I’ve watched two movies recently, The Revenant and The Iron Giant, that feature bad people doing bad things. This is typical in movies – the audience wants someone to cheer against as much as they want someone to cheer for. In both of these movies it is easy for the audience to cheer against the bad guy without remorse.
The problem is that real bad people in real life aren’t only bad. They are human like the rest of us, a mixture of good and bad and neutral. But most of our movies don’t include those nuances in their characters and I think it is because moviemakers want to make it easier on their audience. The feeling of internal conflict isn’t comfortable and if you feel sympathy for the bad guy then you’ll get that feeling.
The problem is that movies influence our real lives. We start to make the real life bad guys into the movie bad guys which makes it easier to be angry and hateful to them. This anger and hate leads to conflict and killing.
Avoiding the nuances of real bad guys may be fine for The Iron Giant since it is a kids movie. Of course it may be worse as we shape young minds to believe that real life is clear cut. But I judge The Revenant more harshly because its creators went to such lengths to make it realistic but intentionally developed only one side of the bad guy.
Of course, maybe I’m wrong about real life. Maybe this world has real bad guys that are simply pure evil – I’m definitely not an expert on the subject. But I’ll always believe that each of us has both good and bad in our hearts.