Hollywood: Don’t Make the Villain Cooler than the Hero (Crazies Are Watching)

Crazy people are with us, always. For a few people, brain chemistry changes, as yet understood, happens mostly around late adolescence and early adulthood, and makes them see things that are not there, in reality. Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, heard his neighbor’s Labrador give him commands to kill. Jared Lee Loughner, James Holmes, and undoubtedly Anders Breivik are all part and parcel. Insanity, however, does not mean a lunatic writhing on the street (though it may). Some people who are completely insane can operate at a functional level, and many are only a danger to themselves (by living lonely, often street-level self-medicated lives). The poor unfortunate Kelly Thomas, beaten to death by Fullerton cops because he fought his arrest, is one example. But a very few are going to be dangerous. And a functioning society should have avalanche routes, like Swiss Mountain towns, pointing the dangerous ones away from ordinary people.

Hollywood — this means you. Its time to stop glamorizing violence, cruelty, depravity, and making the villain more interesting than the hero. This includes all the female-oriented Twilight, Buffy, Breaking Bad, Shield, Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and Boardwalk Empire stuff. As well as the “arty” things that guys like Chris Nolan and Oliver Stone produce. Here’s the easy rule of thumb. Don’t make the villain cooler than the hero.

Crazy people can’t distinguish reality from fantasy. That’s why they hear the neighbor’s dog giving them orders to kill. Or think they actually ARE the Joker in the Batman movie. There is a simple way to respond to this responsibility not to make these guys more dangerous to ordinary people than they already are: stop glamorizing the violence and cruelty. Make the hero more interesting, human, and worthy of emulation than the villain.

In “Liar’s Poker,” Michael Lewis relates how he found Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas astonished that young men approached them and told them how the movie “Wall Street” had inspired them to become (ruthless) Wall Street traders. Gordon Gekko was supposed to be the villain. But he had the coolest lines, the most swagger, owned every scene, while the protagonist was called “Bud” and played like a chump by Charlie Sheen (before Sheen’s signature smirking hilarious arrogance in “Major League.”) Between “Bud” and Gordon Gekko? Who would most young men want to be?

Nolan’s Joker character was presented, as he too often was in the comic books, as some force of nature, unstoppable and only temporarily chained. Batman could never win against him. The better treatments showed the Joker as essentially, a coward, and his own fear being why the Batman always beat him. As well as a touch of effeminacy and a hint that he was well, fond of young boys, this made the Joker a villain, not just a cooler hero without boundaries. Young men don’t aspire to cowardice and molesting young boys. That’s an unattractive trait that makes him a good villain. Ian Fleming understood this when creating his villains. As did later movie producers. Ernst Stavros Blofeld, or Auric Goldfinger, were icky old guys. You didn’t want to be them.

The latter two Nolan Batman movies seem to encapsulate suffering and impotence as the mark of the hero. Something the Batman character (Action and Will Personified) never embodied in the comic books, which is why a generation of boys loved him since the late 1930’s. No doubt this appealed to the arty side of Nolan, and lead actor Christian Bale. But it only served to make the Batman character, and his self-imposed limits that separate him from a villain, less attractive. As crazies may be crazy, but not stupid. They prefer the strong to the weak, every time.

If we can’t lock up crazy people, and we can’t (not the least of which is no one trusts the State or rather the people who run it one iota, given their total failures in pretty much everything), the least we can do is demand responsibility from Hollywood.

Do the victims at Aurora Colorado have a cause for action? I think they do, and should bring suit against Warners, and Nolan, and Bale. For signing off on stuff that was bound to affect crazy people. The suit will probably fail. But that’s OK. It is important to make WARNERS in particular, and also Nolan and Bale, defend it. As a warning shot to Hollywood, that they bear responsibility just as say, car manufacturers do, or motorcycle makers, or any other company making things for the general public.

A lawsuit, and expensive time and money spent defending it, is the only thing to cause a change in Hollywood. Lord knows appealing to the essential good nature, responsibility, and decency of Hollywood is … a good laugh. A lawsuit slapped on Warners, particularly now (to depress Box Office and kill the sales of Batman stuff where they make the real money, on toys and lunchboxes and the like), is important.

There ARE steps that can be taken. Expensive ones, and difficult ones. Nevertheless, they can and should be done.

About whiskeysplace

Conservative blogger focusing on culture, business, technology, and how they intersect.
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31 Responses to Hollywood: Don’t Make the Villain Cooler than the Hero (Crazies Are Watching)

  1. peterike says:

    I agree completely on the movie comments. But I would disagree that Anders Brevik is insane. What he is, is the thin end of the wedge. At least I hope so.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, Breivik is not insane. Neither was Sodini. They were perhaps too sane.

      • cecil henry says:

        Yes, I must agree that Breivik and Sodini are not insane.

        AS for Hollywood, just turn away and be sure they don;t get your money.

        The beast will die if its not fed.

  2. Bobby says:

    Maybe there’s some hate crime angle for it’s effects on the mentally ill. Hey it’s worth a shot; we’ve all heard of plenty of stranger angles for lawsuits.

  3. This slaughter is going to have a permanent, “urban myth”-type impact on viewers. Not that it’ll close theaters any more than Sept. 11th vacated our skylines; but it’ll always, always be something in people’s heads. When the Miami cannibal is forgotten, and Giffords’ name is confused with her shooter’s (who remembers McKinley’s assasin– or McKinley?), Holmes’ rampage will be remembered because of the terrifying *idea* of it.

    I like the “Wall Street” example, because Stone & Douglas obviously meant the message to be clear. Young Charlie was a charismatic and appealing performer, but Gecko had great lines and, no matter how often you watch it, four-fifths of the way through you still want to believe in Gordon. How much attention did his redemption in Money Never Sleeps win?

    I know your real target is the nihilism, dressed up as superhuman, as in Lecter, the Joker (Nicholson’s would qualify too– it *is* ironic that so famous a portrayal has been weirdly ret-conned into some sort of Roger Moore second-best in collective memory), some of the torture porn villains. But if anyone lifts a finger against them, there’ll be a public outcry. Just think: somebody saw fit to take their 6 year old to this movie. I can remember watching Fincher’s “Panic Room” in the theatre, and that’s a kind, gentle film for Fincher; but still, some guy gets his brains blown out, besides the mother and daughter put through all that terror. Some kid was screaming in the back of the theatre. Vast numbers of people have no scruples about their small kids watching movies far too dark and twisted for them. Needless to say, they’re not going to be persuaded to armtwist Hollywood to tone them down, on account of the movies’ effects on freshminted psychotics. Even if, forever after, they’ll sit in the darkened theatres now, always a bit nervous, wondering if somebody will suddenly stand up– and if not a copycat killer, then at least, at some point, some doofus kid is gonna stand there and pose and make everybody freak out– and get his fool self tasered, or shot.

    The public won’t connect those dots. When “the Academy” lavished Silence of the Lambs with the big five Oscars, that might’ve been shocking– frankly, it should shock today– but probably it conformed more with popular opinion than three out of four awards picks of the past thirty years.

  4. Negligible says:

    Dear Hollywood: Thank you for a long period of mild-mannered heroes, Gunsmoke and Rin Tin Tin. You put women on top. You entertained (trained) a generation of men who proved unable to keep their women reigned in. Thank you Hollywood!

  5. Ras Al Ghul says:

    I want to make sure I understand this . . . you think people should be able to sue Hollywood for making a movie that (possibly) inspires crazy people.

    A manosphere blog is suggesting that.

    The very manosphere that feminists and blue pillers think is “creepy,” “crazy” and “dangerous.”


    You sure you want to encourage people to go down that road?

    Frankly, I don’t know what Batman comic books you read, but Batman, more than any other hero has “always” embodied suffering.

    His parents were murdered in front of him which drove him the become what he is. It speaks for itself and that was from the beginning.

    As for impotence, did not Bane break his back in the comics in the early 90s? Did not Superman kill him in the supposed future of the “dark knight returns” which predicted the death of Robin in the 80s again another failure on his part? or is that too modern?

    Shall we go all the way back to how he fails to save Dick Grayson’s parents in the 40s?

    Certainly, there was, for lack of a better word, a lighter period for Batman in the 50s and 60s, and perhaps you’re thinking of him then.

    • I don’t think the suit will be successful, but would I think stop glamorizing cruelty, violence, and depravity on the part of villains. Hollywood does this because villains turn on female audiences, and because they are allergic themselves to heroism finding cruelty amusing and (something they themselves practice in private) while finding self-sacrifice alien.

      My objection to the Nolan Batman is the passivity and lack of will in the character. Bruce Wayne is the mask. The man IS Batman, who might suffer but is NEVER passive, always the epitome of the mind-body dual perfection.

      • Ras Al Ghul says:


        My point is that the logical progression of your position is that people like you getting sued for inspiring angry men to lash out.

        A lawsuit won’t change what you want it to change, the glamorous villains will continue because as you note women want that and that is where the money is.

        Ironically, you think, like Nolan’s Batman thinks, that society can be saved from within which is one of the major themes of his movies.

        I haven’t seen the latest movie, so I will reserve judgment on whether Batman is passive or not.

        I agree that he is a man of action, but that’s not the point you were making you were calling him impotent and unlike other comic book heros he isn’t the Beta getting the girl, he resonates with the child that feels helpless and wants to not be.

  6. Sid says:

    The problem with making Batman, or any hero, stronger than his adversaries is a more powerful hero makes for a boring adventure. In action stories, the villains should be stronger than the heroes, because otherwise victory looks like a done-deal. No one is surprised when Superman beats the living daylights out of a thug, for example, so they had to come up with hyperpowered villains like Darkseid to offset Superman’s nearly-infinite strength.

    The point is well-taken that villains shouldn’t be cooler than the heroes. I think 300 actually hada great balance between the two competing demands. The Spartans are strong and vigorous, whereas the Persians are disgustingly effeminate and drawn to luxury. The Persians are the stronger party, however, simply because of their vast armies and resources. The audience thus would rather be a Spartan warrior than a Persian, not just because the Spartans are stronger and more virtuous, but also because they’re willing to take on impossible odds.

    • asdf says:

      It’s best when the villian is stronger thanks to some gimmick, and not because of inner strength. It is indeed less frightening though. I felt that way about Voldemort, who stripped of his horcrux’s and armies is just a scared boy.

  7. asdf says:

    “Twilight, Buffy, Breaking Bad, Shield, Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and Boardwalk Empire ”

    These shows don’t even have a hero. How could they be stronger then the villian if they don’t exist?

    • That’s my point. Anti-heroes infesting Hollywood to the point that the hero must be less cool and interesting than the villain. You see this in DC comics all the time. They are in love with their villains and bored with their heroes.

  8. Jacko says:

    I’m a trial lawyer and I can assure everyone that a case against the movie production company et al. will not succeed. It would be thrown out by the Court on a summary judgment motion with costs. The only way to effect positive change in Hollywood is through organized boycotts [that would resurrect something like the old Hays Code; i.e. Hays Code 2] or legislation.

    • Would Warners settle for small amount, or go after say, the victims families and other survivors? Imagine that headline. Though your point about legislation is well taken. Companies respond to Congressional hammers.

  9. Worm says:

    I agree with Whiskey on the plight of the white male and the glorification of violence and villians by Hollywood. I agree that proper values such as honor, justice and heroism are mostly trampled on by Hollywood.

    However, the idea of suing film makers over content that might cause a mentally ill person to go on a rampage is off the mark.

    I’ve been a cop going on 15 years, worked big city and small, and dealt with many ‘mentals’ as we call them. Crazy people twist things around in their head. Paranoid schizophrenics often believe they are the ‘good guy’ fighting evil. They could just as easily believe they are the Batman and some innocent citizen is the Joker and kill them.

    Evil, insanity and bloodshed has always been around and always will. There have been mass murders long before television or movies. Imagine how many serial killers there may have been before organized law enforcement? Look at the Middle East and Africa; they torture and slaughter each other endlessly.

    Sometimes you can stop evil and sometimes you can’t. What you can do is prepare for the opportunity and try to be vigilant.

    Become proficient with handguns and/or knives and carry them as often as you can. Understand cover and concealment. Get familiar with concept of improvised weapons. Practice practical martial arts (grappling, Krav). Learn field expedient trauma care (pressure dressings, tourniquets). Above all develop a warrior mindset.

    There are tactical trainers all over the country that teach these things in 2-5 day courses. It costs time and money, but most of us find time and money to waste on all manner of useless pursuits.

    As much as Hollywood sucks, I don’t want them censored by lawsuits (occasionally they make something I like). I also don’t want psychiatrists (private or state) given too much latitude to declare people ‘unstable.’ Above all, I don’t want our right to be armed restricted in any way. America is dangerous. It was when we came here.

    If more Americans decided to embark on the warrior path, perhaps when the next Holmes/Joker strikes a real life Batman could stop him cold.

  10. jhbowden says:

    Adults never liked the cheesy “gee willikers” Ned Flanders-style programming and film-making of decades past. Righteous do-gooderism not only lacks charisma; it is anti-charismatic. It turns people off.

    Think of why characters such as Futurama’s Bender has charm. One, he, like Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, has unshakable self-confidence and self-love. Humility is ugly, quite painful to see in others. Secondly, no one like a righteous do-gooder. Selfishness is much more comforting. Why? Selfishness is reliable, selfishness is trustworthy, selfishness is predictable. A selfish person can always be reasoned with; there is always a way out, a way to save face, with a selfish person. In contrast, Puritans who act on principle will screw over even their friends in the name of principle, which is why they make others uneasy. Lastly, obedient people are boring. Obedience, unlike humility, is not painful to the spectator, but directly to obedient agents, who deny themselves because they are ordered to by others. Disobedience is fun; everyone loves forbidden fruit.

    Charisma is interconnected with the Dark Triad; it is not as irrational nor as uncivilized as it sounds. The real question ought to be — how did cheesiness, sentimentality, and outright camp ever sink its hooks into our culture in the first place?

    The answer is simple: for the children.

    A few decades ago, it was expected that adults would marry in their early twenties, renouncing themselves for worldly responsibilities. Stuff like Batman was for kids. Today, singles outnumber married people. So the entertainment is marketed toward what single adults like, rather than what married adults think their children ought to like.

    Statistics show violent crime continuing to plummet in the United States. It is stupid to tie a rise in criminality to changes in the entertainment culture when crime in the United States has been consistently declining for over two decades. Perhaps the entertainment culture is causing our declining economic conditions — pfft, yeah right, though here we would have at least correlation where we imagine causation; in the case of crime, there is no correlation at all.

    This does leave unexplained why bizarre mass shootings are more common in the United States than elsewhere. This is easy — most of the perps are beta males who can’t get laid, and the Puritan social environment shames, discourages, and strongly penalizes commercial sex. If we’re looking for a villain here, blame feminists and social conservatives.

  11. map says:

    I don’t think the posters here are understanding the issues and problems with Nolan’s Batman. The problem is not that the villains are powerful. Villains are supposed to be powerful. They drive the plot and are there to put the hero through a vicious trial by fire by which the hero ultimately wins and defeats the villain. The various trials by fire demonstrate how superior and clever the hero is in overcoming the traps the villain lays down. None of this is an issue.

    The issue is that Nolan’s villains lack the underlying crapulence that was common in past iterations of the same villains. It was not just physical ugliness, it was also personality, decision-making, etc. Villains in general were drawn and written in ways that would never be attractive to the audience.

    What is worse, Nolan is obviously cribbing his Batman characterization from Frank Miller’s interpretation of Bats from way back in the 1980’s. Miller never portrayed the Batman as the indecisive weakling wracked by fear, pain, guilt and loss, who wins by lucky accident, like Nolan’s Batman. Even in “The Dark Knight”, Miller attributes weaknesses to Batman being in his 50’s, not to any weakness like we see in Nolan.

    In fact, nobody wanted to be a villain in any of Miller’s outputs. Nobody wanted to be Bane, or the Joker, or even Bullseye from the Daredevil universe, when Miller was helming these properties.

    • Yes that’s my point. Miller made the villains ultimately pathetic. Not a force of nature to be admired. People detested them, for their moral and character weaknesses.

      • Ras Al Ghul says:

        Is this the same “Dark Knight Returns” I read from the 80s?

        Bane, as much as I dislike that villain, I don’t think was ever written up by Miller. He shows up, kicks Batman’s ass, breaks his back and trashes Gotham.

        The Joker in the Dark Knight Returns didn’t seem ultimately pathetic. Any villain willing to kill himself to get the Batman in deeper trouble isn’t. Two face wasn’t either. The pathetic one was Superman.

        And don’t get me started on the crap miller has been putting out recently. His “reimaging” of Robin is shit with both the new stuff and the “Dark Knight Strikes Back”

        As for Miller and Daredevil, I suggest you read “A man without fear is a man without hope” I always though King Pin was a lame villain. What Miller has him do to Daredevil was badass

  12. rjp says:

    Could it be that Hollywood has to glamorize the villian to reduce the greatness of the white hero ….. (because you can’t have a black hero because a black hero has no box office draw)?

    • Whoa.

      It’s devious. It fits the facts. I can’t refute it.

      It’s making my Spidey sense get all sparky and crackly. (I guess I had to work a superhero reference into my reply.)

  13. Dr. Grzlickson says:

    Hey there, guy. My comment you deleted was pretty innocuous, no? Care to post it after all? Doesn’t say much for your confidence.

  14. CamelCaseRob says:

    On a less serious note, Whiskey how about a post on your favorite movies of all time? Also, how did you come up with your user name? What’s your favorite whiskey?

    • I like Whiskey. And my fave is Bushmills Black. Smooth, triple distilled, and aged in Sherry Casks.

      • I second the “favorite movies” motion. Between the forthcoming BFI/Sight & Sound decade poll (out in September?) and the present interest in movie/violence cultural issues, it’s a great season for in-depth cinema talk.

  15. Pingback: Linkage Is Good For You – 7-29-12 | Society of Amateur Gentlemen

  16. Hello, Whiskey, I’ve also been noticing these disturbing trends in pop culture:

    Supervillains and ‘Losers’

    What Game of Thrones Tells Us About Modernity

  17. Anonymous says:

    A little off-topic, but… speaking of movies, Victor Davis Hanson has noted southern Cali is getting like The Road Warrior (or, at least, has gotten like Mad Max) in a collapse of civilization much like Whiskey has predicted.:

    • Thanks, saw that. VDH should sell out and move out. He’ll have to eventually. He’s not strong enough to hold it. That tat prevalance is of course a way to signal “I’m strong, I endure pain, I’m a predator not prey.” The way some butterflies and frogs are colorful to advertise their poisonous properties.

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