Posts Tagged ‘Morality’

Mad Men and Morality

Mad Men’s recently wrapped-up fifth season was possibly its best season yet, and at least its best since season two. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the most ambitious season thus far because it dealt most directly with morality—and was the least preoccupied with subject of happiness.

Most of the time, Mad Men is all about happiness: Is happiness an illusion? Is it ever sustainable? Are the things that make people happy the same? Etc. This can be compelling, but it tends to get self-indulgent and repetitive quickly.

What made Season Five so different, though, was that it took as its starting point the idea that Don Draper, the perpetually self-loathing protagonist, was actually happy. He was finally in a happy marriage; he had a cordial relationship with his ex-wife and he was getting along with his kids; his company was relatively safe, and his relationships with most of his co-workers were good. This was so jarring to some viewers that they seemed intent to find problems where none existed. Every fight with he had with Megan supposedly hinted at the faulty foundation of the marriage—even if the fight was minor and they made up afterwards. People seemed completely unwilling to accept the idea that Don could be happily married and generally content; it was so unlike the Don we were used to. Continue reading

The End of Football?

“I’m fine…”

Back in 2009, fellow NPIer Josh asked, “What Common Human Behavior Will be Viewed as Mistaken in 100 Years?” He used that question to talk about vegetarianism, but the question popped into my head recently regarding football. It is starting to seem inevitable to me that football—a sport everyone here at NPI loves—will be seen as barbaric and immoral in a generation or two. The more science exposes about the long-term effects of concussions and subconcussive impacts, the more it seems that there is simply no safe way to play football.

Right now, however, football’s popularity seems invulnerable. The highest rated show on TV last year was Sunday Night Football; it was so highly rated that it, combined with the Super Bowl, kept NBC—NBC!—from finishing last among the four major networks this season. This year’s BCS National Championship was watched by 24.2 million viewers, and that was the lowest rated championship of the BCS era. In a recent piece on football’s popularity for Grantland, Chuck Klosterman pointed out that 25 million people watched the NFL Draft, “a statistic that grows crazier the longer you dwell upon its magnitude.” And, if anything, the football’s popularity seems poised to grow as an influx of popular young stars like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Tim Tebow enters the league.

In other words, football’s decline seems both inevitable and impossible. Continue reading

Penn State, Child Abuse, and Moral Standards

“What’s the fascination with this story?” The question was asked to no one in particular, just the whole room, really. It wasn’t asked in any pointed way, but just out of sincere curiosity. “It’s about football, right?”

I got the sense that most of the people in the room were not big sports fans. Of course, it wasn’t just about football. It was about football at Penn State, which was, as someone else in the room tried to explain, a well-respected institution, known for its “Grand Experiment” of emphasizing a higher ethical standard.

“Like the Catholic church?” he deadpanned, to general laughter.

“But wait,” someone else said, “isn’t Penn State like a huge party school?” It can’t really be about moral hypocrisy, or high standards, or even child abuse. We brush away stories about child abuse all the time. Really, it must be about football.

I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t sure what exactly I disagreed with. Penn State was a party school; we had seen this all before with the Catholic Church; even the culture of cover-ups at athletic departments was old news.

But at least one thing seemed wrong to me: It’s not about football. Continue reading

Breaking Bad: Season Four Review

The Gang of Four

“It’s super important to me that people stay interested in Walt. It’s not quite as important to me that people continue to root for him” —Vince Gilligan

When did Walter White become a “bad guy”? If the pilot is to be believed, then he originally “broke bad” when he first decided to start selling crystal meth. But that probably doesn’t hold true for most viewers—he had just learned he was dying and his motives were noble, so we were all rooting for him.

Walt’s first murder was self-defense, and even his second was only done to protect himself and his family—he was in anguish when he realized that he couldn’t let Krazy-8 go. So most of the audience would probably forgive him for that, too. There are similar extenuating circumstances for most of Walt’s early sins—his lies to his family and the deaths he caused. For a very long time, it was easy to make excuses for Walt’s behavior. Continue reading

The Drawing Board: Abortion

Oh, great. Another MAN weighing in on abortion. Well, ladies, if you don’t like it, exercise your “right to choose” to not read it. But as it turns out, this man has the answer. And no, it’s not one of those stupid joke answers like “dude we shouldn’t make abortion legal, we should make it mandatory hahahaha!” That’s dumb, the population would run out. What I will offer instead are a few points of clarification from the legal and moral perspectives, points that will cause you not to reconsider your stance on abortion, but rather to reconsider whether abortion is even a real issue. Sounds interesting, huh? Remember this whole thing is a joke though.

First, let’s evaluate the claim that a fetus has a right to life. Ridiculous. But let’s grant for a second that the fetus is a human being, which, come on, that’s like saying a baby chicken is the same as a real chicken. Regardless, let’s give them that and consider the right to life from a legal perspective. Now, abortion isn’t a pleasant issue, and this could get ugly, so you might not be well suited to this if you have a weak constitution (looking at you, France!). That was a funny joke, huh? But it also segues into me talking about the actual United States Constitution. In one part it says, no kidding: Continue reading

The Most You Ever Lost on a Coin Toss: The Sense in Senseless Violence

harvey

“The only morality in a cruel world is chance. Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.”

—Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

 

 

 

Anton

Carla Jean: The coin don’t have no say. It’s just you.

Anton Chigurh: Well, I got here the same way the coin did.

No Country For Old Men

 

 

 

 

There has been a rash of coin-flipping killers in the movies recently—well, only two, but they are from two of the most important and memorable movies of the last decade.

Both titles are in IMDb’s ranking of the top 50 titles of this decade, with The Dark Knight in the top spot—granted the list is severely flawed (Up is No. 2 and Gran Torino is actually on the list), but it is a clear indication that these films had resonance.

The cultural importance of DK and NC is heightened even more when we consider the vacuum in culturally important movies over the last five years. On IMDb, which tends to be incredibly present-biased, most of this decade’s top films come from its first half. Even among the more recent ones, three are Pixar and six are foreign (not that these facts make the films bad or insignificant, just not the types of pictures that resonate with the culture at large), and I don’t think Star Trek or The Hangover will last long on the list. Continue reading