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Heroic movie characters stand up for what they feel is right, and they stick to those beliefs in situations that would leave most of us forsaking every oath we've ever sworn and tossing our loved ones to the ground as obstacles while we flee to safety. However, in some cases the hero spends the entire film spouting ideological rhetoric only to cash it in like a two-dollar scratch ticket the moment it gets in the way of accomplishing his or her goals.

6
Morpheus in The Matrix Fights Against Slavery, Has an Army of Child Soldiers

Warner Bros.

What He's All About:

The Matrix teaches us the powerful lesson that being enslaved by robots would suck the eternal ball sack of gangrenous horror. So right now, as a unified people, let's agree to not let that happen.

Anyway, in the films, Morpheus leads a small resistance force comprised of men and women who have been freed from the machines' enslavement program to rise up and fight for their right to lead lives of freedom, choice, and non-liquefaction into robot-feeding jelly. Everyone deserves to be in control of their own fate, and no living thing should be subjected to the whims of a powerful overlord.

Warner Bros.
"Although it is important that we all match."

Except ...

The entire resistance in The Matrix is made up of brainwashed child soldiers.

Think about it -- when Neo is recovering from getting his brain unplugged from the robots' Dream Machine, Morpheus explains to him that he and his fellow rebels "never free a mind once it's reached a certain age. It's dangerous. The mind has trouble letting go." Zion evidently doesn't subscribe to the teachings of En Vogue.

Basically, Morpheus is saying that adults tend to have trouble letting go of the Matrix (this becomes a major plot point when a member of their team betrays them for the opportunity to get plugged back in). So they recruit kids, because kids are more impressionable, more willing to take up an idealistic cause, and more pliable -- they can be handed weapons and told to kill something without asking too many questions. They are then tossed into a world of violence and strife and told that their lives can have only one path (death to all robots). Which is slavery. Which is the thing Morpheus is supposed to be fighting against.

Warner Bros.
"Your name is Router. What's your name?"
"... Phil."

If what Morpheus tells Neo is true, he had to have built his entire army out of juveniles, which is an implication that the movie never directly addresses. The closest we get is Mouse, who looks like he's about 14 and is horribly shot to death about 80 minutes into the movie.

Warner Bros.
Definitely not the first time he's leaked bodily fluids on that chair.

And allow us to recap how the recruitment process begins -- some people in black trench coats show up unannounced in the middle of the night and offer a young person a mystery pill. You know who else gives kids drugs and enlists them to fight ideological wars? Some of the worst people in the entire goddamn world. There's a reason the International Labor Organization considers underage soldiering a form of slavery, and it's because kids are too young to properly understand the choice they're making (or being told to make). Besides, we have to believe that if they knew how the second and third movies would turn out, most of them would have told Morpheus to shove that red pill as far up his urethra as science will allow and plugged themselves right back into the giant robot Slurpee machine to await blessedly ignorant oblivion.

On a similar note ...

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5
V in V for Vendetta Fights Brainwashing With Brainwashing

Warner Bros.

What He's All About:

V is a former government test subject who gained super strength and a bizarrely self-indulgent cadence as the result of a top-secret experiment gone horribly wrong. After suffering years of brutal mental and physical torture meant to conform him to the fascist Norsefire Party (led by a stylishly dystopian John Hurt), V returns to destroy the evil that created him and free England from their oppressive regime.

Warner Bros.
There's something about fascism that draws in the best designers.

Except ...

In order to enlist Evey (Natalie Portman) to his cause, V traps her in a room and subjects her to the exact same torture he went through so that she might understand how terrible the Norsefire Party is for herself. That's right -- the renegade freedom fighter determined to topple a vile totalitarian government that uses fear and brutality to brainwash its followers is using fear and brutality to brainwash his followers. So ... what's his justification there? That harsh brutality is excusable when done in the service of a greater good?

Warner Bros.
"It's integral to the cause that no one have better hair than me."

Because, you know, that's the exact reasoning Norsefire uses as justification for subjugating all of England. Both V and Norsefire use the same methods to create acolytes for their cause -- the only difference is that V is slightly better at it.

We understand that Norsefire is the worst thing to happen to England since Robbie Williams, and that it must be brought down in order for people to be free of the chains of oppression that dictate their thoughts and actions. However, it takes time to change people's minds and win support for your cause -- Gandhi didn't get the British out of India in a year, but that's the ultimatum V has given the citizenry of England: join him before he blows up Parliament. If the only way you can successfully re-educate people is through force, applied via kidnapping and torture, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your priorities. Oh, and you're probably also the bad guy.

Warner Bros.
Just in case nothing about his appearance suggested as much.

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4
The Hero in How to Train Your Dragon Says Not to Kill Dragons, Kills the Dragon King

DreamWorks

What He's All About:

How to Train Your Dragon tells the story of the Viking village of Berk, whose inhabitants are constantly at war with the dragons who swoop in and destroy their shit and eat their livestock. But the hero of the movie, Hiccup, is a nerdy kid who manages to trap a dragon and tame it. The dragon even lets him ride it around, and the rest of the movie is about Hiccup and his pet dragon trying to convince the rest of the village that humans and dragons don't need to be at war. Dragons are people too!

DreamWorks
"Who are they to judge me? They name their kids after bodily functions ... no offense."

Except ...

So how does Hiccup and his pet dragon eventually get this point across? By heroically murdering another dragon.

At the end of the film, a hulking superdragon called the Red Death emerges to lay waste to everything in its path. And Hiccup, after spending the entire movie lecturing his Viking brethren about nonviolence and the benefits of working with dragons instead of cleaving them out of the sky, perforates the Red Death's wings and sends it rocketing to the Earth in a five-megaton dragonflesh explosion:

DreamWorks
We gave you at least four free metal band names in the previous paragraph. You're welcome.

Granted, maybe taming that one wouldn't be quite as easy as scratching it behind the ears (which is how Hiccup got the last one to submit), but Hiccup makes absolutely no attempt to communicate with the Red Death in any way. In fact, he leads an army of dragons into battle to destroy it. Rather than implement any part of the stubbornly nonviolent mantra he spent the previous 90 minutes advocating, Hiccup wads all of his followers into a ball of howling righteous murder and flings it into the dragon's face.

Remember, training dragons is the whole point of the movie. It's right there in the title. Everything Hiccup does is in service to the idea that any fight can be resolved with patience and understanding, except for the one time he is forced to deal with one of the creatures maligned by the prejudices of his people. And what does he do? He immediately decides to rip it free from this plane of existence while accompanied by a triumphant orchestral score.

The moral? Nonviolence and understanding are great, as long as it's not difficult or dangerous at all.

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3
Sarah Harding in The Lost World Says "Don't Disturb the Dinosaurs," Then Disturbs Every One She Sees

Universal Pictures

What She's All About:

In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Sarah Harding is a paleontologist sent to study the dinosaurs still roaming around on one of bugshit crazy John Hammond's teeming prehistoric monster ranches. Jeff Goldblum leads an elite team of rescuers, including a pre-face-bloat Vince Vaughn and a teenage gymnast, to come to her assistance.

Universal Pictures
Presenting the most ridiculous cinematic use of gymnastics since Gymkata.

The instant they arrive, Sarah launches into a ham-fisted lecture about their shoddy professionalism as naturalists, emphasizing the point that they must act only as passive observers and not disturb a single thing in the dinosaurs' environment, despite the fact that the dinosaurs are replicated science beasts living on an island millions of years removed from anything they ever could have naturally experienced, and that "disturbing their environment" would have about as much effect on them as reorganizing a Hostess display would have on the Twinkies. She says:

"When you're out in the field, nothing we do can leave any room for people to say our findings are contaminated ... We use no scent of any kind. No insect repellent. No hair tonic. No cologne. We seal all our food in plastic bags. Our presence needs to be 100 percent antiseptic! If we so much as bend a blade of grass ..."

Universal Pictures
"If you were so worried about contamination, you wouldn't have had sex with a Jeff Goldblum character."

Sarah gets cut off, because we can only take so much self-righteousness in a movie about killer time lizards, but the message is clear: The scientific method is paramount, and noninterference is key. So, under no circumstance is anyone to interact with the dinosaurs.

Except ...

Literally 30 seconds after she delivers that speech, Sarah starts petting a baby Stegosaurus, inadvertently enraging its parents and nearly forcing her teammates to have to kill all the animals before they gore her to death.

Universal Pictures
A child molestation 65 million years in the making.

That's right -- just after Sarah berates one of her teammates for having the audacity to light a cigarette and pollute the fragile ecosystem, she prances into the middle of a Stegosaurus family to paw at their infant's face, dousing them all in hate-sweating murder fury. And this isn't the only time something like this happens -- Sarah spends the entire movie shattering her golden rule of non-interaction. In fact, every major catastrophe in the movie is a direct result of her messing around with the dinosaurs in some way. Like when she steals the baby Tyrannosaurus to fix its broken leg:

Universal Pictures
"There's seriously only like one way this could possibly go wrong."

Universal Pictures
"OK, so two ways."

The Tyrannosaurus parents cut a bleeding rampage through the island that eventually spills out into San Diego, resulting in almost every character death in the film. Even the people not directly slain by Tyranno-wrath probably would have lived had they not been forced to run blindly away from the tyrant lizards' baby-seeking rampage. The movie's title should really be changed to The Weekend When Sarah Couldn't Stop Touching the Dinosaurs and a Bunch of People Got Eaten, because she causes about 90 percent of the calamities that unfold.

Universal Pictures
Vince Vaughn causes the other 10 percent when he screws with Pete Postlethwaite's weapon, but that's for another article.

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2
William Thatcher in A Knight's Tale Says Being a Nobleman Doesn't Matter, Becomes a Nobleman

Columbia Pictures

What He's All About:

A Knight's Tale is about a squire named William Thatcher who dreams of competing in jousting tournaments but is forbidden to do so because he is not of noble birth, and only noble people are allowed to ride around on horses caving each other's chests in with sticks. So, William decides to masquerade as a knight in order to sign up for some jousts and beats gallant turds into the plated breeches of real knights all over the English countryside.

Columbia Pictures
It turns out any dude can hit people with sticks.

However, his commonfolk ancestry is eventually discovered, and William is banned from entering any more tournaments. But he never gives up, because he knows that a person's true worth has nothing to do with his social standing -- no matter where you come from, you can achieve greatness if you have confidence, determination, and a preternatural ability to stab people off of a horse with a blunted tree limb.

His indomitable spirit impresses Edward, the prince of Wales, who knights William, thereby allowing him to joust whenever the hell he feels like it until the end of forever. William reappears to the deafening support of all the common people of England, who think of him as one of their own, and defeats the film's token douchebag to earn the love of the film's token highborn ice queen.

Columbia Pictures
There was also a deleted subplot where he saved ye olde rec center.

Except ...

William's knighthood has nothing to do with his plucky determination -- when Prince Edward shows up and declares him Sir William Thatcher, Edward says that his decision was a result of discovering evidence that, way down the Thatcher family line, William actually is of noble birth. Nobody questions Edward on this, because he's the goddamn prince and can legally have your knuckles fed to bog turtles if you disagree with anything he says.

That whole song and dance about believing in yourself, earning respect, and rising above your station went sailing right out the door the moment one of William's rich friends came to his rescue and announced that he had been a nobleman all along. The common people that rallied around William aren't going to see him as an inspiration, because according to Prince Edward, he's just a regular old blue blood, same as every other lord or lady who pays starving peasants slave wages to work their lands until succumbing to some flesh-eating pestilence and a shallow forgotten grave.

Columbia Pictures
Half this crowd dies of malnourishment before the end credits roll.

The real lesson here isn't "believe in yourself" or "your destiny is yours to command" -- it's "be an amazing athlete and make friends with the prince," which is circumstantial advice at best, and at worst is a total contradiction of every principle William claims to adhere to.

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1
The Coach of The Mighty Ducks Says Winning Isn't Everything, Wins at All Costs

Walt Disney Pictures

What He's All About:

Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) in The Mighty Ducks is a high-powered attorney with a "win at all costs" attitude that we assume was handed out in mid-'90s lawyer college alongside vials of cocaine and vanity license plates.

Walt Disney Pictures
In all fairness, this could be Winston Zeddemore's car.

But after he's forced to coach the Ducks, a kid's hockey team, to fulfill a community service obligation, Gordon learns that there are more important things in life than winning, such as friendship, teamwork, and being a part of something bigger than yourself. As he says later in the movie:

"A team is something you belong to. Something you feel. And I'm not gonna let those kids down."

Except ...

Except when Gordon finds out that Adam Banks, one of the best players in the area who is currently on a different roster, should actually be playing for his team due to a slight technicality. At which point Gordon throws his entire philosophy out the window to make goddamn sure Adam is forced to join his squad of wacky misfits.

Walt Disney Pictures
"How can you care this much about pee-wee hockey? Are you Canadian?"

Even though Adam has spent the entire season playing for another team, forming meaningful bonds and friendships with his fellow players (you know, those things Gordon said were more important than winning), Gordon confronts Adam, Adam's coach, and Adam's father, and demands that Adam be transferred over to the Ducks. He even threatens them all with legal action, since having Adam play for a team that is technically outside of his residential district is against the official rules of pee-wee hockey. Lawyers take sports very seriously, remember -- there have been protracted congressional hearings about baseball conducted in the midst of a handful of foreign wars and crushing domestic poverty.

Poor Adam (who, we reiterate, is just a kid) really wants to play with his friends, and even gets his dad to ask the league officials to allow an exception to the rules just this once, but Gordon pitches a snarling bitch fit and refuses to let it slide.

Walt Disney Pictures
"YOU WILL NOT STEAL THIS CHILD FROM ME!"

If a team is "something you belong to" and "something you feel," then let Adam play with his freaking friends, you asshole. Instead, Adam is transplanted onto a team where nobody likes him, and everyone gives him shit until his superior skill plays a major role in leading the Ducks to victory at the end of the film. Winning is clearly everything to Gordon, and regardless of whatever bullshit speeches fall out of his mouth, he has obviously taught his team the same lesson, since they don't accept Adam until after he helps them win.



J.F. Sargent has strong convictions against Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. But having a career online without that stuff is mildly more difficult, so fuck it.



For more movie good guys who just sort of said "Screw it," check out 6 Famous Movie Wisemen Who Were Totally Full of Shit and 6 Movies That Didn't Realize They Let The Villain Win.

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