A Conversation With A Princeton Graduate

A Conversation With A Princeton Graduate


By Alan Smithee

NoahAnd I said “I made it through “The Lone Ranger” and cannot recommend it. I was disappointed in its representation of cultural heroes as twisted comical half-witted bumbling abstractions.  These are supposed to be legends of “loftier” stature, instruments of a message of good, like Batman and Robin, Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Superman, the Green Hornet, good over bad.

I suspect “Noah”; to some is “a lost opportunity, a Noah without God.” “The Vatican went on to say the film colored the story “ecologically, and vaguely new age”, it sounds like; it may be suffering from this new “Hollywood” approach to iconic trivialized or dark side secularism?

lone ranger 2012The Lone Ranger is as disrespectful of traditional cultural values as “The Company You Keep” was flawed, it was Redford’s kid glove treatment of the 60s radicals, antithetical in its painting a sympathetic and somewhat laissez-faire attitude, in its framing of the “Weather Underground”.

That picture, “The Company You Keep”, was generally rejected here in America as it was accepted abroad by those who generally dislike America.

On “the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow aired a bizarre profile on the Tsarnaev brothers”. “Obama Terror Network: NBC News Runs Profile Of Boston Bombers Designed To Elicit Sympathy, Excuse Attack” 4/16/14. Is this not one of the unintended consequences of the marginalization of American jingoism? Is this morality abstractly contrived?

A thoughtful reply from Princeton:

game_of_thrones_tribute_by_creasdoutliner-d4hkxaj“My generation is very much interested in the morally ambiguous hero. In some way it is very similar to the old noir films. For now, heroes like John Wayne and Roy Rogers just don’t resonate as much. In many ways shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones capture something that we are attracted to–probably related to the political landscape of today.”

That being said, Lone Ranger failed in many ways as a movie although its attempt to place the Native American in a more central role was admirable (having the film end on Tonto walking into the sunset rather than the white hero was a big statement marred by the fact that Johnny Depp was representing the Native American population).” 

I was intrigued by what was shared with me, so I replied:

“John Wayne and Roy Rogers were relatable, more legend than historical, extensions of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson and John Adams, noble if flawed, like our nation, but they as individuals.

By the “old noir films” I suspect one means the “black and white” gangsta, possibly morally “dark”, stylish Hollywood crime dramas, of the 1940s to 1950s, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes about morality and sexual motivations.

Was there a “morality” to be cynical about back then? I suspect, definitely, more so than now. And the beginning of every generation, mine also, as it transitions from idealistic to realistic?

Morally Ambiguous heroes sneer at the common classifications of morality and live by their own “hard to classify” (convenient?) standards. Is this a reluctance to make a “judgment” call over what is “good” or “evil”, by any standards? Is this not Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche’s classical “morality abstractly contrived”?

While a “Morally Ambiguous” hero’s motives may not change they are tied to no solid method and may switch between alignments so often it is near impossible to determine whether they will handle a situation with violence, cons, kind words or the color orange…..remember “Clockwork Orange”, Kubrick’s dystopian future Britain?

They are similar to “on and off” heroes, but it goes even deeper.

These characters are hard to understand, you can’t tell whether they are heroes or villains, as they keep switching sides and even then shifting through each type of evil and good. You never know how they’ll act, they are unpredictable, and their actions are often contradicted.

Are they good? Are they bad? It’s up to you to figure out!”

But those grounded in, such values as, Judeo-Christian fundamentals and principles, other religious philosophies are also contemporary, all structured as a solid spiritual matrix, have morals, standards by which we live, that align with an understanding of good over evil, these are not morally ambiguous.

ten-commandmentsAs with the “Ten Commandments” one can “figure it out”. That is unless one rejects accountability and responsibility. So if you have a good, brave heart, where is its origin, and does it negates moral ambiguity? Some suggest, yes, unless one enjoys or chooses confusion or crematorium lines.

Within the culture of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” “honesty” within the group is mandatory and is not ambiguous. Outside of that culture, that group, “honesty” is definitely ambiguous, dishonesty was a work ethic. Are they good? Are they bad? It’s up to you to figure out! Really?

In the morality world of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, liken to Batman and Robin, one looks to the perception of a contribution to “good” at the level of individual beliefs, skills and talents. To imply that Tonto or Robin is somehow denigrated by their perceived but erroneous subservient position is convenient for the misery merchants, the malevolence of productive wedge issues. Tonto and Robin continuously “save” their partner, thus their uniqueness and exceptionalism.

And the comment about “probably related to the political landscape of today” is another can of worms for a later discussion.

This is the first generation that may not be better off than the previous generation, due to my generation’s economy of moral, political and financial wisdom.”

The reply from Princeton was enlightening and intuitive.

“Yes exactly–the character who is made up of more than just virtue is so much more interesting in some ways because he carries the possibility for more than one behavior.

It’s unpredictable, yet grounded within a complex psychological makeup. And of course, watching character growth and arcs in these morally ambiguous heroes are just so powerful precisely because they have the capability for good and evil in them.

And perhaps the thing that really resonates with us is the idea that sometimes the honorable action is not the right action–the hero willing to sacrifice his own honor and steep himself in evil for the greater good is in many ways the more heroic hero.

Of course this is just all my own analysis.”

Would Solomon really have “cut the baby in two”, and was this morally ambiguous”

The “horrors and evil of war” are morally ambiguous until emancipation by “freedom and liberty”. Is this the once morally ambiguous territory of our founding fathers, “The Crisis” by Thomas Paine? Was not Martin Luther King Jr’s “civil disobedience”, lawlessness without violence (?), a dissident force for the “greater good”?

It was Churchill who said: ““If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.” And should one find this exclusive of Judeo-Christian wisdom at both ends of the spectrum, one does not comprehend the miracle of “complementary”.

Spend a few moments and read this Princeton Tory essay “Checking My Privilege: Character as the Basis of Privilege.” By  Tal Fortgang ’17 / April 2, 2014


It all left me thinking, a wonderful mental exercise. I tip my hat to Princeton.

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