Cinematic Convolutions: A Watchman’s Morality

CC Wikipedia 2015

Quick Post on how to show what’s right or wrong in a movie.


In today’s movies, we’ve seen the rise of something called, “baby morality.” I can’t for the life of me remember where I first heard this term or where I got it from, but it essentially is the state of morality of movies today.

It is the belief that movies today have cut and clear morality. Almost every movie has black and white ethics and beliefs, there are good guys and there are bad guys. The audience has only one side to choose from, because of course to do otherwise would be “immoral.” This makes for easier characterization, but it is it better storytelling? Of course not.

Case in point, the movie, “God Is Not Dead” from the title alone, baby morality is evident. It is a movie about this one Christian’s actions to prove and “stick it to those nasty atheists”. And stick it, he does. Every atheist in the film is portrayed as hateful, vindictive, and petty, its obvious who this movie is for and against.

But let’s contrast that with Alan Moore’s, “Watchmen”. Watchmen, as a visual novel, was a gripping and gritty masterpiece. (As a movie it was a sub par retelling but I digress.) It ¬†told the story of “superheroes” forced to deal with a real world left out of conventional comic books. It deconstructed the modern day of heroes and it spat it back out on its face with its butt in the air. But its most renowned for how it did its morality, but not choosing a side at all. Every main character represented a different idea of morality, and their actions correlated with their beliefs. The visual novel itself made no claim to which character was right or wrong, merely that they did what they did. It left the audience to battle with itself over who was really right or wrong, to choose from conflicting ideologies and beliefs.

This is why I hold Watchmen in such high regard, it made me think. It forced me to consider my own morality and my own ideas against its. It made me agree and then disagree. The conflict on the page and on the screen found its way into my head and eventually into my heart as I learned that sometimes doing what is moral is not necessarily right and vice versa.

So, any filmmakers out there, when you want to show morality, don’t do what “God Is Not Dead” did, don’t be just propaganda, instead make your audience fight. Challenge them. Make them question what they believe. But above all, don’t baby them.

(And if you haven’t read Watchmen, you need to. Its my favorite book.)


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