5 Movie 'Heroes' We Need To Reconsider
A protagonist isn't always a "hero." Any good movie can make us root for a total monster as long as its story holds together. In fact, some movies pull off that trick so well that it takes years for the audience to stop and think, "Wait a minute ... was I cheering for a villain?" For example ...
The Pink Power Ranger Commits A Sex Crime
Power Rangers is supposed to be about mindless fun, and the 2017 reboot got that. Some kids dress up in colorful costumes to giant-dinosaur-robot-fight a witch and her golden glob monster. It's a good excuse to inhale popcorn and turn your brain off ... as long as you ignore that the Pink Ranger leaks nude photos of an underage girl to other high school students. Yes, that actually happens. That plot thread is introduced early, when Kimberly runs into some of her former friends in a bathroom. These girls have some USDA prime beef, but at this point in the film, we're clearly supposed to empathize most with Kimberly for losing her friends.
Then, about halfway through the movie, she confides in Jason what she did to lose those friends: She had an explicit photo of her friend Amanda, and she sent it to a guy they both liked with the caption "Is this the girl you want to bring home to mom?" That's some nice revenge porn with a side of slut-shaming, Kimberly.
Now, Kimberly's plan was obviously terrible, because precisely zero teenage boys would be discouraged at the prospect of dating a girl who takes sexy photos. But the film doesn't tell us this to set up a redemption arc. Instead she shows the photo to Jason, and he tells her that she really is a good person deep down. But at this point in the movie, all she's done is send a nude photo and fistfight in a cave. Maybe she'll learn what she did wrong later on? Don't hold your breath; during the final battle, a monster damages Amanda's car, and Kimberly's response is, "That's what you get." For ... for what? Having her privacy violated? Why are we supposed to hate the character who had her sense of trust broken by someone she thought was a close friend? Did they accidentally delete half the scenes from this subplot?
Pleasantville's Jennifer Commits Unpleasant Rape
Pleasantville is the story of high-schoolers David and Jennifer, who are sucked into the world of a 1950s sitcom and take over the lives of two of its very real characters, which is a fun premise as long as you don't think about the existential implications. So let's do that right now!
We can't hold the body-snatching against our heroes, because they didn't ask to be quantum-leaped. But Jennifer ends up doing some messed up stuff. She hates Pleasantville until she sees Skip Martin, a boy who has a crush on the girl whose life she's taken over, Mary Sue.
Jennifer and David have to act like their characters in order to not disrupt the show's universe, so she must interact with Skip. But it would be weird for her to turn things romantic, given that she's not really who she's claiming to be, right?
Jennifer disagrees, and not only goes on a date with Skip, but also forces herself on him during it despite his obvious discomfort. He doesn't even know what sex is, and it makes him feel ill, but she ignores him.
The introduction of boning to Pleasantville kicks off the crux of the plot by bringing about irrevocable changes to the world. But if the movie wasn't a vehicle for satire, it would be about Jennifer using false pretenses to rape a teenager with a child's understanding of consent and what genitals are for. So social progress can only come at the cost of a horrific crime. Which, huh, is kind of how the '50s worked, wasn't it?
In Superbad, Seth's Goal Is To Date-Rape His Classmate
2007's Superbad is a great example of how much society can change in a short span of time. Remember that the entire movie revolves around Jonah Hill and Michael Cera trying to get to a big party and have sex with their respective crushes. That's typical high school comedy stuff, but Hill's character, Seth, outright admits that his plan is to get Emma Stone's Jules so drunk that she'll be willing to have sex with him. Which as also known as date rape.
It's not even subtle -- he's thrilled by the prospect of being a girl's regretful drunken mistake. And he doubles down near the end, telling Jules that he wanted them to both be hammered at her party. He wasn't trying to get her drunk so that he could work up the courage to ask her to go get milkshakes with him at the local roller rink.
Luckily, Jules is stone cold sober, so she just lets him collapse in a drunken heap and they talk it out later. But if she really had been as trashed as him, the situation could have veered out of "wacky teen comedy" territory in a hurry.
Professor X Helps A Mass-Murdering Terrorist Escape Justice
Professor X has a complicated relationship with Magneto. He'll put his students' lives on the line to stop his former friend's schemes, then sit down to play chess with him and chat about the good ol' days. But he's always recognized that Magneto is a danger that should be locked away. Well, except for that time in X-Men: Apocalypse when he lets Magneto go free in exchange for rebuilding his house.
After Apocalypse recruits Magneto, his powers become supercharged, allowing him to destroy cities halfway around the earth. We get a sequence of him doing exactly that, and the death toll has to be catastrophic.
Then, after Apocalypse is defeated, he and Professor X share a fond goodbye, with no mention of, you know, all the people he killed.
Magneto wasn't being mind-controlled into anything -- he was doing it all of his own free will. He eventually reconsiders and helps stop Apocalypse, but doesn't he still need to answer to the families of his victims? According to the wise and mentorly Professor X ... no? OK.
Mowgli Burns The Jungle Book's Jungle Down, Proving Shere Khan's Point
Jungle Book villain Shere Khan is seriously misunderstood. Sure, he looks like a tiger who is also somehow an MMA fighter, but he's a pretty reasonable dude. When he makes his entrance in 2016's live-action Jungle Book, he lays out a solid, well-thought-out argument for why Mowgli has to go.
Khan first points out that while Mowgli may only be a kid right now, humans grow up into ... well ... humans. You just can't trust those suckers. Then Khan calls the animal jury's attention to a legal precedent stating that it's forbidden for any animals to take in a human. There's literally a jungle law against harboring humans, so the wolf pack is doing more than making questionable life choices -- they're criminals. When Shere Khan kills Akela, he's only carrying out the law of the land. If his last name was "Van Damme," we'd be rooting for him all the way.
But of course, Shere Khan's real crime is that he can't appreciate how Mowgli is an innocent kid and could be raised to respect nature, right? Right. Except for the part where Mowgli uses his human advantage to burn down the entire jungle.
After things with Shere Khan come to a head, Mowgli steals a torch from a village to use as a weapon, then accidentally starts a massive wildfire that kills Khan (and presumably hundreds of more lovable animals off-screen). He literally does the one disastrous thing the tiger was trying to prevent. In Shere Khan's mind, sacrificing a few wolves to save the entire jungle would be worth it. In Mowgli's mind, burning down the entire jungle so he can, uh, stay in the jungle is worth it. Mowgli's the kind of kid who would set the garage on fire if he thought he could use the distraction to hang out with his friends at the arcade later.
Abraham is a Christian lawyer living in Mexico. You can say hi to him on Twitter here, or visit his DeviantArt page here. Mike Bedard watches far too many movies. See for yourself by following him on Twitter. Jordan Breeding also writes officially for Paste Magazine, unofficially on the Twitter and his blog, and with a bunch of fire throughout the jungles of Africa.
Eh, the original animated Jungle Book is better anyway.
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