In movies, the bad guy has to display he is the bad guy through actions. It won’t do to have a subtitle come on the screen that says “this is the bad guy.” A cliche, yet effective methodology is to have the bad guy belittle somebody who is weaker, poorer of less fortunate. A bad guy will belittle a servant, a waiter, a spouse or child. The reason screenwriters write these scenes is because, eventually, the bad guy is going to get killed, and they can’t let anybody in the audience feel sorry for them when this happens. They have to establish how bad the bad guy really is.
In real life, the bad guy doesn’t always get killed off, but that doesn’t change the fact we don’t like him. And ultimately, bad guys get what they deserve. They end up alone, or worse, surrounded and yet lonely. They may take advantage of people but the world doesn’t run on money or fame, it runs on love, and when you take advantage of people, you end up without love.
The other problem with real life is it’s hard to tell whether or not you are the bad guy. We all believe we are the good guy or that our words and actions are justified. The other day I lost my temper at a stranger. I really let them have it. I still feel like they deserved it. It was a bully situation in which somebody was being threatened. But I went too far, honestly. I pretty much said things that person will be thinking about for years. I went for the jugular and put him in his place. Or perhaps it went in one ear and out the other, I don’t know. But regardless, I was thinking about that today, and realized that the things I said could be placed word for word into a film in which the character that said it got “what they deserved” at the end and nobody would really care. Stink. Can’t believe I said those things.
The point is, story can teach us something about what we should and shouldn’t say or do. Before you unload on your spouse or kids, ask yourself if a character in a movie treated their wife or husband the way you are about to treat your wife or husband, would they be the good guy or the bad guy? Story can help us step outside ourselves and see a dynamic with more wisdom.
The sad truth is, good guys often get taken advantage of. When I lose my temper, it’s usually because I don’t want to get taken advantage of, I don’t want to be disrespected. I’ve stepped into a game in which people are keeping score, and I’m determined not to lose. But the truth is, there is no game, it’s just a hoax, and the only way to show others there is no game is to lose and show how much it didn’t matter. Perhaps that’s why Jesus asks us to turn the other cheek, to give our shirt to somebody who asks for our coat and so forth. He wants us to show people we aren’t playing their game.