"Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

The title of this node interested me enough to click on it and wait the 45 seconds or so for the page to load, but whilst I read it, two questions came to mind:

  • What is the point?
  • When will this end?

I strike quickly being moved.

I submit that the author of the above has confused some samples of pop culture and the use of slang by the teenage population in America for the state of the country at large.

Movie villains are NOT cool because they're evil. They're cool because they're cool. Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg (although I'm not sure that's the best example) is cool because he walks with a limp, carries around an odd looking multi-function ZF1 (another Zorg invention), and says things like "Tell ya what I do like. A killer. A dyed-in-the-wool killer. Cold blooded, clean, methodical and thorough."

I say that Zorg isn't the best example because "The Fifth Element" is a classic example of archplot/protagonist. Zorg is an interesting character, but no one watching the film roots for Zorg to succeed. It's all about Korben and Leeloo (and to a lesser extent Ruby). If you rooted for Zorg and 'Mr. Shadow' to win in the end, Besson's vision was completely lost on you.

A much better example would be Charles Bronson in "Death Wish", Michael Douglas in "Falling Down", or the McManus brothers in "The Boondock Saints". These are classic antagonists, somewhat-regular guys angered by some misfortune in their lives (in the case of Bronson, it's the murder of his wife and daughter. For Douglas, it's things as small and inconsequential as traffic jams and Korean store owners not making change).

The key for making an antagonist cool is to develop an interesting character. Ed Harris' inner conflict and resolve in "The Rock" made him a cool character to watch on screen. Audiences walked out with a wry smile after hearing a cripple named Verbal Kint spin yarns about a 91 million dollar dope deal gone bad. And there's hardly a character in "Snatch." or "Reservoir Dogs" that one could argue has positive moral fiber, yet you'll find some of the coolest bit villians in recent memory.

At the same time... how cool were the villians in the Indiana Jones trilogy? Can you even name them? (For the record, they're Belloq, Mola Ram, and Donovan). Who's the bad guy in "12 Monkeys"? How about "Casablanca"? Did people walk out of "Schindler's List" remarking, "Wow, Ralph Fiennes' character was so cool!"

Being evil has nothing to do with being cool, both in reality and in the perception of the movie-going public, and I doubt many people would disagree with this assessment. Well-written characters with smart dialog and likeable qualities responding to difficult circumstances are cool.

Next issue.

Ah yes, etymology. Let's ignore for a second that the etymological assertions above are tenuous at best (these words have multiple meaning, not just one new one that happens to fit the author's cause). Let's put aside that I've never personally heard the word evil used in the context described above. And let's also let slide that cool used to mean "moderately cold" and now it means "excellent; all right; fashionable" (Thanks, Merriam-Webster!).

English is a living language and as such is subject to constant change (I'm sure we could pull some words out of Shakespearean texts and lament at how their meanings have been twisted). Slang is at the cusp of new linguistic meaning, and the new meanings that such words as bad, awful, and scam have been bestowed are not grounded in the fact they're "negative" words. Ghetto has a negative connotation in its "King's English" usage, and still maintains a negative connotation in the street vernacular. Other neutral words such as tubular (having the form of or consisting of a tube) and radical (marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional) have a positive connotation when used in a slang context. There are also negative words that function in both contexts; the word shit becomes positive or negative depending on whether or not the definite article is placed in front of it.

People are all too aware of the evil that surrounds them each and every day, and if you think television's current crusade is to mollify the masses by averting their eyes from true evil, I subject that it is you who have averted your eyes. Evil is not "something of a myth or an abstract concept". Evil is a pedophilic priest in Boston thrown in prison and then brutally murdered by another inmate, to the dismay of hundreds of his victims (not because murder is wrong, mind you, but because they didn't think he suffered enough). Evil is a bunch of extremists hijacking planes and crashing them into buildings. Evil is a bearded motherfucker declaring jihad against a nation of people, who, given their druthers, would really just like to get along with everyone else regardless of where they live or what religious tenets they hold to. Evil is a man like Uday Hussein, who would strip a man naked, drag him across broken glass and sand, then make him jump repeatedly into a pit of biohazardous sewage -- because he didn't want to play soccer for the Iraqi National Team. Evil is a father and son on the roof of a building, sniping people in the Beltway as they pump gasoline or go to a steakhouse for dinner.

People know what evil is, whether they use the "right" words or not.