What is evil any more?
Looking at movies and shows of the past, monstrous characters were always portrayed as evil, soulless, violent, menacing. They tore out your throat and danced on your grave and made you have nightmares.
Now people write love stories about them.
Maybe that's nothing new. After all, many of us gals have gone a bit fainty over the Byronic hero, the bad-boy who's got just enough goodness within him to make his bad actions less so. He's not evil--he's a misunderstood victim of abuse or capitalism or oppression or some other dark childhood trauma, and his monstrous behavior is simply him lashing out.
I wonder, though.
It promotes the notion that those brought up in challenging situations will necessarily be bad as adults, or so the eugenicists would likely argue. There's a lot to that, of course--when you grow up around violence and chaos and betrayal, especially during ones formative years, growing into a stable adulthood is hard...but not impossible. I like to think that we are not determined by our earliest years, but that we can grow away from bad things and live a good adult life.
In the end, I think there's a big difference between celebrating the outsider who is otherwise good, such as Remus Lupin--he's a character who became a monster through no fault of his own and who strove for a normal life despite his dark side. His closest friends acknowledge this tragic irony as well, as we see when Sirius Black pleads with Remus as he transforms into a werewolf, telling him to look into his own, good heart and know that he's not a monster. That's love.
On the other hand, there is a trend of creating empathy with monsters. John Gardner's famous retelling of Beowulf, for example, does this on some level by making Grendel a sensitive victim questioning his own nature from his earliest days. More recently, however, we have shows like Dexter, which causes many in the audience to root for the "success" of a serial killer. His vigilante killings aren't just a bullet to the head, either. One could almost understand that, in a demented sort of way. Dexter's killings involve decapitations, chainsaws, blood spatter, maiming and mayhem. Oh, but his victims are bad people, and hey, a little blood flying is good entertainment, right? I'm not so convinced, and it makes me wonder how that ultimately impacts an audience.
I don't believe that entertainment turns people into violent individuals--we are all responsible for our own behavior, good or bad. One cannot blame Black Sabbath or Grand Theft Auto or Harry Potter for a person's evil choices. My concern is a little different. What I want to know is whether, as a culture, it's good and healthy to hold up characters like Dexter Morgan or Bill Compton or Bonnie and Clyde as people to admire. True, their dark sides are strongly apparent in these shows, but there's just enough pathos there to raise the question.
Or am I just being hard-hearted?
witty; cunning; crafty
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