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Message from Hollywood: Public Responds to Clear-Cut Conflicts of Good vs. Evil

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The phenomenal success of the new STAR WARS movie, THE FORCE AWAKENS, highlights an awakening force among the American people: a hunger for stirring stories of good vs. evil. Two Oscar front-runners advanced similar themes: THE REVENANT and SPOTLIGHT focus on good people defying the odds to fight corruption and betrayal. AMERICAN SNIPER, the top money-maker of 2014, also focused on a noble hero–real life sharpshooter Chris Kyle, who faced down terrorist enemies of his country and comrades.

Meanwhile, there’s scant market for muddled movies without admirable protagonists that show life as dark and pointless, like last year’s Oscar favorite BIRDMAN; it earned less money at the box office than any other Best Picture winner in history. Politicians should take note: Americans respond well to narratives with recognizable heroes and villains, engaged in righteous struggle, but we respond not at all to moral confusion and to bleak, hopeless views of humanity.

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  1. Megan Watkins  •  Jan 18, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Hollywood should have gotten this message long, long ago. I remember the phenomenon that the first Star Wars movie was,nearly 40 years ago, with audiences cheering when Luke made the impossible shot that blew up the first Death Star. Back as far at the 70s Americans were tired of movies with no obvious good guy or bad guy. We long for clear cut values and crave the joy of seeing the good guys win. I don’t know why more movies aren’t made this way.

  2. John E. Cox  •  Jan 27, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    Yeah, I understand there was this show that HBO came out with couple years back, that featured morally ambiguous characters and a nuanced, non-Manichean view of politics and human life. It got cancelled. "Game of Thrones," I think it was called. And that "True Detective," Season One got no notice, either.

  3. Jay Pole  •  Feb 15, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    That's because the average American tends to be childish. Preferring to comprehend the world in simplistic terms of good and evil is characteristic of pre=adolescent children (think Batman and Superman) which we are supposed to grow out of as we come to realize the world really is a complicated, and often muddled place. The inability to understand this is exactly why people like Trump are so popular.

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