The recent release of the movie Skyfall has excited millions of viewers with the return of their favourite action hero. But just why is James Bond so popular? It’s because he’s a rebel. He does what he wants and only what he wants. He opposes authority, lies through his teeth and is not afraid to kill a couple of people along the way. In short, James Bond is the archetype of unethical behaviour, and yet we still idolize him. From our entertainment to our memories, immoral behaviour is what catches our attention and what we choose to indulge in.
I believe that we, as humans, are paradoxically drawn to those very actions we seek most to discourage; we are attracted to immoral behaviours. The entertainment district is a smart one. They know what characteristics capture the attention of viewers and which ones don’t. That is why we can see a clear pattern in our movies. Some blockbusters of 2012 include: The Hunger Games, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall and the Avengers. All four feature “against the grain” heroes, all four features violence and all four are not completely ethically sound.
The fact that viewers are crazed about these kinds of movies speaks to something about our own morals. In our quest for good morals, we are somehow more attracted to immoral actions than moral ones. Something my friend said to me with the release of Black Swan sums up this point nicely, “I wanted to see Black Swan because it sounded badass, then I heard about the lesbian scene and now I HAVE to see it. ” It is these “badass” movies that capture the most viewers, earn the highest rating and excite the most people. The more unprincipled behaviour, the more we lust for it.
We, as viewers, do not want the stereotypical good guy because we do not connect with them. We are more drawn to protagonists who are less principled because they excite and entertain us. This clearly tells me that humans are inadvertently drawn to exactly what we forbid our children to do. Our addiction to unethical behaviour is not only evident in our movies, but in our everyday lives as well. We are all attracted to the forbidden, and so we are attracted to immoral behaviour because society has “forbidden” it. I’ve realized the full extent of this while playing with my brother.
When my mother tells my brother not to eat paper, he will run up to the paper as fast as he can when her back is turned. This strange attraction to what we can’t have is the key to our fondness of unethical behaviour. My brother wants to eat paper because “mommy says no” and so he will deny authority in order to get what he wants. This is true for humans of all age groups. We like to lie, cheat, break the rules because it is not allowed; it is forbidden to us. We are as attracted to unethical behaviour as my brother to his paper, even though, or perhaps because, we know it’s wrong.
In addition, exceptionally heroic actions just don’t stick in our memories as much as extraordinarily immoral ones. Osama bin Laden’s supposed actions on 9/11 was the subject of people’s discussions for a lot longer than Bill Gate’s generous donation to charity. This horrible terrorist attack is what we, as humans, are interested in instead of Gate’s philanthropistic act. Our attraction plays a factor into this as we relish the thoughts of immoral actions as opposed to moral ones. My family is another prime example.
When family friends come over, my dad loves to recount my childhood misadventures to our guests. All the times I was caught in my lies, caught cheating and so forth. For whatever reason, he doesn’t (or won’t) remember all the times I stay up late studying or cleaning up the house. My unethical actions are what my dad remembers, not my unusually kind ones. The memory of the Sandy Hook shooting will no doubt linger in people’s memories for a lot longer than the dog that dragged his companion out of oncoming traffic.
Everyone’s memories experience this magnetism for unethical behaviour because we are more interested in them. We recall them much more often than those honourable memories because they are what excite us no matter what good morals we may have. As my mind, and the minds of people around me, get more and more polluted with immoral memories, I can deduce that humans are drawn to these unscrupulous actions. Through my observations, we are, and will always be, attracted to unethical behaviour.
From our excitement at watching someone kill another in a five star movie or talking about that robbery that happened last year, we will always surround ourselves with unprincipled behaviour. As we struggle to do the right thing in our everyday actions, immoral ones will haunt us. So though I don’t know why, I can see from the world around me that this paradoxical relationship between the two sides of ethics does exist. But if we continue to seek for order and principle in our society, I believe that we will not be overcome by our addiction.