Sunday, October 7, 2007

Movie Review: The Brave One Feeds Our Desire for Revenge

Here's all you need to know about The Brave One: When Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) shot a bad guy, the audience applauded. Once again, a movie has sucked us into rooting for revenge.

(I'm not giving away any spoilers by telling you that Bain killed someone -- I'm pretty sure everyone who is thinking about seeing the movie already knows Bain becomes a vigilante after she's brutally beaten and her fiance is murdered. The plot deals with her own reactions to what she's doing and whether she's going to get away with it.)

There's nothing inhuman about wanting revenge. Most of us at least fantasize about it even for minor indignities. I wouldn't be surprised if I fell prey to the desire for revenge if someone near and dear to me was murdered. Some deaths can leave horrible voids in the lives of those left behind.

But the fact that revenge is a normal response to a horrific act doesn't make it a useful one. It doesn't really solve anything. If you look at the history of warfare, revenge is often the reason people go to war -- or at least, the excuse for stirring up popular support. The peace accords that have actually worked have been those where people with legitimate grievances have let go of their desire for revenge.

From a self defense point of view, there's another big flaw in The Brave One: It perpetuates the myth that the only real way to be safe in the world is to get a gun and kill the bad guys before they kill you. If you buy that myth, but don't want to become a killer, then you may believe that there's nothing you can do to keep yourself safe.

And that's not true: There are hundreds of things you can do, starting with paying attention -- a subject we've already been discussing here on Taking Care of Ourselves. The choice isn't as stark as kill or be killed. Don't let popular movies or books convince you otherwise.

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