A Shift in the Classic Battle of Good vs. Evil

I really like the movie Ocean’s 11 and Ocean’s 13. Ocean’s 12 was completely horrible, but that’s not the point of all this, so I’ll stop that tangent before it starts. But as I was watching Ocean’s 11, I got to wondering why I like that movie. Sure it has a good story and great comedic timing, but essentially, the heroes of the movie are actually bad guys.

We’re conditioned to like the bad guys of the movie because they’re funny and likable, while at the same time conditioned to dislike Terry Benedict, the owner of the hotels that Danny Ocean and his gang plan to steal from. Sure, Terry Benedict is a bit of a schmuck, and I probably wouldn’t want to spend more than 5 minutes around him, but he has done nothing wrong in the movie, except be a little too uptight. Somehow, at the end of the movie, it seems justified, and even just, that Danny’s gang of thieves have gotten away with all of his money, simply because we as viewers don’t like Terry’s personality. What’s up with that? There’s nothing justifiable or just in any of that.

It seems that in more and more movies the “hero” is just the lesser of two bad guys. Both the hero and the villain are law breakers and do completely horrible things, but the hero has a good personality, whereas the villain is morally corrupt. Doing the wrong thing for the right reason doesn’t make it right. It just makes it easier to justify as you’re doing it. Here are some of the movies that I can think of that follow this pattern: Gone in Sixty Seconds, The Fast and the Furious, Matchpoint (never seen it, but I’m familiar with the plot), First Wives Club, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Double Jeopardy (somewhat), and the Ocean’s 11 trilogy. It extends into all genres, not just action and thrillers. I’m sure there are more, let me know if you can think of some.

What ever happened to the days of good vs. evil? Did it get too boring and predictable for our overstimulated minds? Is there not enough good left in the world that it seems so completely unbelievable? As much as I hate to admit it, even to me, moderately bad vs. evil is just a more compelling story. Why does personality and likability take precedence over moral values? What has the world come to? Can it ever go back to the way it was?

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