Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Everything I know about the difference between good guys and bad guys I learned from my childhood adoration of professional wrestling.  Here's the difference:  good guys are only good guys because they don't get caught cheating.  Bad guys are bad guys from the start and don't hide the fact.  That's why I always cheered for the villains.  At least, they were honest.  Nothing bothered me more than a face pretending to be a hero and getting away with it.  Plus, the heels always made for the better characters.  Think about it, who was more entertaining to watch?  Nikolai Volkoff singing the Soviet national anthem and the Iron Sheik spitting at America, or Ricky Steamboat doing whatever it was he did?  And what did he do?  Look pretty?  I can't remember.  The bad guys left an impression.  And remember, bad guys are always bad.  They never hide it.  Good guys who do bad things are fucking scumbags.  For argument's sake, let's ignore those of us who are lawful neutral and in-between.

The same principle can be applied to real life.  An ideal husband is a worthless piece of shit once he starts cheating.  Doesn't matter how wonderful he appears to be beforehand.  And that's all it would've been.  A façade.  You don't cheat if you're good.  I don't want excuses.  You don't do it.  Period.  End of discussion.  A police officer oversteps his authority?  A criminal.  A ballplayer cheats to win?  Doesn't deserve the rewards.  Politician lies?  Shouldn't get the votes or hold office.

But, the line gets blurred when it comes to soldiers, doesn't it?  That's what I learned from watching American Sniper last night.  Clint Eastwood's film is excellent.  Not as artsy as The Hurt Locker but more engaging.  Bradley Cooper earns his Oscar nomination with his portrayal of military legend Chris Kyle caught between his duty and his moral obligation.  Soldiers do bad things but they're not fucking bad guys.  They're heroes.  Those who send warriors into battle are the real villains.  And, I think this goes for both sides.  Sure, the film inaccurately portrays all Muslims as Islamic militants.  But, a careful analysis reveals that we're only seeing their world through a limited-omniscient narration.  We only know what the soldier knows.  What he's taught.  What he learns.  This even applies to his relationship with his wife.  All Kyle hears is … you need to come home, we're your family, I can't take this anymore … so that's all we hear.  There's no depth to his wife's character.  That's not stereotyping, that's storytelling.  We only know the world through our protagonist.  If that's what Kyle believes, we can't be mad at the movie.  Only at the system that created him.

On a side note, the real life Chris Kyle had a rather public dispute with my all-time favorite wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura.  Here's a quick synopsis:  Kyle claimed he punched Ventura in the face for badmouthing Navy Seals.  Ventura denied the accusation.  He was a Seal during the Vietnam War, after all.  Seems ridiculous, right?  Ventura sued Kyle for defamation and won.  Kyle's widow (Kyle was murdered a couple of years ago) is appealing the ruling.  Ventura wants more money now because he believes the controversy (pronounced Jimmy Fallon's way, of course) was used to publicize Kyle's book and subsequent blockbuster movie.  Make sense?

I find the whole case disheartening.  Another tragic twist in another impossible situation.  Kyle serves four tours in the Iraq War only to be killed by a crazed veteran.  What are the chances?  I wish more effort and financial resources were directed to help embattled soldiers.  Too many ruined lives are forgotten.  That's your ugly.

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