4 Personality Flaws Movies Think Are Awesome
Oh, gosh, is it time for my article now? OK. Um ... are we all here? I'm sorry, I'm so bad at introductions.
All heroes need flaws, because a hero without a flaw is just Superman, and literally no one in the world likes Superman. (Seriously, there is not a single Superman fan in the world. Don't read the comments for this article, please.) But Hollywood seems to think that it's not just enough to give its hero a flaw, it needs to turn that flaw into an advantage. Because Hollywood has no idea how people work. I mean, OK, I'm not saying I think I'm smarter than an entire industry, just that ...
... shit. This is getting off to such a bad start. Fuck. I don't really think I'm smarter than all of Hollywood. And that Superman thing I said probably isn't even true: I bet a lot of people like him. I just ... can we -- can we just start the article now? Is that OK? I don't want to-
Never Getting Over Anything
-go too fast ... right. Sorry. Here we go. Deep breath.
Heroes have this weird habit of being mopey bastards. Batman is the obvious example, what with his "my parents are dead but I'm super rich and that kinda makes it better" schtick, but this is the primary motivation for an absolutely insane number of "badass" pop-culture heroes: Spider-Man never gets over the guilt of his uncle's death (also not his fault), one of the Green Lantern's girlfriends gets stuffed in a refrigerator. Fox Mulder never really gets over his sister, unless he did in a later episode and I forgot about it. Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon never gets over his wife's death. Inigo Montoya is, if I remember The Princess Bride correctly, pissed off about about the death of his mother. "My name is Inigo Montoya," I believe he says, "prepare to die for killing my mother."
It's so common it even shows up as Jack Slater's motivation in the parody/film-within-a-film
Pictured: Inigo Montoya, with his signature weapon.
Kids are pretty much interchangeable at that age, right?
The weird thing is that the suffering, the stubborn inability to get over fucking anything, is what powers their badassery. The only reason John "Nicolas Cage" Travolta hunts down Nicolas "John Travolta" Cage in Face/Off is because his son is dead. Inigo Montoya got good at sword-fighting only because of his dead parent. Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Batman are only superheroes because they've been made crazy by loss. If Batman saw literally one therapist, he would be a far happier, more boring, rich playboy.
And, spoilers alert, that's not how demons work in real life. I don't mean to sound like a deranged fortune teller at the beginning of a horror movie, but terrible things are going to happen to you in your life. If you're lucky. I mean, I guess you could die first? This is the darkest comedy article I've ever written. God, I am just so sorry.
Let me tell you a story. Once, I had a party in my studio apartment, and by "party" I mean I had about five people over and we drank and played poker. At around 11:30 pm I walked my friends out, and they piled into a designated driver's car and everyone went home. The next morning, I got a call from my landlord saying that someone had puked in the upstairs lobby, and it must've been my friends, and she demanded I clean it up. Now you and I both know that it couldn't have been my friends, right? Because I already told you that I watched them get in their car and drive away, and besides, we didn't even have a reason to go up to the upstairs lobby. Are you calling me a liar? Fuck you! The point is, I got over this incident, because that's what healthy people do. I'm totally over it, 100 percent.
It got all over my shoes! OK, OK, fine, I'm letting it go.
The fantasy seems to be that hanging on to our suffering, mistakes, and loss will somehow make us stronger -- and isn't that weird? I think that's weird. Do you agree? This article is meaningless if you don't agree.
Everyone suffers loss in their lives, but it's really important to get over it. Dwelling on shitty things that happen won't make you a badass gunfighter or help you build a cool costume, it'll just turn you into an emotionally stunted weirdo. So maybe figure out another reason for a hero to do the things he (or ... she? Ha ha, just kidding, that'd be outrageous) wants to do.
Being a Loudmouth Even Though You Don't Know What the Fuck Is Going On
Do you love acronyms? Please say you love acronyms, because I'm about to use one: PPPPPPD, motherfuckers (sorry for calling you a motherfucker). Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance, Dude. This is vitally important in every situation except movies, where the only thing preparation is good for is getting you killed. Because the best man for the job is, paradoxically, always the worst man for the job.
Think about it: Quint the shark hunter is crushed by Jaws' jaws in Jaws. Lion-hunter Michael Douglas is eaten by lions in The Ghost and the Darkness. In Predators, Laurence Fishburne spends years becoming an expert Predator killer, and then as soon as his life enters the movie, bam: he's predated. Muldoon, the velociraptor hunter in Jurassic Park, gets clever-girled by a velociraptor. Looks like the acronym is actually PPWGYFK: Proper Planning Will Get You Fucking Killed.
Maybe you should've finished setting up your gun before you were five feet away from the murder-lizard, you fucking hack.
I'm not stupid. I get why this happens. We want the underdog to win, and it raises the stakes -- but it's crazy how far out we're willing to go to make sure our movie heroes do this. In The Hunt for Red October, there's a scene where a bunch of government officials are speculating about Sean Connery's plans. And when Alec Baldwin (who was specifically brought to this meeting because of his expertise) speaks up, one of his superiors says, "Oh, come on, you're just an analyst!" The guy is literally doing his job, well, on camera for us, but we need a character to act like he's out of his element so that we'll support him.
Obviously this isn't a problem in movies, because rooting for an underdog is fun -- until it bleeds over into real life. Check this out:
That's an opinion piece about, according to the dust jacket, gun control, family life, business, taxes, religion, and government. Which means it covers everything in the world -- and it's written by a dude who sells duck whistles for a living. Oh, and it's a New York Times Bestseller. Apparently, the valuable duck-whistle insight is something a whole shitload of Americans just couldn't live without.
And I'm not saying that just because I think the guy is a huge doof. Comedian Louis CK, whom I tend to agree with politically, socially, whatever, still utterly misrepresents himself on stage by dressing and acting and talking about himself like he's a total schlub (despite the fact that he's a millionaire who writes and edits his own award-winning TV show) because he knows that'll get us to like him more. I'm not saying either of these guys is wrong -- I'm saying that they -- and many movies -- are exploiting a part of your brain that makes you want to agree with opinions that are coming from the guy least qualified to have them. And that's pretty weird. Right? Isn't that weird? At least a bit?
No? Not ... not impressed at all? OK! That's OK! No one's panicking! I have two more. Please don't leave me.
Suffering From an Addiction
Ever notice that aside from movies that are specifically about how shitty addiction is, like Requiem for a Dream or Trainspotting, addiction in action movies is portrayed as more or less the raddest thing ever? This is kind of a weird one, and I hope I can make my point properly. Part of this trend is to totally misrepresent what an addiction even is.
James Bond isn't addicted to alcohol and sex, for example, he just does it all the time and can't really function without it. The characters in Hemlock Grove aren't addicted to alcohol and cigarettes, they just can't be on screen without them because the director doesn't know how else to communicate that the characters are "cool." Sherlock Holmes isn't addicted to pipes and opium, he just can't solve mysteries without them (also, he literally can't stop solving mysteries). Sherlock Holmes even refers to a difficult case as a "three-pipe problem" -- he needs to smoke three pipes in order to solve it.
Even if it's not an over-addiction, they'll use the same imagery because it's so edgy: in X-Men Babies 2: We Put Wolverine in This One, Charles Xavier regularly uses a drug to suppress his powers that just so happens to look exactly like heroin. He gets over his addiction by the end of the movie, but it's portrayed as the reason he becomes a way tougher, more badass figure. It helped him stop being such a stick in the mud. It helped him become a hero.
A deeply sexy hero.
I feel like such a grumpy, "moms against drugs in movies" type character for writing this, but I'm not, like, calling out these movies for being irresponsible. I'm not convinced this is a destructive force or that watching X-Babies is going to turn you into a heroin addict. I just think that maybe we should figure out some other way to communicate that our heroes are rebellious.
Heh. This was a good entry, wasn't it? This is going pretty well. And I feel like this last entry is going to be the best one yet.
Losing Your Fucking Shit
In action movies, anger is, like, always good. Isn't that weird? Wait! No I should start with examples. God. I am so bad at this. I was on such a roll, too. Hulk, obviously, is an example. He says, "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry," but the truth is that's the only time we like him. Especially if he's played by Ed Norton! Am I right? Am I right, Internet commenters?
I'm not right?
Fine! There are multiple TV Tropes pages about how great rage is, listing examples like 300 and The Patriot -- so feel free to go peruse those. But I think the weirdest example is Star Wars. Seriously, check this out: the whole Jedi ethos is about controlling your emotions, right? Then how come they do their best stuff only when they're angry? In The Phantom Menace, Obi Wan is able to defeat Darth Maul only because, if I may quote the movie from memory, he's "hella pissed that Papa Qui-Gon got got."
On my death bed, will I regret the time spent finding the dumbest faces Ewan McGregor ever made?
And in Return of the Jedi, Luke uses the same thing to defeat Vader. Sure, he recants afterward, but the only reason he got the upper hand is because he got pissed. It's easy to renounce power right after you've used that power to win.
You betrayed me, Luke. You betrayed all of us.
In fact, the only lightsaber battles that aren't won with rage are against a) a robot, b) an old man, or c) a Hayden Christensen (sorry for making fun of you there, Hayden Christensen. I actually have this weird feeling you're a super nice dude, even though we've never met and I haven't seen any interviews with you). And even that one ends with Obi Wan crying a big ol' bale of crocodile tears (crocodile tears are measured in bales, for some reason. I don't make the rules).
But let me tell you, as a guy who's lost his temper once or twice, it's not actually a rad thing to do. You're way less likely to defeat your mortal enemy and bring peace to the galaxy, and 100 percent more likely to punch a hole in the drywall, cover it with a piece of cardboard instead of owning up to your mistakes like a cowardly little shit, and then pretend like you have no idea what happened three weeks later when your roommate is all, "What the fuck is this?"
For more from Sarge, check out 5 Behind-the-Scenes Features That Show Why Movies Went Wrong and 5 Famously Dumb Movies With Mind-Blowing Hidden Meanings.