4 Movie Heroes Everyone Pretends Aren't Psychopaths
It's impossible to overstate the influence of cinema on American society. We watch 34 hours of television a week -- more than the time spent eating, making love, sleeping, working, or praying. Our favorite movie protagonists have entirely replaced the family unit, subverting the authority of parents while eviscerating the innocence of children and usurping the throne of God. Society has peaked: The truth of existence is obsolete, for now we have the illusory perfection of celluloid.
But that raises the question: Who are these fractured reflections of our psyche, installed as they are as ostensibly benevolent dictators? Can we trust them with our souls, with our children's souls, and with our future? No. We are screwed.
Doc Brown From Back to the Future Is Suicidally Insane
When you're a kid and watch Back to the Future, protagonist Marty McFly's life seems great: He has a sweet guitar, rides a skateboard, has a timeless sense of style, and his best friend designed a time machine! But then you grow up, and you realize that when a peppy high school bro befriends a 70-year-old "eccentric," time-travel-induced almost-incest is one of the least freaky outcomes. And no, I'm not saying all old people are terrifying, except for right there when I said literally exactly that; I'm just making reference to that time Doc Brown locked Marty into a suicide pact without even telling him.
Yes, that's what the time machine is. The first time it works in the Twin Pines Mall parking lot, Doc sticks Einstein (the adorable little dog monster) in the car and, using a remote control, slams on the accelerator, shooting the car as fast as he can right at himself and Marty, who's filming it. When Marty tries to move out of the way, Doc pressures him back with a smoldering look.
I'm using "smoldering" correctly, right?
At this point in the movie we've seen quite a few of Doc Brown's inventions, and not a single one has worked properly. Yet when he builds a time machine -- the single most ambitious piece of machinery any human being has ever attempted -- he's willing to gamble Marty's life and his own on the idea that it'll work? That's a distressing amount of confidence for a guy who can't even build a toaster that works properly.
Ya know why? Because it's not confidence. It's desperation. Brown built that time machine out of stolen uranium that he bought from Libyan terrorists. It doesn't matter how great his invention is -- the minute he goes public with it, people are going to ask how it works. Then they're going to ask him where he got the uranium, and then he's going to prison. Brown isn't working for money or recognition, he's working for his own satisfaction, his own identity. Let me paint this picture for you.
Every night since Nov. 5, 1955, when Doc Brown's failed suicide attempt (sure, buddy, you were "hanging a clock"), Brown has dreamed of mattering. Dreamed of creating something important. But every invention, be it a dog-food opener or even a simple amplifier, ends in utter disaster. Night after night he stares blankly at the ceiling until the cracks begin to writhe. Someday, he whispers to himself. Someday.
Then, finally, a three-decade-old vision crystallizes. It's never been clearer: nuclear power. Chrono-displacement. A stainless steel body. Giant heat vents for some reason. The vision burns inside him so hot he can barely breathe, and in his madness, he reaches out to terrorists to attain the supplies required. By the time his passion cools, it's too late. His path is set. The time machine is built, and whether it fails or succeeds, he's doomed, because a man like Doc Brown can't be locked up. No. He'd rather die.
Hence the DeLorean.
So he builds the time machine. He puts his dog in it. He invites the weird teenager who's always at his place to come over and film it, and he forces that innocent child into his suicide pact. Worst-case scenario, he'll bring a slave with him to the afterlife.
But luckily it does work and Marty gets to go back to the '50s and almost fuck his stupidly hot mom.
The Equalizer Is a Murder Addict
In The Equalizer, Denzel Washington (played by Denzel Washington) plays an ex-CIA assassin who decides to solder off the chains of retirement in order to rescue an underage prostitute from the Russian mob. But while he presents himself as a hero, one who can do no wrong and brings liberty and success to everyone he encounters, the truth is that he's simply a murder addict who falls off the wagon and goes on a veritable bender of revenge for slights both real and imagined.
In the beginning, we see that Washington lives like a monk and/or recovering alcoholic: He keeps to a strict routine in his meticulously organized apartment, ritualistically shaving his head and eating his breakfast smoothie. He's compelled to try to help his co-workers achieve their dreams, but that's as far as his benevolence extends -- until he meets Chloe Grace Moretz (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), a young prostitute who gets the shit kicked out of her by the Russian mob, since that's more or less their thing. Then, he gets his fuck-you on.
In a scene carefully edited to make it completely unclear as to what's happening.
Wow! Awesome, right? It's great to see those filthy fucking pimps and rapists get what they deserve. It's so awesome that we all just barely noticed that time he killed a panicked teenager over one car payment.
About halfway through the movie, a guy shows up at the Home Depot where Washington works and holds up one of the cash registers. Washington is about to murder him (as would be just) but a kid walks by, so he holds his hand until later, when he can quietly kill the guy with a hammer. A hammer that he then returns to the Home Depot's stock, because he's not a goddamn thief.
Let's look at this story from the thief's perspective, OK? Here's what we know about him: He's in his mid-20s, drives a Mustang, and is the kind of person who robs a Home Depot cash register. How much money you think he scored there, $300? Maybe $500? This isn't a career-criminal move, this is a stupid and risky act of desperation by a frightened kid. My bet is that he comes from a poor family in Boston, embedded in the orgy of opulence that is New England, but never given the chance to indulge himself. Finally, as a young man, he snaps and buys that Mustang with some money attained through a shamelessly predatory lending scam. He falls deeper and deeper into debt, hiding his secret shame from his family until finally, in an act of desperation, he buys a gun and tries to knock off a Home Depot. That night, after counting his money, he realizes that when you account for the cost of his gun, he actually lost money on the deal. Overcome by his shame and helplessness, he begins to cry. He's utterly broken. He stares at the rough skin of his strong, calloused hands, the thick cords of muscle around his forearms, and he can't believe how useless they feel. He has no idea what to do.
Then Denzel Washington kicks his door down and kills him with a hammer.
Santa's Elves Are Insane Scientists
"Your toys are secretly alive!" is a shockingly popular kids' movie trope considering how batshit terrifying it is. There's a reason we don't trust young kids with pets, and that reason is because of how they treat their toys: At age 8, you smack them together face-first and call it combat, and at age 12, you blow them up with firecrackers while your parents are out of town or passed out drunk. If those toys are alive, children are the cruelest people on the planet, and their retribution would be swift and merciless. Luckily, kids don't think about this stuff, because a child's brain isn't built for complex morality. Unluckily, I do think about this stuff, and some kid will probably read this and find out that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is secretly about, like, war crimes.
Let's recap the plot real fast: Rudolph gets verbally abused and horribly bullied for his rad-ass bright red nose, so he goes off and lives in the woods, making friends with a crazy prospector named Yukon Cornelius. He and Yukon eventually find themselves on the Island of Misfit Toys, which is a blighted hellscape full of sentient toys with stupid design flaws like a train with square wheels, a bird that can't fly (but can swim!), a Jack-in-the-box named Charlie, and a doll with, I shit you not, chronic depression. Pay attention to the swimming fish-bird, though, because he's going to be important in a minute.
Rudolph and Yukon are so touched by the Misfit Toys' suffering and singing that, in the original cut of this Christmas special, they completely forget they exist and never return, forcing us to assume that all the Misfit Toys either freeze to death or are forced to live out a cruel and pointless immortality, depending on how magic works in this universe. But in the version we're more familiar with, where Santa and his elves return to the Island of Misfit Toys to I guess tag-and-release them, the implications are even worse.
First off, they're gifting "Chronic Depression Doll" to some poor kid, and that's unsettling, assuming that the doll tries to communicate with her owner (are toys just all alive in this universe? So much is unclear). But worse is what happens to FishBird: He gets tossed out, to die.
Remember, the only thing we know about FishBird is that he can't fly. That's his sole quality as a character. And the elf just tosses him to his doom. Because he wanted to see what the fuck would happen. The elves have learned to imbue toys with life, and this power has driven them mad. Santa's elves are the cruel masters of an evil secret, and every glimmering spark of consciousness is their plaything.
Tony Stark Thinks of Human Lives as Points in a Video Game
It's no secret that Tony Stark has been traumatized by all his Iron Manning -- it is, in fact, a big part of Iron Man 3. But what is less obvious is that Tony Stark has stopped seeing human lives as his responsibility, stopped being driven by a sense of guilt for his past wrongs (like he said in the first movie), and started seeing saving people's lives as a game. Each life saved is a potential point to add to his score. And even though he's still technically doing good, he's also a bit of a danger slut.
Starting with Iron Man, Stark explains his new path: "There is nothing except this. There's no art opening, no charity, nothing to sign. There's the next mission, and nothing else. ... I know in my heart that it's right." Good start, guy. Saving lives. But now look at some of his choices:
First, as we pointed out before, he leaves his suits unlocked all the time so anyone can just walk in and take them, meaning he takes less precautions with his $7 billion murder-suit than I take with the 21-speed bicycle I ride to work every day, though that's admittedly not the best example, because my bicycle is freakin' sweet. But I'm betting you could kill more people with an Iron Man suit than you could with my (utterly dope) bike.
Second, and more important, he routinely makes decisions that would put other people's lives in danger: In Iron Man 2, he gets drunk and hosts a party in his suit, blowing shit up in front of people. In The Avengers, he zaps Bruce Banner for no reason, even though he's the most dangerous human being that has ever existed. In Iron Man 3, first he announces his address on national TV while threatening a terrorist, and then later he refuses to give Rhodes one of his suits because "they're only keyed to ," but then five minutes later we see him throw a suit on The Mandarin. And before that we saw him throw a suit on Potts.
Here is an image to remind you.
Stark literally puts the president of the United States' life in danger so that he can hog all the glory. So he can get all the points. He basically KSed the shit out of War Machine in that scene. That'd be like if I locked up my co-worker's bike at the office just so I could be the only cool biker bro in town and hog all the chicks while Leonard is stuck driving around in his Acura like a total chump. It's irresponsible.
Why is Tony Stark doing these things? Because he's a rescue junkie. Because he needs his fix. Because he needs to feel like a God, and sooner or later, he'll create a problem he can't solve. Is that really the world you want for your children? Guys. Guys.
We have to do something about this.
JF Sargent is an editor and columnist for Cracked. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.
For more from Sarge, check out 6 Movies That Are Shockingly Different When You're Not High and 5 Weirdly Satisfying Scientific Explanations for Superpowers.
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