I posted an earlier comment or two on the fallacy that suggests that the world is just. Yesterday I received a feed from You Are Not So Smart: A Celebration of Self-Delusion dealing with just this subject. The clear message (again) is that good does not always triumph and bad guys are likely to go unpunished. As a followup to the essay, there was a list of related sites and one presented a list of movies where the bad guy won-out in the end: evil triumphed over good.
The list was far from complete and included at least one film that might be disqualified since it was in the middle of a multi-film cycle and there was one more movie remaining in which good could come off the ropes and defeat evil. Here is the list:
- The Usual Suspects
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
- Rosemary’s Baby
- Arlington Road
- Primal Fear
- The Empire Strikes Back
There are plenty of alternate selections in the comments to this list but I just want to add The Alamo and Fair Game for two obvious omissions. Another film to consider is Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke: the naughty stoners smuggling marijuana into Los Angeles inadvertantly escape the honorable law enforcement officers led by Stacy Keach. Evil trumps good?
But the real topic here is literature: does it seem that there are more instances of evil triumphing over good in literature or less? Perhaps it’s a compromise since it is more common for an author to explore the ideas of good versus evil and the final outcome may be ambiguous, swathed in philosophy and tied together with rhetoric.
I’ll have to think about a list of books where evil clearly triumphs over good. Any ideas? I think I’ll grow a list:
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’a Nest: If the movie counts, shouldn’t the book too? Actually, although McMurphy loses in the end, isn’t the story really about “Chief” Bromden, who triumphs over Nurse Ratched by escaping?
- Moby Dick: This is a tough call and depends a lot on a reader’s interpretation and relationship with the symbolism (Ahab bad … white whale good? or does Destiny and Pig-Headedness trump good and evil?)
- The Red Badge of Courage: Depends on where you were born? Besides, is this really about the War of Northern Aggression?
- American Psycho: Did you really think that Patrick Bateman actually performed all those heinous acts? Deep and dark and bitingly satirical, I always saw this one as a response to the greed and corruption of the Reagan era.
- Ethan Frome: And for what reason did the tree god rise up against Ethan? This does make me think about all those tragedies, especially classical tragedies, where the evil is showing up the gods, like wearing purple or spiking the ball (where’s Prometheus when you need him?): again, good and evil are somewhat fuzzy, depending on which gods you chose to honor.