The trouble with the bad boys
Posted by LizzyBeth
I have a problem with liking “the bad boys.” My favorite characters in books and movies are not always the hero. They are the characters that “get away” with breaking the rules, even though I am particularly fond of actually following the rules (well most of the time…).
However, if I give some thought to the reasons why I like the bad boys, I actually discover that I really don’t like the bad boys. I merely like the notion of the boy/man who challenges authority but only when that authority is proven to be oppressive or tyrannical. That leaves me questioning whether that makes him the bad boy or the good guy, like Robin Hood. (People write stories trying to answer the question…go figure).
I recently watched the John Wayne classic The Searchers, which is what brought on this strange quandary of mine over the nature of the hero/bad boy. If you haven’t seen The Searchers, and you need to, let me explain a little of the context of John Wayne’s character, Ethan.
Ethan is a man of honor. He is proud, strong, and loyal. We would all agree that these are good traits, the mark of a hero. But Ethan as he claims is a man who is “only good for one oath.” That oath was made to his country…the Confederate States of America. His country was beaten, lost, and destroyed. Ethan has no one to be loyal to or show honor to. He makes himself to be a law unto himself. While all the other characters are striving for reunion, family and country, Ethan strives for vengeance and his own self satisfaction. However, Ethan is still a man whom others look to and in a way trust. In a fight, Ethan’s commands are obeyed. Everyone respects him and wishes to assist him, even when his lawless behavior lands him in trouble.
While I was watching this movie I couldn’t help but think of other characters that are like Ethan. The first one that came to mind was Captain Malcolm Reynolds from the TV series Firefly. The similarities between Mal and Ethan are staggering. Mal also fought on the losing side of a battle for independence. He is a man of honor but not necessarily to any code that most people live by. He is strong and proud but earns the respect of his crew through acts of valor and justice (even if it’s his own sort of justice). But these are the things that make him likable. Mal does have honor and valor. He does have a code which he lives by that protects those under his care and dishes out “bad” things to the “bad” guys. But he is no Captain America.
Mal’s morals and code are rather subjective. Yet I’d argue that like Ethan they are subjective only at first glance. Mal is consistant in his defense and in how he helps and who he helps. In the “Train Job” Mal discovers that his crew has stolen much needed medical supplies. Mal’s response is to return the goods, no question. It is the right thing to do…even if it puts him and his team in jeopardy. He has no respect for Innara’s career as companion but he fights a duel with a man who called her a whore. His codes of justice extend to the people who are around him and who immediately affect him.
Both Ethan and Mal, if they weren’t the hero’s of their stories, in their moral context would no undoubtedly be considered bad boys. Mal particularly, since he’s a thief. But they are bad boys with honor.
We aren’t thieves; well we are thieves but we aren’t taking what isn’t ours. -Mal “Train Job”
About LizzyBethThere is a Story inside of me that I must give a voice. I write so that imagination can take me to Faerie and I can catch a glimpse of the Otherworld and hopefully so will you.
Posted on September 7, 2012, in Heroes, Humor, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Movie Reviews, Rachel Burkholder and tagged Bad boys, firefly, heroes, John Wayne, Mal Reynolds, The Searchers. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.