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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Are Good Guys Out of Style Even When the Story Calls for It?

Last night, Starz premiered its updated version of the Camelot/King Arthur story. It’s hard to mess that up, so it was still pretty entertaining, even though the people at Starz are total hacks, in our opinions. Spartacus? Bleck. Of course, the show doubles as an excuse for softcore porn, but that’s to be expected.

What was NOT expected was that they made Arthur an average, lame, sissy, spoiled-rotten, cocky, man-whore teenager. We get that he’s young. He may grow into a good man. But the first time we saw this incarnation, he was sleeping with his brother’s girlfriend, selfishly. The Arthur of legend loved passionately and was loyal. He was also pretty humble as a young man. So we were annoyed. Also, why they chose to go with that blonde guy from the Sweeney Todd movie is a mystery to us. We thought Kay looked and acted more like Arthur should. And what was with the little ‘stache? We hated that peach fuzz. Shave it off. Arthur should be hot, but there is little hope with this blonde Mr. Fish Face here.

We know that TV and movies are all about the anti-hero. The critics and elite think that a straight good guy is flat, preachy, or unrealistic. But we disagree. We think that there needs to be a good person in every show. Sandy Cohen in The O.C. and Mrs. Taylor in Friday Night Lights come to mind. They grounded their shows and gave us someone to root for. They weren’t perfect, but they were honorable. Most of the movies that people name as classics or their favorites have brave people doing the right thing. Rick’s choice at the end of Casablanca. Braveheart. The Shawshank Redemption. Forrest Gump. Saving Private Ryan. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. We like to watch people with honor, selflessness, and loyalty. The public enjoys the inspiration. It gets people straight in the heart.

We think that the industry has gotten cynical. They don’t think the good guy is a great character on adult TV shows, because they want to get to the bottom of real people and their struggles. We get that. We like it. Jack Bauer and Don Draper are fine characters. But why is there such a shortage of characters with honor? Who aren’t slutty? Who aren’t out for number one?

Maybe the industry doesn’t think people like that exist in real life, so it’s a simpleminded fantasy to make them up. To that, we reply with Gandhi, Sophie Scholl, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, all the good fathers in the world, this couple we read about that adopts special needs foster kids that no one else wants, that little girl in the news recently who pushed her sister out of harm’s way and lost her legs, that millionaire who gave away his fortune and went to live in a shack, couples who have been married for more than forty years, war heroes, great artists, and many more. How can you say they are not interesting? People who rise above the status quo and fight against falling into the easy current of society are the most interesting sometimes. We need the variety.

The morally bankrupt hero is overused. And if he has honor, like Russell Crowe's honest character in American Gangster, the industry decides to balance that out by making the character a sex maniac. Call us old-fashioned, but we still think sex is special and a big deal. Not that it's dirty, or bad, or shameful, but sacred. Call us grandmas. We don't care. We get that TV sometimes tries to force a more casual, animalistic view of it on the public. We think that just devalues romantic connections and human beings in general.

The legend portrays Arthur as an honorable and good king. That’s the heart of the legend. He was a king that was worth following; a king that Merlin backed because of how good of a leader he was. Merlin was talking about how the realm needed a leader like no other. Did he think he would get that in Arthur, who in the first few minutes showed himself to be arrogant, self-indulgent, and lacking self-control? He was pretty unconcerned about his brother's feelings. We expected Starz to AT LEAST let Arthur have honor. But no. Apparently that’s extinct on television these days, even when it comes to Camelot.

Disagree? Love the sexuality/nudity warming up puritanical America? Do you find a more fragile, selfish Arthur to be interesting? Let us know.


  1. I liked the Arthur in the movie "Excalibur" the best. He was a decent, honorable man in every way, but not "preachy" so much as chained by his absolute sense of right and wrong. No grey area is veiwed in the modern world as unrealistic; however, I do believe that there are ideals that are non-negotiable.

    One of the great lines at the end of that movie was when Arthur confronts Guinevere, and he says to her, "Once again I must ride with my knights to fight for what was and what could be." He didn't take revenge on Guinevere for he betrayal. His only thought was for the good of all.

    The fatalism that he was going to certain death against the army of Mordred did not bother him in the least. Arthur's selfless decision to fight a titanic battle against hopeless odds with only faith and honor as his weapons is the essense of a great hero; one we should never hesitate to embrace, even if it has gone out of style.

  2. We'll have to check that out. So many people today say "There are no absolutes, especially with morality." (To which anyone with half a brain or anyone who has read an apologist would reply, "That's an absolute itself.")

    People say it's one of the other. "The world is black-and-white." or "Everything is subjective."

    Clearly it's both. It's always both. Some things are subjective and some things are universal. Torturing a child to death for no reason other than you want to is always wrong. Period. Lying is sometimes wrong. etc.

    It's important to be able to live in the grey areas and admit when you aren't sure. But it's important to recognize what is objectively right when you see it.

    Doing your brother's girlfriend just because you want her is objectively wrong. Arthur would not do that.