question of the weekend: Why is evil attractive and good boring?
Vampires are hot. So are gangsta rappers. Actors often say that villains are more fun to portray… and from the audience’s perspective, villains are often more fun to watch than heroes. Even our slang glorifies evil: “Bad” and “wicked,” in some contexts, actually mean “good” and “cool.”
Terry Eagleton at Tikkun (via Alternet) explores some ideas about why this may be so, even though in our culture once, long ago, it was the other way around:
Whatever happened, then, to this ancient notion of goodness as exciting, energetic, and exhilarating, and evil as empty, boring, and banal? Why do people now see things the other way round? One answer, at least in the West, is the gradual rise of the middle classes. As the middle classes came to exert their clammy grip on Western civilization, there was a gradual redefinition of virtue. Virtue now came to mean not energy and exuberance but prudence, thrift, meekness, chastity, temperance, long-headedness, industriousness, and so on. No wonder people prefer vampires. These may be admirable virtues, but they are not exactly exciting ones; and one effect of them is to make evil seem, by contrast, a lot more attractive, which is exactly what happened. Virtue had now become essentially negative. It was closely bound up with middle-class respectability. It had lost its sexiness and become restrictive rather than enabling. As Auden remarked of the Ten Commandments, there’s no particular point in observing human nature and simply inserting a “not.” We were now moving toward that perversion of moral thought (identified above all with the greatest of all modern philosophers, Immanuel Kant) for which virtue was all about duty, obligation, and responsibility, rather than in the first place a matter of finding out how to live fully, how to enjoy ourselves.
Eagleton goes on in a lot more philosophical and literate depth about the question, but it boils down to this:
Why is evil attractive and good boring?
What do you think?
(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)
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