thoughts on that? I'd be curious to hear/read what you have to say.

  3. I honestly don't think my entertainment choice have anything to do with my morals. As you know my favorite show is Dexter which is about a serial killer and I root for him like no other character with the possible exception of his sister Debra. Does that mean that deep down I believe in vigilante justice? I believe that was answered in my Anyone is Capable blog. When it came right down to it I did choose the rout I always believed I would. That said I still came far to close.

    Going back to Dexter I like the character not because he is a cold blooded killer, but because I can identify with him feeling like an outsider just trying to do what it takes to blend in. I'm not rooting for him to kill the other serial killer. I'm rooting for him to actually overcome his problems and actually fit in to society because if he can do it then maybe I can to.

    If my reasons are deeper then just the kills maybe it's the same for others as well. Of course I do watch action movies for the action itself as well. Sometimes entertainment is just that entertainment. Not everything has a deeper meaning.

    I also have a question for you. Don't you think that there are far more people that believe in vigilante justice then are willing to admit it?

    Isn't being for the death penalty a form of vigilante justice? To me it is just the legal way to go about it. You are still thinking with an eye for an eye mentality.

  4. I do believe that, and that is in line with what I was getting at in this post. I wonder if we are all a bit less moral at our core than we like to admit. Or, rather, not less moral, but underneath that morality is a foundation that's not quite as rosy.

    Our basal instincts, in other words, might tend towards the reactionary, and the violent.

    Good point re: th death penalty. It does seem to be institutionalized eye for an eye.

    Tx for the thoughtful response.

  5. I absolutely believe that we are a violent species. As a matter of fact I used just that notion in my MMA blog. The thing is we aren't a very honest species either even with ourselves. We will lie to ourselves to keep the image of ourselves that we wish to perceive.

    At the same time I don't think we really know what we truly believe until it comes right down to it. I think that I would put my life on the line to save a stranger. I really do, but could I really do it in the actual face of danger? I'd like to think so. The key word of that being think and in times like that you either do it or you don't. There is no thinking.

    I know I took it the opposite direction here, but I already found out my response to vigilante justice and it served just as well.

    No need to thank me for the response as it was a thought provoking blog.

  6. Our history certainly points to a violent nature :)

    I like to think I would do certain things as well, but acknowledge that when in the situation things could likely go in another direction.

    I've never been tested.


Tell magx01 and the rest of The Thoughtful Gamers what's on your mind!