Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Morality in Media

I know that some people might think that, that statement is an oxymoron, but bear with me for a moment... you see, in certain types of media (mostly movies) if someone has to die, it is usually a character that has done something "worthy of punishment." The best example of this is in horror movies where attractive young heroines who have had premarital sex are killed off in gruesome ways, yet the virginal heroine, the one who abstains from drinking and debauchery, is usually the one who lives through the end.

This type of thing actually doesn't bother me so much. I have a strange quirk when it comes to reading... if I find the main character morally reprehensible, I cannot like them, and am significantly less interested in the story. A good example of this was Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. Once there was prostitution, and incest, then I was far less interested. The interesting thing is that there are only a few "sins" that bother me like this: if the person bases a relationship on a lie, cheats, or is tempted to cheat (Anna Karenina makes me crazy. She seems stupid and selfish), or generally does other "bad person" things.

This is not to say that I cannot enjoy a book where the main character is not admirable. For instance, I really enjoy the Flashman Chronicles, where the main character, Sir Harry Paget Flashman, is an out-and-out rounder, yet he knows it, admits it, and you aren't supposed to really like him.

This brings me to the novel that I have read most recently, Bel Canto (WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD). I really enjoyed it, the writing was lyrical, the topic interesting, the characters were people I could identify with, all in all, a really great experience. Until the last three pages. I knew from the beginning that it would not end well. Hostage situations never do, but there were two deaths in particular that made me really think.

1) Carmen: Ok, so she was a terrorist, and had to die, but of the pairing (her and Gen) it was clear that one of them would have to bite it, as no one can live "happily ever after" in these type of stories. She was the one breaking a taboo, sleeping with the hostage, in a way betraying her cause, so she drew the short straw. Also, terrorist.

2) Mr. Hosokawa: again, clearly at least one hostage had to die, because in almost all hostage situations there is some collateral damage. And the person had to be someone we cared about (so either Gen, who is already disqualified, because that would have been too romantic, the priest, Ruben Inglesias, Roxanne Cross, or Mr. Hosokawa), and again, the no "happy endings" rule comes into effect, so it is narrowed down to Roxanne or Mr. Hosokawa. Roxanne, a single, female singer is having pre-martial sex, but Mr. Hosokawa is a married man, having extra-marital sex. Extra-marital trumps pre-marital, so he has to die.

As for the marriage between Gen and Roxanne? Ew. That creeps me out a bit.

Update: My mother, who is brilliant, suggested that the book is written in the style of an opera. Now the overwrought emotion, tragic, foreseeable ending, and absurd romance make sense. It retroactively makes me like the book more.


harley said...

"Creeps you out"? What about the poetry of two people finding solace in the only other person who can truly understand their pain? Damn, that book made me cry like a church on Monday.

Annie said...

Harley- Really? Finding solace is one thing, marrying them is quite another. They will always have the spectre of their dead lovers hanging over the marriage, and I find that creepy. There can never be a marriage just between the two of them, it will always be a marriage of 4.

harley said...

Yeah, but maybe they want it that way. Marrying each other is a way to always keep the others alive, if only by proxy and proximity.

The Pedant said...

I thought we were supposed to find Ms. Karenina irritating and irrational. We're supposed to love Levin and his storybook romance with Kitty Scherbatsky.