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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

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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  • Rafael

    Religion , specifically The Bible is never a killjoyor santi sex.

    Lust, homosexuality and premarital se aren’t classified as sin in the Bible,

    Also rebellion against good, is no good.
    Rebelling with an attitude to bad things is also hypocritcal.

  • iamguy991 .

    Women like evil guys because evil guys are reckless, assertive, know what they want and will do whatever it takes to get it…Women say that’s a good thing as long as the guy is good to the woman, but the reality is most women haven’t had to do a damn thing throughout history. Sure, they have been abused by man and have to go through rearing children, etc. But women look for men who can do all the work so women don’t have to lift a goddam finger…nice and comfortable. Who cares about how a sick individual treats anyone else, as long as he provides her with food, shelter, babies, and some excitement at the expense of others.

    Please note that I do not believe all women are like that. I also think most men are deplorable in a different way…But when it comes to women, get to f**kin’ work and stop complaining about how good honest men don’t satisfy your stupid fantasies and provide you with a vacation style life.

  • Shaun Spensley

    seriously heroes are better.. like propper heroes. like martin luther king.

  • Luke Murphy

    People just think you can do more with bad-guys than you can with Good-Guys.

    Because with bad-guys you can be more immodest and showy. Which I personally think it’s cooler to do good-characters because you are not forced to see them as rotten on the inside

  • ysfzlfi

    to me , its because good and bad is a social construct. those who obey it gets rewarded , and those are against it are usually outcasted. those who dare challenge or rebel , disobeys the law and social construct , making them appear more brave and valuable. its increases their personal power, hence power = attractiveness. My theory :-)

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