Despite what the "It's just a movie, it doesn't mean anything!" crowd seems to think, movies are always pro-something, because if we don't believe in what the hero is doing, why would we care what happens on screen? It all comes down to emotional investment: We have to believe that Harry Potter stopping Voldemort is an overall win for the world, otherwise we just watched a cocky teenager murder a disabled old man by turning him into a fetus.
But movies have slyly convinced us to start rooting for some pretty terrible stuff. And I promise that's the last time I'll say the word "fetus," because that word is gross.
6 A "Balance" Between Good and Evil
20th Century Fox
The biggest mark the Star Wars trilogy left on cinema was the idea that balance is key. I know the philosophy probably predates that, but I'm going with Star Wars, because it's had a way bigger impact on contemporary society than any one religious text. Both the Star Wars prequels and the original trilogy give characters lines about "restoring balance to the Force," because apparently the centuries of peace and prosperity in the Old Republic was really off-kilter.
Maybe "balance" means "we finally get to use our fucking lightsabers."
X-Men: First Class is a way more recent example, where Xavier tells Magneto that the key to using his powers is "finding the space between rage and serenity," which is basically the same thing: Serenity is just dandy, rage is kind of a bummer. Therefore, it makes sense to find a balance between the two.
But Wait a Minute ...
No, it doesn't. Balancing between two ideas is a compromise, and compromise only makes sense when it's two sides that are willing to work together. Political parties compromise. Fighting married couples compromise. How do you compromise between two polar opposites, or with an evil force bent on your destruction? Kill off half your own population? That seems like a loss to me.
X-Men Babies is probably the more stupid of the two options here, because "the space between rage and serenity" is just "being mildly stressed out," as far as I can tell, which isn't nearly as dramatic a thing for Xavier to somberly whisper through a voice-over.
20th Century Fox
"Imagine you're trying to rub one out before work, but the video's taking forever to load,
and you still have to make oatmeal so you're not hungry all morning."
But in Star Wars, "balancing the Force" means that both forces would be equally powerful, right? Yeah, we tried that in real life, with mutually assured destruction during the Cold War, and it was pretty goddamn stressful for everyone involved. Turns out building millions of nuclear weapons and pointing them at everyone, all the time, isn't really the best way to get any peace of mind. The problem is that a "balance" between two ideas that fundamentally can't coexist is never-ending war, which we can all agree is bad -- no matter how cool that one Civilization game is.
5 Risking Everything for Love or Family
I'm not about to rail against the nuclear family or endorse some nihilistic bullshit here. To be clear, I'd do anything for my family, and I hope most of you would, too. Right? Not all of you have my nunchucks-and-ninja-wolves story to prove it, but don't worry, I believe you anyway.
And love? Man, love is rad -- especially the part where it makes us do dumb shit. I'm pretty sure blowing your savings to impress pretty people who like how your tongue tastes is one of the most important developmental periods you go through.
Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
It's hard to make something as awesome as kissing sound gross, but I did it.
But Wait a Minute ...
Movies have kinda gone overboard with this whole thing, and not in the normal way that they go overboard with everything. At the end of Armageddon, after Bruce Willis and his charming band of wacky dumbass rednecks pull off the most complicated procedure ever attempted in space (more on that in a moment), the entire story comes to a stop for a second so Bruce can say goodbye to his daughter -- which would be fine, if he weren't putting the entire world at risk to do it.
But the weirdest example has to be Saving Private Ryan. It's the single highest grossing World War II movie ever made, despite not actually being about the war at all. It uses the Normandy invasion, the biggest and riskiest invasion the world had ever known, as the backdrop for a story about taking care of Matt Damon's mom. And while the movie pays lip service to how controversial it is to sacrifice eight lives to save one, all the characters decide at the end that they're doing the right thing. Tom Hanks says, "Maybe saving Private Ryan is the one decent thing we're able to pull out of this god-awful shitty mess," which totally dismisses the real reason we invaded Europe -- to create a kickass video game subgenre.
Because at the end of the day, Matt Damon's mom is more important to us than the entire war effort. We care way more about our personal relationships than the rest of the world, mainly because our brains don't work properly.