Sunday, February 24, 2008

Heroes don't HAVE to be stupid, do they?

I rented The Mothman Prophecies because I enjoy watching creepy supernatural stuff when there's no one around but my cat. (Mild Spoilers below.)

The main character (the one played by Richard Gere) is pretty dumb.  I mean, I thought he was smarter than the average horror protagonist when he got creeped out by the phone call where Cold knew everything, so he turned off the lights and closed the shutters (where a normal person would not want to sit in a dark hotel room and listen to that creepy voice).

But he thinks the chemical plant is going to blow up, so he accosts the Governor and asks him to close the place down.  He's ranting and raving like a complete madman, and gets escorted away  When if he really wanted to shut the place down he could have just called in a bomb threat (what's really amazing to me is that they assume he's heard a bomb threat, call one in, and he says "I didn't get a bomb threat!" and torpedoes the option they'd take him seriously).  Yes, he'd have gotten in trouble if he got caught phoning in a threat.  It's illegal, he'd have been arrested. But he wouldn't look completely fucking insane, and he'd have accomplished what he wanted.

(I haven't read the book, so I don't know if John Keel actually acted like this, but I know they changed a whole bunch of stuff so I'm going to assume that any character behavior is the fault of the writers.)

And it makes me worry about the heroes in these supernatural thrillers.  They're supposed to seem like rational people, so that we can be drawn into the story.  It's not supposed to be someone we can write off as a nut, but someone like us who is experiencing this stuff.  Makes it more believable.

But damned if every time we get to the point where the hero is trying to get the police or the government on their side to prevent a disaster, they go the route of looking like a complete lunatic and risk getting committed for their trouble.  And they know, going in, that there is no way in hell that the authorities will take them seriously.  But they try anyway, and that's supposed to be the heroic part.  Except they just seem stupid to me, because there are usually sneakier and more effective ways to accomplish that objective in today's society.

And don't give me "we don't want our hero to lie."  If he's really so fucking sure that a whole bunch of people are going to die, he should lie if he has a better chance of being believed and getting the place evacuated.  Even if he's wrong.


  1. I can sympathize. Did you ever watch "Early Edition" a decade ago? It was about a normal guy in Chicago who, mysteriously enough, received tomorrow's paper a day early; so he'd use the advance knowledge to try to prevent mishaps and tragedies. The most painful part was his hamfisted attempts to get people to do whatever needed to be done ("Hey buddy, do you think you could shut off that gas main?") -- he never quite mastered the art of thinking one step ahead of them, and figuring out how to trick them into doing what needed to be done.

    Painful to watch, but I loved the show. And he had a cat too.

  2. I guess that if the "hero" actually did something smart like phone in a bomb threat, that would make him more of an "anti-hero" and we certainly can't have that sort of thing going on!

  3. I remember seeing this movie in the theater and shouting at the screen when this happened.

    The real reason that stupid crap like this happens is 'to make the movie longer'. Because the hero saying, "Someone's going to shoot the President! They called me on the phone!" would move things along a lot more quickly than "Someone's going to shoot the President! A ghost told me!" There'd also be no reason for the paint-by-numbers scenario where the hero gets thrown in jail/a mental institution, which they must escape from in a time-consuming manner.

  4. Because standing on a street corner shouting "BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!" at the passing Dictator makes for a more dramatic scene? ;-)

  5. The non-fiction book the movie is based around focuses on multiple "supernatural" type events, phenomenon, etc. Keel goes on about his own experiences investigating certain phenomenon. Interviews he's taken with different people, about different things, etc, etc.

    Events around the bridge collapse are discussed but it is only about half the focus of the entire paperback.

    Keel tends to be a tad overly heady in his writing, but the concepts suggested about weird phenomenon are interesting. One such being the existence of ghosts is rather an imprint of one's memory that for some reason or another got stamped in a certain time and place, which explains the whole "repeating" ghost type phenomenon.

    The book isn't too bad it ever got translated into the movie of the same no clue.

  6. Who wants to watch something/read something with someone smart as the main character that's not interesting!

    I joke. Its true, though, its extremely rare that the main character is smart, or even of average intellect. Most main characters tend to be fairly stupid. Part of why I love Doctor Who, main character's smart. Of course, once a character is smart they become "Arrogant" and "unsympathetic." Its, I think, a problem of our culture.

    Even when characters are smart, and actually protagonists, they become under miners, sneaky, and often amoral. Like Batman, for example, who refuses to act within the light of the law, but is seen as brilliant and clever. Regardless, Batman reaches the level of being sneaky, and occasionally very amoral, to me.

    It seems to be something fairly distinctly American in the heroes we love, though. There is no one who is a strong, moral, intelligent character that I can think of in American media.