Sunday, March 29, 2009

To Be Good or Not To Be Good?

The character, Shaft, was your typical bad, good guy. He was rough, tough, and impenetrable, but for good. He was not a “hero” or someone that a mother would be comfortable leaving her children with, but ultimately, he was good—he did do the right thing. I think a lot of times we look up to and admire characters like this; characters who have enough backbone to deviate and to cause a little trouble, but are still good enough at heart to ultimately do the right thing. Pop culture thinks it is cool to be bad, but not too bad.
Take the character of the Joker from The Dark Knight. Yes, he’s cool, but in the end, doesn’t he become more of a pitiful object than a cool one? He has no admirable actions, accomplishes no ultimate good, and simply works for his own benefit. When it comes down to it, the Joker is just plain sad. He has no friends, no family, and no one to love or be loved by. I do not see how anyone could aspire to accomplish what the Joker accomplished. Yes, he had money but that meant nothing to him. He burned a huge pyramid of cash—money meant that little to him. The Joker lived a life without meaning and without purpose.
On the other side of things, there’s Batman. At first glance he may not be the coolest character—he could be seen as “too good,” too self-righteous. Who is he to take the law into his own hands? But after a closer look at things, Batman has a dark side and he has struggles. His parents died when he was young and the only woman he has ever truly loved dies. The movie is called “The Dark Knight” for a reason, the whole attitude of the movie and its hero is encased in darkness. Batman’s entire being is struggling with good and bad, right and wrong throughout the entire movie. He is cool, because he is not perfect but ultimately does make the right decisions.
Shaft and Batman both have dark sides but both of them end up working for good. Maybe their means are not always ethical, and they do make wrong decisions. I think that’s part of their cool factor—they are human and they are real. Most viewers are able to relate to them and to their struggles to some degree. Being able to relate is cool.


  1. I enjoy seeing you all write about the Joker, because I want to see how people respond to complete deviance. He actually does have a motive - chaos. It is his inspiration, his motivation, and his aim. The whole point of the Joker is to counter our ideas about what everyone wants. The Joker is not something even Batman can understand, and I don't know that we are supposed to, either. And I think what the film intends to show us is that the Joker doesn't need friends. When Batman cares, it puts him in danger, it hurts him, and he makes himself susceptible to failure. The Joker is able to leave all of the encumbering factors that drag Batman down behind.

    But talking about dissident cool, isn't the Joker an ultimate example? Or is there something else that keeps the Joker from attaining coolness?

  2. I have to agree with W.E.B.

    When you talk about being too bad it seems like what you are talking about is actually being "too disconnected." Is it something within our culture or within you that makes you react negatively to this total detachment?