Am I the Bad Guy?

Michael DouglasI’ve always been more fascinated with “Why- Dunnits” than “Who-Dunnits.”  Who cares who did it, if there is no explanation for it other than universal greed, lust, or revenge?  (Well, obviously most people do care, but leave me out of it if that’s all there is, my friend.  Lots of people eat at McDonalds too, hooked on those ammonia-washed patties guaranteed to give them the same delicious hit ad nauseam.)  To me, the best books and movies lead you into new revelations, new viewpoints.  They can be uncomfortable, but that’s the price for originality and insight.  To really understand why people do what they do, you have to place yourself in their shoes, or at least hold up those shoes for inspection.  It is also the only way to know what they might do next, and how to prevent more tragedies.  In the Michael Douglas movie FALLING DOWN the main character is taken to the breaking point by society’s many self perpetuating deceptions.  The character serves as a mirror for this as he abandons his gridlocked car and makes his way “home” on foot across the city, collecting a bag of guns from a street gang he encounters.  The “home” or safe place he seeks is gone now too, along with his job.  He wife has left him, and it’s as though he’s seeing the world as it really is for the first time–shallow and estranged from meaning, purpose, or real connection.  Toward the end, when he’s trying to talk to his wife and child on a pier, (and a police detective is about to draw on him), he asks, “Am I the bad guy?”  He just wants things to be real, and for “real” to be normal again.  He doesn’t want to hurt anybody. He wants the world to change, and it refuses to do so.  As he’s shot and falls into the ocean, we see that the gun in his pocket isn’t real.  Now that’s a movie, and which, in my opinion, is more worthy to exist than all of the serial killer, zombie, and psycho flicks Hollywood churns out combined.  Another Michael Douglas movie I love is THE GAME, in which the main character is forced to face his self-centered emptiness by the brother who loves him.  Both films are not boring in the least.  Can this be done on television?  Certainly.  A stand-alone episode of Battlestar Galactica titled RAZOR rises above the rest by forcing the viewer to confront the choice of killing a few innocents in order to save the lives of many.  It was nominated for an SF Hugo Award, I’ve just now learned, for Best Dramatic Presentation.  The commentary on the DVD doesn’t mention the viewpoint character Stephanie Jacobsen much, and indeed the IMDb listing for the film doesn’t even list her.  But hers is the focus of the choice to be made: “Am I the bad guy?”  She has killed innocents, after all, to save others.  She has become the “razor” in order to survive, and so that mankind can survive as well.  But in the end she sacrifices herself in penance for her choices.



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