Moral Ambiguity

Leroy and I enjoy TV binge watching.  The obsession started in the fall of 2012.  I was pouting about Leroy being away so much for football.  I decided to try binge watching a television program as a distraction.  I chose Breaking Bad because it had been previously recommended to me and I had read a lot about the show due to the timing of the series finale.  It didn't take long before I was hooked.  And hooked is a loose term, addiction was more like it.  I found myself easily immersed in the story similar to the experience of a really good book.  I finished the series myself, but told Leroy about the story so he started in January of 2013... and I watched it all over again with him.  Since then we've watched a few others: House of Cards, Sons of Anarchy, Peaky Blinders and Mad Men.  There is one common thread in all of these stories; moral ambiguity. Why do we keep rooting for the "bad" guy?

We know with our heads that a good intention does not excuse a bad act... but time and time again (episode after episode) that's exactly what happens.  These characters commit atrocities and yet we justify it in our minds because we know the intention behind it.   We forgive them, we justify them and then we eagerly anticipate the next episode to see what will happen next.  And guess what?  The same thing happens all over again.  Everyone would agree that cooking methamphetamine is a bad act, but when you do it to provide for your family because you're dying from cancer... Well... maybe it's not so bad considering the circumstances.

I think we are attracted to this style of story telling because we can understand the emotion.  We all know what it's like to struggle with moral decision-making and we've all failed miserably at one point or another in some area of our life.  For some, it is a daily struggle. I think we root for the bad guy, because we want someone rooting for us when we commit a bad act with a good intention.  We want to justify our actions, and we want others to excuse our bad behavior because "we had a good reason."

Ugh... Now I'm rethinking my choice of entertainment.  I'd like to tell you that I'm going to avoid these kinds of shows from now on, but that would be a lie.  I probably won't.  I find them fascinating... and they make me think. They make me see the gray area of choices when I prefer a black and white world.  Well, I prefer black and white for those around me, and gray for myself.  (Oh, that is an uncomfortable confession.)  Maybe... Just maybe... I won't judge another's actions because I don't know all of the reasons or circumstances behind their choice...?  I would want them to do the same for me!

OpinionKelli RochaComment