Sunday, February 5, 2012

Discussion: Shifting morals

I think I'm a pretty moralistic person, and I'm pretty set in my ways. I don't see the world as black and white, but I do think there are some issues that have little wiggle room. I don't support the death penalty in any circumstance, I detest people who believe any of the 'isms', I think you should immunise you children, I think murder is despicable and that global warming/climate change is real.

But sit me down in front of a screen to watch a film or TV series, or put a book in my hands and those morals start to shift. I watch Boardwalk Empire and Sons of Anarchy or read a Hunter S. Thompson novel and I find myself on the side of the people I normally hate, and excusing many of their actions. It's not that I don't consider the real life bikers, gangsters or criminals to have lives that involve families, friendship or their own (warped) sense of morals, but in the real world that doesn't excuse (most) of their actions. So in order to survive the wrath of your biker buddies you have to murder a member of a warring gang? Don't get in a gang, or leave the country. I know it isn't that easy, but my point is that in real life I'm much more hard line about these things. In most cases, people have a choice. They choose to join a biker club, they choose to take part in corrupt business dealings, they choose to cheat on their wife. If you make a choice, you have to live with the consequences, and most of those consequences are less than thrilling.

But 20 minutes into the pilot episode and I'm completely, unequivocally on the side of the show's protagonist. Even when they're still painted as the bad guys, I find myself hating on the cops who are simply trying to do their job, and protect the public from the dangerous protagonists. Every time this happens it tears me up a little. Is it simply because they're the focus of the show/book/film that I automatically side with them, regardless of how they're presented? Do I secretly desire to be the law-breaking rebel (or date one)?

I suppose it's another version of accepting an element of fantasy or sci-fi as realistic, even when you know there is no way it's actually possible. That suspension of disbelief that allows Star-Trek, and Superman and every horror film under the sun to impact it's audience. I understand why the creators would want you to, if not agree, then at least sympathise with the protagonist. The show/book/film won't survive long if you hate the protagonist with the fire that's normally reserved for the big bad (who usually features far less). But I turn my back on my usual beliefs so quickly that it's a real surprise for me, I must just be so conditioned at this point that I automatically side with the protagonist, no questions asked.

How about you guys? Do you find yourself siding with the bad guys, even though in real life you know you'd condemn them?


  1. I totally do this too- I just let things slide that, in real life I'd be completely horrified by, I guess because it isn't real life... I don't know. All I know is that I kind of fancy Tony Soprano, even though 1) he's gross in general, 2) he murders people and doesn't even care, and 3) treats women like shit. It's insane, and yet I'm like 'mmmmm...' But anyway, that does mean that I'm more or less on his side, except while he's murdering people, and then I just switch off and pretend that isn't happening, just like Carmela does, I guess!

  2. The Sopranos is such a perfect example. By the end of the series I had almost completely turned off the fact that they were gangsters, even with all the murder. I think it's the tracksuits that threw me!



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