A Thought Piece on the Blurred Line of Good and Evil in Media Today.
Ciel Phantomhive said: (Kuroshitsuji)
After all, justice in this world is just a bunch of principles, made by those with power to suit themselves.
We all grew up being thought a certain semblance of principles and morals, a code of ethics to follow to know what is right or wrong. We all know what a hero is and what a villain is, we are told that heroes are good and to be one, to fight the villains and that crime doesn’t pay. But tell me; haven’t we all once or twice rooted for the bad-guy? Thought that the villain looked cooler than the hero or wished to just have that freedom to do what we want and get what we want? I know I have, plenty of times (Heck, I even have my villain name picked out if I ever get super powers).
Anime, mangas, TV shows and books have been playing to that little bit of evil in all of us for a long time. They like to blur the lines between good and evil, letting us root for the anti-hero or the hero who tap dances on that thin line and often steps on the wrong side. Usually the more often he or she does, the more we love them.
When we think of a true blue “hero” we think the likes of Superman, one who protects the innocent and never kills the bad guys. We like him well enough as that, but we loved him when we got to see his darker side. We have the “Anti-heroes” where a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, and morality and is what we feel is more ‘human’. A true believer of the ends justifies the means. We also have the “vigilantes”, a type of hero that bends or breaks rules and often associated with violence and a grittier, darker backstory. We got our Punisher’s and Batman’s there.
Now what I began to wonder is exactly how much ‘evil’ can a good guy do before they are considered bad guys? And how much ‘good’ does a bad guy need to do to be considered reformed?
In Ushiro and Tora, a young boy talks to an old man, then gets a yellow and black electric creature that often hangs out on his shoulder, they go on many adventures together. Sound familiar? It’s not Pokemon, but still funny to describe it that way. The boy is named Ushio Aotsuki, and the old man is his grandpa, a priest at an old shrine that seems to just squabble and fight the main character (later developments in the story show you how important he actually is) for a bit of comedy in the story. The young boy stumbles upon a hidden basement and a magical spear holding an evil and powerful demon sealed in place (like the arrow holding Inuyasha). The finding of the demon releases a ton of evil in the neighborhood and sets the wheel of fate in motion. The MC begrudgingly releases the sealed demon and works together with it to slay the new threat. As the story progresses, you can enjoy the comedy routine between the MC and the Tiger like demon Tora, a bit of a love story and lots of action. I read this series many years ago, and am surprised it’s gotten another anime since it had several OVAs before, and even now I enjoy watching the story unfold all over again.
Now the reason I brought the story up is because Tora is an evil demon who wants to devour humanity (there is more to his story and his connection to the magic spear but I’ll avoid spoiler for now…) and of course start by eating the MC. As the episode’s/story progresses you see Ushiro being a model hero and have a positive influence on Tora. Tora performs good deeds and even develops human qualities but is still a demon. It makes one wonder how much does he need to do to be considered a good demon? And would just one bad act completely undo all that work?
Then there is the other end of the spectrum, how much evil can a good guy do in the name of justice. After all they often say history is written by the victor, it means that once you win even if you were wrong, you get to say you were right. There is this one amazing light novel, a xianxia (a genre like the crouching tiger movies or the like) by the name of Martial God Asura. It follows a boy named Chu Feng who was blessed with a ‘divine body’. Sadly this body took a while to develop and the boy was thought of as thrash and weak, often picked on and beaten up. Now usually in a story when that happens to a MC he ends up being a hardcore hero, one who protects against bullies and helps others, to prevent others from suffering his fate but Chu Feng was different.
He didn’t go all noble once he got stronger, he went for revenge. He acquired dominance over his oppressors and then vowed to never be looked down upon again. As you read through the story you see him being a hero by protecting his family, defending innocent girls from being raped, and standing up for his school and protecting his family’s territory. He lives a life full of good intent, and from that description you can see why he is the MC and a good guy. Now the issue comes from what he does in order to achieve this. In order to save the innocent girls he beats down the guys who grabbed them, crippling several and then once he works his way to the mastermind he cripples that guy and castrates him. In order to defend his school’s honor he chops the ass off of one guy and crushes another into meat paste. Oh and to defend his family and their territory, he goes around and decapitates every attacker, puts their heads on spikes and then has other clans who decide to side with him prove their loyalty by killing the rest of the usurpers. It is a bit much for a “good guy” to do; especially when to save/claim the girls he loves he decides to con a nearby school to attack the family of the girls’ fiancé. He then orders them to kill every member of that family, which includes the old, the young and even the pets running around. Yeah, that kind of hits evil doesn’t it? Though those he killed were worse than he was and have done things equally or worse, does that justify any of what the MC did? Is it still easy to classify him as good or evil?
This next part has a bit of spoiler to it~
The line is also blurred in the series Assassination Classroom.
In the series (which is both an anime and a manga and even has a live action movie!)
students are being trained to be assassins in order to kill their teacher, a strange looking monster. That very creature is helping them train their techniques while teaching them like a regular school teacher and helping them out in their personal lives. It is hard to say who is the good guy and who is the bad guy in this, you have killer kids, trained assassins, corrupt principal, bullying students, crazy government and mad scientist experiments. You find out this crazy creature teacher is the result of a secret govt experiment on the world’s most dangerous criminal/killer which resulted in him gaining superpowers that will destroy the world in about a years’ time, thus he is training kids to kill him. Yeah that makes total sense, way to mess with our minds. It’s one kick butt series and I so want to see that movie, in case any of you guys find it before I do.
Another recent example of the blurred lines is the new Lucifer TV series.
It was recently “leaked” if you believe that, I can imagine the source of the leak even claiming the Devil made him do it. Now in the series Lucifer Morningstar (the Devil while on Earth) is taking a vacation from Hell and enjoying life on our plane. You get to see him convince people to speak out their true desires and generally hitting on every girl out there. The powers that be seem to want him back in his hidey-hole down below, seems to be related to a sense of balance in the universe, but he is enjoying himself. After a crime is committed that affects someone he was close to, he embarks on a kind of revenge/punishment kick. He teams up with a beautiful lady cop (Lauren German) who has her own issues within the department and with her ex. They solve a case together and will be side by side through the series deploying their own unique skill set to help each other. Kind of like the TV series Castle, but with the Devil stead of a writer. Other characters include an Angel and a Lilin (google it) and the like, a tie in to the Sandman series where this Lucifer originated from might even occur since there is a Sandman movie in the works. Now the main thing I want to bring up is how much ‘good’ will the Devil himself have to do in order to be the good guy? Also will his accent to goodness create a sort of power vacuum or other negative repercussions?
I would love to hear your opinions on what makes one good or evil, and when it’s too far across the line to turn back.