Moral codes don’t seem to be fashionable in film. In fact, I would say that the only way morality is discussed in films is it’s degree of irrelevance or ambiguity.  Here are a few examples:

“The Evangelist,” “The Dark Knight,” “Monster,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “The Wild Bunch,” “Memento,” “The Departed,” “Breaking the Waves,” “Dexter” “Heat,” “Unforgiven,” “Do the Right Thing,”  “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “Donnie Brasco,” “Doubt,” “Crash,” and a GAZILLION OTHERS

Some may feel that this attitude illustrates Hollywood’s lack of morality. That Hollywood maintains the ambiguity of morality, when really their sinful nature just refuses to acknowledge the truth. That there is a right and a wrong, and we can tell the difference. And it is this attitude from Hollywood that causes the deluge of sex, violence, language and other sinful things.

I would like to argue that there is such thing as a moral film, however, it isn’t defined by a number of breasts or swear words.

It’s also not defined by communicating a virtuous message, no matter how universal. If you communicate the value of human love, that doesn’t make the movie moral,  that makes it propaganda.

No, it seems to me that there is just one criterion for the moral fiber of a film. Whether it was made out of humility or out of pride.

But how can we tell? The short answer is you can’t really. There are certain films that display obvious prideful roots (Birth of a Nation, Triumph of a Will, a snuff film). Then there are others which seem extremely self indulgent (All That Jazz, Manhattan). Oftentimes I get this feeling because a filmmaker thinks it’s funny or artful to reference himself in some way (The tricky part is that many of these movies end up meditating on pride as the subject. Examples might be 8 1/2 or Fitzcarraldo. Although immoral, it may be fitting to create these pieces from a position of pride).

Then there are movies where the director seems absorbed with his own style (Brian Depalma and Wes Anderson).

Then there’s everything else. Many of Michael Bay’s films just feel arrogant, but that’s not really a fair way to judge. And most other movies have even less evidence than this.

Indeed, I have a hard time figuring out if most movies were made from a position of pride.

But I postulate that if you do watch a film and grapple with it’s morality according to my definition, then there’s probably a problem with pride in you. The reason you can’t discern is your own pride.

So…cut it out. No, seriously though, I don’t necessarilly think it’s possible to discern whether or not a movie is truly prideful. However, that doesn’t mean movies aren’t made out of pride and that also doesn’t mean that there is a better method for determining the morality of a film. Seem clear enough?


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