Written by Chad Echakowitz
Movies are tricky. They make you feel things that the creators want you to feel. The bad guy is given an evil name like Scar, or Dr. Evil, so that you know they’re the bad guys. The same goes for the good guys. They usually have names like John Everyman. But, if you delve deeper into the movies you watch, you’ll find out quickly enough that things are not so black and white. Here are five movie characters who are not as good as you think.
1. Mufasa from The Lion King
Mufasa is a racist. I’m just going to put it out there, plain and simple. He creates segregation based on species, and he does so with his powers as King. Mufasa intentionally separates the hyena population by placing them in the Shadowlands so that he doesn’t have to look after them because the arbitrary system by which he delineates his kingdom excludes their home from that which he has authority over (‘Everything the light touches.’ Is a crappy way to set your jurisdiction). He is also just really mean to his subjects. In the scene where Mufasa teaches a young Simba to hunt, he makes Zazu stand on a rock and when Zazu contests, he is told to shut up and take it, because the Prince needs to learn how to kill things. That seems like a pretty big party-foul when it comes to encouraging loyalty in your subjects.
Scar is actually the good guy in this whole mess. During his brief stint as King, he allows the hyenas to come back into the Pride Lands, and his main agenda is to create equality for all. Now, I hear you saying, “Ah! But didn’t he kill his brother in cold blood just to climb the throne?” Well, yes he did, but even so, he clearly recognized the racism of his brother and so wanted to usurp his tyrannical reign. It is clear from the lyrics, “You will never go hungry again!” that his biggest policy was to feed the hungry, no mater what species. It’s not Scar’s fault that while he was King, the rains stopped and the grass didn’t grow and the herbivores moved on to more plentiful lands. If you know anything about the geology of Africa, you would know this happens annually. And if you know anything about lions, you know that male lions fight to claim leadership over their pride. Killing Mufasa was just a normal part of the Circle of Life.
2. The Pirates from The Pirates of the Caribbean
This one should be obvious. They are pirates! Pirates are notoriously known for being bad people. Being a pirate is still a crime in International Law to this day (bonus fact: committing any crime at sea makes you a pirate. Do with this information what you will). The East-Indian Trading Company weren’t great people, but they were still acting under the laws of that time. Pirates broke those laws habitually, committing actual crimes such as murder, rape, pillaging, smuggling, forgery, sailing under false colours, looting, poaching, brigandage, depravity, vandalism, arson, kidnapping, and perjury to name a few. These are all really serious crimes, and we, as movie-watchers, are supposed to just ignore this and enjoy as Jack Sparrow just romps about breaking the law. Yes, we are forced to do so because the movies are shot from the perspective of the pirates as the protagonists, but that doesn’t make what they do right or even justified.
3. Batman from Batman
This hurts me as much as it hurts you, I can promise you that. I love Batman. The Dark Knight is a piece of cinematic mastery… but that doesn’t change the fact that Batman is a bad dude, and for so many reasons.
Vigilantism is a crime. It is taking justice into your own hands without any legal authority. Even if the public agrees with the justification, it still lacks legal authority and is therefore illegal. We pay the police to protect our streets and they act within certain guidelines as dispensed by the law (even if they do it badly at times). When the police act beyond those boundaries, they can be called to account through the legal process. Batman cannot. He acts outside of the law. There is no one to stop him or call his actions to account should he decide one day to just go rogue and start killing everyone with his armoured tank or crazy airplane-thing.
Batman doesn’t kill his enemies. Rather he just drops them from buildings, or has them tied up and hanging from buildings, or breaks their bones until they are incapacitated. This is bad. Killing is obviously worse, but to leave a henchmen with a fractured skull or a twisted back means that for the foreseeable future, that henchmen is out of work. On top of that he has to undergo painful and strenuous physical rehabilitation, and will live with the severe mental instability that often comes with such injuries. By beating these criminals senseless, Batman is actually causing an increase in admissions to Gotham’s hospitals as well as increasing poverty and unemployment. Instead of just distributing his massive wealth into Gotham’s economy, increasing the opportunities for henchmen to leave a life of crime, he just exacerbates the problem and squanders his wealth on his armoured tank and crazy airplane-thing.
Essentially, Batman – or rather Bruce Wayne – is just a bored rich guy who has no regard for consequence. He falls asleep in board meetings, he commissions his staff to build him crazy machines, he does a bad job of fighting crime, and he is atrocious at hiding the fact that he is Batman. Bruce Wayne is essentially a teenager who was allowed to squander and enormous inheritance and is lashing out because he can’t accept that his parents died.
4. The Rebels from Star Wars
I’m not saying The Empire was good because they’re not. But, the rebels were awful people too. The rebels murdered without a thought. Yes, they were in a war, but they killed a lot of people. Like a lot. Just taking it from the original trilogy, we have the general murder of Storm Troopers all over the place, the murder of a Tauntaun, a Wampa, some Exogorths (the leech things inside the giant Space Worm), Darth Vader, Darth Sidious, and everyone on both Death Stars! That is a truly ridiculous amount of people to kill for a group who believe in preserving life, justice and peace.
The rebels were also really bad at their job. In A New Hope the ship gets boarded immediately and The Empire would have taken the plans back if it hadn’t been for the oversight of the gunner, who decided not to shoot down the escape pod. What follows is a series of escapes and recaptures followed by the murder of everyone on the first Death Star. This major strategic attack didn’t even end The Empire. The Empire came back and made an even bigger Death Star, which was only destroyed because of the help from the Ewoks. With the destruction of The Empire, the New Republic was born… Which was destroyed by the First Order just thirty years after the formation of the New Republic. The First Order was made from surviving Galatcic Imperialists and Imperialist sympathizers from the rebel forces. Even with the destruction of The Emperor, The Dark Side of the Force, and most of the Empire, the rebels still could not completely end the Galactic War and destroy the Empire. They were the good guys in the sense that they fought against tyranny, but they were bad at how they went about it.
5. The Spartans from 300
The film 300 is based very loosely on the battle of Thermopylae, where the Persian Empire launched a second attempt to take over the whole of Greece. Sparta, along with a bunch of other Greek city-states didn’t want this to happen so they launched an army to cover the “Hot Gates” at Thermopylae, and a navy to cover the coast of Euboea. The Alliance – as it was known – believed that this would stop the opposing Persian force from coming through into mainland Greece, and thus, stop a takeover. The Alliance was defeated at Thermopylae when they were betrayed by a Greek farmer, Ephialtes, who told the Persians about a secret mountain pass, which would allow the Persians to outflank the Grecians, and win the battle. Persia took control of Athens, as well as a few other Greek city-states.
Though the battle of Thermopylae was a Grecian tale of heroism and something truly magical to read about – seriously, I beg you to read into the rest of the history after the battle, it is amazing – the Spartans weren’t actually all that great, and the Persians were actually pretty cool people. Let’s start with the Persian Empire. This empire was founded by Cyrus the Great and was one of the largest empires in history, providing a lot to the lands it invaded, such as roads, postal and other civil services, a unified national language, and the freedom to believe in whatever religion you wished. The Persian Empire even had its own professional army, paid for by the taxes of the Empire. Xerxes I, who was the villain of the 300 movie, was actually a really cool guy. He was made King of the Persian Empire after his father’s death. But here’s where it gets crazy. Xerxes I was assisted in his ascension to the throne by a Spartan. An exiled Spartan King who was replaced by Leonidas stood by Xerxes I to help him gain the throne just a few years before the Persians fought the Spartans. Once king, Xerxes I continued the Persian Empire’s long streak of awesomeness, creating the Gate of All Nations, which is one of the wonders of the ancient world.
The Spartans, on the other hand, were a civilization which held that Oligarchies were the best form of government, and even later went to war with Athens, a democracy, over this point. The Spartans also practiced slavery, having these slaves perform the jobs such as farming and industry, which Spartans were legally prohibited from doing. The population of Sparta as such was divided in to the few Spartiates – who had full rights, but were soldiers by law and could only vote after the age of 30 – some other non-Spartans and freed slaves, and the Helots, who were slaves. The Helots were often killed to quell any signs of revolt, and it is reported that there was a mandatory number of times a Spartiate had to beat his slave per year, whether the slave deserved it or not. Sparta also fought with Greece later when it fell to in-fighting amongst many Grecian city-states. It is often held that Sparta actually helped end the Golden age of Grecian history.
It is clear here that the Spartans were not the good guys, and Persia got a seriously raw deal from that film.
The film industry may be able to make you feel things, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop thinking for yourselves. No one is just good or just bad, even in the movies. An in-depth look at many characters in films will show you that they are way more three-dimensional than you initially thought. Of course, I could just be reading way too much into these films, and you should probably just enjoy them for what they are. If that’s what you’re in to. I may just be the bad guy.