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All story actors are HOGAB union members

How many of the stories we love would survive without the good-bad drama?

How many stories would disappear without the bad guys and the victims (otherwise known as good guys)? Fairy tales, novels, TV series, and movies...how many would never be created or, even if created, hobble along with no guts inside without the dramatizations of good and bad, right and wrong, shoulds and should nots? 

Benign shows with no stand-out good/bad characters would become insipid without righteousness

Relatively benign TV shows like Friends and Ally McBeal, whose various protagonists rarely take the role of a real bad guy or a super good guy, would bore us to tears without their buffet of mini-righteous vignettes. Our attention is maintained because each of the actors plays the role of a mini-bad/good guy, often switching back and forth.  

For example, in episode 1 of Ally McBeal, Ally (Calista Flockhart) blames her former boyfriend Billy (Gil Bellows) for dumping her by transferring to the University of Michigan, leaving her alone at Harvard Law School. Billy gets defensive and explains how it was something he had to do in order to advance his law career.

Many stories paint the good and bad guys consistently white and black

In the movie Once Upon A Time In The West, we're all happy when we watch the bad guy Frank (Henry Fonda) finally getting killed at the hands of the good guy Harmonica (Charles Bronson).

Some movies are more nuanced

Consider the movie Chocolat with Vianne (Juliette Binoche), Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), and Roux (Johnny Depp). 

In 1953 the itinerant Vianne with her six-year-old daughter Anouk (Victorie Thivisol) arrive and set up a chocolate shop in a small conservative Catholic French village. With some of the chocolate probably laced with some feel-good drugs and the village led by devout mayor Comte de Reynaud, the scene is set for a war between good and evil, with the "good" side, as the movie would have the American viewers in 2001 see it, being led by the free-spirited Vianne and the guilt-pushing "bad" side led by Comte de Reynaud. As in all battles between good and evil, each side sees itself as the good (victim) guy and the other side as the bad guy.

The battle lines are drawn

The mayor and most townspeople defend the honor and stability of the old order, which emphasizes self-sacrifice for others, foregoing pleasure now to have a better future, along with social cohesion and looking good to others as essential values. Vianne, her landlady Amande (Judi Dench), Josephine (Lena Olin) who flees from her physically abusive husband, and Roux (Johnny Depp), the leader of the river pirates whom Vianne befriends, take up the other side. They express the desire to be free from the constraints of looking good (in both the eyes of society and God) and to enjoy pleasures now instead of denying them for a better future.

The mayor and most townspeople focus on satisfying Next and Others

Using the map of the New Ethics, the mayor, his secretary Caroline (Carrie-Anne Moss), the daughter of Amande, and the townspeople who follow him and the ideas of the church, express the values, in whatever unrefined forms, of a Next-Others Alliance in a battle against a Now-Oneself Alliance. Their Nexts and their Others are looking to have a better and more stable future, both in this lifetime and in the next life, by getting into heaven and avoiding hell. They believe these will be supported by fasting during Lent (and not having chocolate), maintaining a sense of belonging a social cohesion, as well as obeying God's rules (looking good to God and to others).

Vianne and her fellow rebels focus on satisfying Now and Oneself

Vianne, the landlady Amande, Josephine, Roux with his river pirates, and a few other townspeople express the values, however recklessly, of Now and Oneself. Enjoy now! Do what you feel like doing! Don't let others, especially the dominant society, tell you what you can and cannot do. A sense of freedom is high on their list of values.

Bring out the weapons and defense!

As with any internal conflicts between the Next-Others Alliance and the Now-Oneself Alliance, the champions of Next and Others use blame and force, when they can, to try to get their way. The mayor sees Vianne, whom he calls shameless, and the pirates as agents of the devil (they are not really pirates...that is just what six-year-old Anouk calls them).

The weapons/defense favored by the Next-Others Alliance: control, exclusion, and blame

In a town meeting, which the mayor leads, everyone is indignant about the immorality of the river pirates camped on the shores of their town. They are concerned that the libertine ways of the pirates could spread to others in the town. The law doesn't allow them to force the pirates to leave their shores, so the mayor organizes a boycott that prohibits any establishment in the town to provide food or service to the pirates. 

Caroline tries to protect her son Luc (Aurelien Parent Koenig) by prohibiting him from riding a bicycle. She also won't allow him to spend time with his grandmother Amande because she drinks, eats what she wants even though she has advanced diabetes, and uses swear words. Caroline is both stern and blaming, both toward her son and her mother to try to protect her son and to save her mother from herself.

The weapons/defensive favored by the Now-Oneself Alliance: rebellion, secrecy, and not caring

Although internally our Now and Oneself can use blame to try to get what they want, more commonly they just rebel and dig in their heels, trying to figure ways, often covert, to avoid the domination of Next and Others and to inure themselves to the barbs of blame and exclusion.

In Chocolat, even though Vianne and the other champions of Now and Oneself in the Now-Oneself Alliance vs. Next-Others Alliance, as the four combatants can often team up in this civil war, express some blame toward the mayor, Caroline, and other townspeople, their primary approach to getting what they want is to rebel and even go underground to get their way.

Near the end of the movie, Vianne, who's considering the idea of settling down, says to Roux, "Don't you ever think about belonging somewhere?" He replies, "The price is too high. You end up caring what people expect of you. No."

The battlegrounds and skirmishes play out on several fronts

  • The mayor against Vianne and her chocolate shop

  • The mayor and most townspeople against Roux and the river pirates

  • The mayor against Peri Henri (Hugh O'Conor), the new young priest who's inclined to interpreter the word of God more generously toward people who are different

  • Caroline against her son Luc who wants to ride a bicycle, eat chocolate, and spend time with his grandmother

  • Caroline against her mother Armande who wants to spend time with her grandson and refuses "nursing home" treatment for her diabetes

  • Josephine and Vianne against Josephine's husband Serge (Peter Stormare) who wants her to come back home

  • Vianne, who doesn't care what others think, against her daughter Anouk who wants to fit in more and doesn't want to keep moving from one town to the next

    • Anouk, "​It's just like all the other towns."

    • Vianne, "Just tell me what happened."

    • Anouk, "Are you Satan's helper?"

    • Vianne, "Well, it's not easy being different."

    • Anouk, "Why can't we go to church?"

    • Vianne, "Well, you can if you want, but it won't make things easier."

    • Anouk, "Why can't you wear black shoes like the other mothers?"

  • Anouk against some of the other kids when they tease her about her imaginary kangaroo

    • Boy, "​Hop, hop, hop, hop! Where's your kangaroo? Hop, hop, hop! I'm your kangaroo now!" 

    • Teacher, "Stop it! Anouk! In this school, we are civilized. We do not strike one another!"

    • Anouk, "But they insulted Pantoufle!"

    • Teacher, "I don't care. Didi, Dedou, come along! And be quiet." Two boys and Anouk must put their heads against the wall as a time-out.

    • Boy to Anouk, "My mother says you don't have a father."

    • Anouk, "Sure I do. We just don't know who he is."

Just one irredeemable bad guy in this movie

Serge mistakenly believes he has the support of the mayor when he sets fire to the main boat of the pirates to try to drive them away from the city. 

Serge, "Monsieur le Comte?" interrupting the mayor as he watches some of the townspeople enjoying themselves at a dancing party on Roux's boat in honor of Amande's birthday.

Mayor, "Who's there?"

Serge, "I must speak to you. You see, Monsieur le Comte? You see? There's Josephine, that stupid cow." 

Mayor, "Something must be done, Serge. Something must be done."

Later, when the mayor learns that Serge was responsible for setting the fire, he threatens Serge with the police unless he leaves the city immediately and never returns.

The denouement

The movie finally leaves us satisfied, but not by addressing the underlying presumption of good and bad and right and wrong, although we may shift our ideas somewhat of exactly what is right and what is wrong, 

The Now-Oneself Alliance is shown more as the "winner" with the mayor and Caroline mostly acceding. Vianne gets to throw her fertility festival in the middle of Easter and Caroline allows Luc to ride his bicycle, although she is saved from the issue of him wanting to be with his grandmother because Amande dies right after her birthday party. And Peri Henri gets to preach more for inclusion instead of exclusion as the hallmark of being Christian.

The one win for the Next-Others Alliance is when Vianne decides to settle down in the village and "belong," which Anouk very much wants.

Chocolat is one of a few masterful expressions where the Now-Oneself Alliance "wins"

Although it is relatively unique in portraying the "good guys" belonging more to the Now-Oneself Alliance and the "bad guys" are on the other side, it is not unique in that it leaves intact the basic ideas of good and bad and right and wrong. 

Could we be entertained otherwise?

I doubt it. Consider the relatively benign good-bad skirmish when Ally blames Billy for dumping her by transferring to another school. Depending on the moral inclinations of the viewer, we will feel sorry for Ally and tend to take her side. Or we may more align with Billy with prioritizing his career over his current romance.

We will not simply feel compassion for Ally's pain and recognize that she was and is not being 100% responsible in that she set herself up to be the victim of Billy. Nor will we simply feel compassion for the pain that Billy feels because he sees himself as being a victim of Ally's attack and he is also not being 100% responsible by reacting defensively.

Other movies that champion the Now-Oneself Alliance

  • 3 Idiots with Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani, and R. Madhavan

  • American Beauty with Kevin Spacey and Mena Suvari

  • Bridges of Madison County with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep (the only movie that makes me cry)

  • Dangerous Beauty with Catherine McCormack and Rufus Sewell

  • Dinner with Andre with Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn

  • Harold and Maude with Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort

  • Little Miss Sunshine with Greg Kinnear and Abigail Breslin

  • Pleasantville with Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire

  • PK with Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, and Boman Irani

  • Summer of 42 with Jennifer O’Neill and Gary Grimes

  • The Dead Poet Society with Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke

  • The Truman Show with Jim Carrey and Ed Harris

TV shows that champion the Next-Others Alliance

  • Bluebloods

  • Billions

  • Bonanza

  • Boston Legal

  • Cagney and Lacey

  • Chicago P.D.

  • CHIPs

  • CIS

  • Columbo

  • Criminal Minds

  • Daniel Boone

  • Dragnet

  • Father Knows Best

  • FBI

  • Gunsmoke

  • Have Gun - Will Travel

  • Hawaii Five-O

  • Hill Street Blues

  • Ironside

  • Kojak

  • L.A. Heat

  • L.A. Law

  • Law & Order

  • Little House on the Praire

  • Magnum P.I.

  • Major Crimes

  • Mannix

  • Matlock

  • Maverick

  • Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer

  • Miss Marple

  • Most Wanted

  • Murder One

  • Murder She Wrote

  • NCIS

  • NYPD Blue

  • Perry Mason

  • Public Defender

  • Quantico

  • Quincy, M.E.

  • Rawhide

  • Scales of Justice

  • Sherlock

  • Simon & Simon

  • Tales of Wells Fargo

  • The Avengers

  • The Defenders

  • The Lone Ranger

  • The Mentalist

  • The Rifleman

  • The Saint

  • The Wild Wild West

  • True Detective

  • Wagon Train

  • White Collar

  • Without a Trace

The above TV series are a small fraction of shows that champion the Next-Others Alliance. These, along with kindred movies and novels are a hundred times more popular than are those that champion the Now-Oneself Alliance.

A (very) few dramas rely exclusively on keeping us entertained with "man against nature." 

With these dramas, we see little if any Oneself-Others conflicts. All conflicts are Now-Next conflicts played out internally with the character or characters involved.

127 hours (Jamies Franco)

All is Lost (Robert Redford)

Apollo 13 (Tom Hanks)

Cast Away (Tom Hanks)

Touching the Void (Brendan Mackey and Nicholas Aaron)

And no story seriously questions...

 

And no story seriously questions the underlying idea of good and bad and right and wrong, of the external and internal wars that simmer and rage between Now, Next, Oneself, and Others. That's what fundamental integrity and the New Ethics are about.

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