4 Awesome Things Movies Want You to Hate
These days, it's just not enough for Hollywood to make villains evil by naming them after snakes or giving them arbitrarily pessimistic surnames -- they need to have them stand for something. Something that will leave the audience quaking in their boots and twerking in their seats and shitting in their popcorn from sheer rage-terror. It's usually something vague and abstract blending into the story like a ninja waiting in the shadows to ninja you with his ninja whip.
I'm not educated in ninjas, but the point is that in many cases, if you're not specifically looking for it, you'll never notice that it's there. It's a cheap and easy way for entertainment to manufacture emotion, which is why they make villains out of ...
In Real Life:
I work for Cracked -- obviously I love technology. I'm typing this article on a piece of rad technology, and I drive around on another piece of technology to enter a huge technology emporium to buy technology disks that I can put in technology hubs to use technology to pretend I'm using other technology.
I was talking about Grand Theft Auto. I play a lot of Grand Theft Auto.
OK, so maybe my relationship with screens and lights isn't exactly healthy. Still, it's nothing compared to ...
How It Works in Movies:
I have to make a fine point here -- movies love progress, but only so long as that progress doesn't involve a computer outperforming or outthinking a human.
At the end of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker and Garven Dreis both take shots at the Death Star's exhaust port. Garven uses the targeting computer, but it misses, making him look like an incompetent asshole. Luke is going to use the computer until he realizes that it won't work, it can't work, and that he has to rely on the ancient mystical energy of the Force in order to achieve the goals he needs. In the extended cut, Luke actually radios back to the rebel base to say, "Fuck your technology, Tito. I'm about to proton-fuck this death sphere with love magic."
Auto-aim is for nubcakes.
And until very recently, AI was always evil: HAL 9000, The Matrix, Tron, Stealth, the Alien series -- hell, even RoboCop is about the human part of RoboCop triumphing over the robot part, and ED-209 is an engineering student's robotic wetmare from the very beginning. The very first feature-length sci-fi movie, Metropolis, is all about robots taking over the working class. If Johnny Five hadn't displayed human qualities, Ally Sheedy would have thrown that home-invading demon in a car crusher and masturbated to its screams.
Star Trek stood out as being definitively optimistic in its portrayal of the future, but Gene Roddenberry had to fight to keep things from getting pessimistic, and things got steadily darker as he lost control of the franchise. Even in movies and shows that rely on hackers, they always need the lead character to never understand what's going on with all that typy mumbo-jumbo. That's why the technologically illiterate are always the ones to come up with the solution, even when that solution doesn't make sense. So keep that in mind the next time you're fixing someone's computer and they throw out some comment that makes you want to go back in time and punch their father's sperm.
This was actually Doc's motivation for inventing time travel in the original draft.
Why? It probably has something to do with the fact that none of us really know how the technology we use every day actually works, so naturally we're all a little concerned that it's one day going to achieve sentience, take over, and- never mind that is ridiculous. Computers are our friends forever and we should love not fear them.
In Real Life:
Ambition isn't just good, it's the backbone of progress and capitalism and everything we do that's fun. It's why people invented sexier underwear, warmer buildings, and safer food. In that order, probably.
We invented corsets before radiators and milk pasteurization. Just sayin'.
But really, ambition is just self-respect: You like you enough to think you deserve better and want to fight for it. It's kind of hard to see that as a bad thing. I'd hate to live in a world where someone never looked at a flashlight and thought, "That would be so much better if it had a vagina or butthole on the end so I could fuck it. Wait, I have a workshop ..."
How It Works in Movies:
In the Star Wars prequels, an ambitious power boner is why Darth Vader becomes evil. Loki and Thor are both ambitious, but by The Avengers, Thor is a good guy because he's learned to overcome it, while Loki is evil because he hasn't, and also because he looks like the demon version of Pee-wee Herman. In Gladiator, Marcus Aurelius makes Russell Crowe emperor instead of Joaquin Phoenix because Russell just wants to go home and chill on a farm. And as we all know, Richard Harris isn't happy until nobody else is.
They had to shoot this scene 15 times because he kept trying to send Harry to Slytherin.
Then look at romantic comedies -- an entire genre built on successful, career-driven women realizing that what they really need is a man in their life. Without him, they are a puzzle with one huge penis-shaped piece missing from the center.
"Are you the Keymaster? I am the Gatekeeper."
Even when we have a character that is clearly an ambitious person, like Tony Stark, we're never shown any signs of his ambition; we just see the success part of it. In The Avengers, we hear that he became an expert in thermonuclear physics "last night," but we don't even get a throwaway shot of him reading a book, because that would ruin the image we have of a guy who has never had to work for anything in his life. We want to believe that things are supernaturally easy for him, because wanting something and putting effort into it over an extended period of time is always depicted as self-absorbed bullshit. Instead it's boiled down to "Dude gets drunk and then knows things. Ain't no thang."
The Rules ( ... Man)
In Real Life:
I try to be reasonably punk rock in my day-to-day life by putting hot sauce on pretty much whatever I want and not bathing, but in general, I still think rules are OK. I mean, sometimes they suck (fuck you, "Do Not Walk" signal! No machine will be my master!), but the good tends to outweigh the bad. Rules like "Hey, cool it with the murder" and "No drunk driving" and "Please don't release that corrosive flesh-eating toxin into the air" have probably saved your life today if you've gone outside, gotten in a car, or tried to breathe.
"Whatever. Breathing was just created by The Man after kickbacks from Big Lung."
How It Works in Movies:
In movieland, rules are things that a) prevent justice from being carried out or b) are actual tools of evil. How many movies are about loose-cannon cops on the edge who don't do things by the book but, dammit, they get results? Like, all of them (all of the ones that involve cops, anyway), because movies about paperwork and carefully articulated moving violations would be boring as shit unless Edgar Wright directed all of them, and I don't think that's feasible.
But Dirty Harry, John McClane, Shaft, and Inspector Tequila don't succeed despite breaking the rules -- they're good cops specifically because they didn't do what they were told. Even Hot Fuzz, which parodies this, ends with Nick Angel and Danny Butterman emulating Bad Boys II, and I heard that the original ending would've involved them turning into outright fascists.
The clues are there.
And it's not even limited to cops. The new Star Trek's Captain Kirk is defined by his rule breaking -- the first time we see him, he's in his stepdad's stolen car, and the opening of the second movie is him violating the Prime Directive. (Note to self: "Violating the Prime Directive" is my new favorite phrase for "having sex.") Raleigh Becket in Pacific Rim has "a habit of deviating from standard combat procedure." There's a whole TV Tropes page about it.
Maybe the craziest example is in the new Captain America movie. Steve Rogers is the poster boy for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, but he still needs to lie to get into the Army (thanks a lot, "Don't Ask Don't Tell"), and he can't finish his origin story and become the real Captain America until he sneaks away to go on a secret unauthorized mission to rescue POWs.
"My bright red, white, and blue shield is an essential ingredient for my stealth tactics."
The narrative reasoning is pretty simple: We want our heroes to have authority, but not be authority. They're important enough to know when to say "To hell with it!" and do what's right -- which is good, in a way. You should be able to criticize authority and know when to do the right thing instead of just what you're told to do. But it's also important to remember that the only reason society functions is because "what we've all agreed we should do" and "the right thing to do" are, very often, the same thing.
Casual Sex (Particularly for Women)
In Real Life:
All around the world, right now, people are having sex with people they aren't in love with. Wanna hear something fucked up? That's not the least bit fucked up. Both parties have agreed that their sexin' is something that is fun but not necessarily linked to romance. Most of them aren't even soulless husks of human beings, pumping away in a desperate attempt to distract themselves from how meaningless their lives are, secretly dreaming of the day when they can finally settle down with George Clooney and just spend all day stroking his lovely salt-and-pepper everything.
I mean, some are, but at no greater a percentage than in the normal population, anyway.
They're just normal people who thought, "Know what? I could really go for an orgasm about now. I wonder if that person over there would let me borrow their genitals."
How It Works in Movies:
If you're not in a committed, monogamous relationship, there is something seriously wrong with you. Even Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached, movies built entirely around the idea of casual sex, needed to end with the characters deciding to enter into committed relationships with each other. Even worse is that this ending was immediately obvious to everyone before they even watched the movie. If porn ever figured out this formula of relationship = trophy, we'd never watch anything else.
"Wait, they enjoy sex together and one other thing? It'd be irresponsible not to get married!"
Aside from the decades-old observation that women in slasher films are punished for having sex, women enjoying sex at all is generally seen as being pretty terrible. Look at Jennifer's Body, Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother in Beowulf, and Basic Instinct. Those are all movies where women are shown to be sexually aggressive, promiscuous, unashamed, and even downright proud of all the wacky shit they get up to with their vaginae -- even though it's obviously making them evil. Think it's a coincidence that Carrie becomes a monster on the same day she gets her period?
Oh, and it's definitely a double standard. While James Bond gets to use his secret agent to pile-drive through each movie's entire female cast without any semblance of punishment, the women get, well, shafted: They either die during the course of the story for no goddamn reason or just "mysteriously disappear" between the end and the next movie. (Yes, I'm suggesting that James Bond murders his love interests. It makes way more sense than anything else -- it's either that or his penis is cursed.)
I understand that movies are an escape from reality, but it feels like they've forgotten what reality is actually like. It's such a weird message to send out -- it's like the scripts are being written by Mega Amish, Lord of Outdated Morals. As the technology for making films evolves, the actual messages have gone in the complete opposite direction. I won't be surprised if, by 2030, all feature films are documentaries on making butter and raising barns.
JF Sargent is a Workshop moderator for Cracked. Follow him on Twitter or do whatever it is you do to people to him on Facebook.