Moral Courage in the Media

In the philosophical and social analyses of pop culture, the eggheads of my fellows on the left in academia who I vote the same way and attend the same protests as but afford almost zero intellectual respect to because they, typically, deserve zero intellectual respect, they will focus on things like feminism. That’s most of it, actually. They do feminist analyses. I may be a feminist but that’s a fairly myopic scope. They also tend to stay in the normative and forego the empircal. They can trash early Disney princesses but I don’t think that the psychological effects of those films actually increase misogyny and the fact that second-wave feminism arose out of children raised on those films would suggest the opposite. In the normative, they may oppose the gender roles in the films but even then the patriarchy is a gentle paternalism but is nowhere close to violence against women or extreme misogyny which may be wanting for wokeness but Zac Ephron portrayed Ted Bundy in a movie released after #metoo and the feminist community was not screaming.

In the end, their hatred of shiny girly things is not feminism, per se, but their hatred of happiness in media. The reason academia hates Cinderella is the happily ever after, not the gender roles. Every time some elitist literati comes across a classic happy ending, they scream. I focus on things like virtue ethics and environmentalism. I’ve ciriticized Barbie many times on this blog but I have focussed on things like the nature of the materialist fantasy she represents like living in a large suburban house in Malibu and typically moving everywhere by car. Another thing she has never done is something most media never represents: moral courage. She is an attractive popular woman with an attractive popular boyfriend and not once have I seen her or seen any protagonist on any kids’ show defend someone weaker than them with their power or risk their social capital for a righteous cause.

Now, moral courage is a virtue that the authorities tend to hate because their greatest fear tends to be liability and while they can deter rule-breaking by making it not worth the material cost by increasing punishment. That deterence is much less effective with regards to civil disobedience. Having done civil disobedience in many contexts, myself. I can attest that the authorities of institutions not only oppose rule-breaking, per se, even for a noble cause but tend to oppose the virtue from which it arises: moral courage. I literally re-founded my college’s chapter of SDS and the basic approach colleges had to their socialist and hippie activists in the past few decades was “please be sorority bunnies and drunk frat bros! Anything! Dear God! DO NOT JOIN THE COMMIE PINKOS!” Their concern was not the policies these people supported but that their rule-breaking was not based on material gain and could not be detered easily through the threat of net loss but was an abstract moral idea which they could not counter through the force of the state.

It was not socialism or environmentalism or anything else, they hated the idea of moral courage. The reason I got in trouble in college had a lot to do with the expectation of no moral courage on the part of their students. I was and am a sober, virgin, who has never been in a fight or committed a property crime who never asked a girl out or attempted drugs or alcohol. In the end, I got in trouble for platonic harassment because when interacting with a neurodivergent one finds bothersome or annoying, if one tolerates it out of love then that is the etiology of the species of criminal behavior that cannot be easily detered and leads to anarchy: moral courage. If they possess no moral courage whatsoever then their criminal behavior may be detered much more easily. While that idea was hardly explicit, it was present. They were subconsciously wary of moral courage.

Returning to the pop culture. To use an oft used and widely accessible example: Taylor Swift. A woman who possesses basically no moral courage and whose canon suggests that no one should ever have it. As I have pointed out on this blog before, the arc of her canon is self-pity over and literal hatred justified by non-abusive partners. If one cannot love a non-abusive erstwhile partner then one seems to lack any capacity for love whatsoever and she does seem to lack any capacity for love whatsoever. By the normative arguments of her canon, one should surrender to one’s worst inner-demons of hatred to the point of burning someone ine effigy. No where in her high school-set canon like Fearless and Folklore is someone defending a bullying victim or visiting the SPED classrooms. The characters in those stories don’t shed a tear or extend an arm to the weakest compatriots of their society.

Of course, this is not new. I relatively recently saw an old episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer where one of the peripheral characters comes out as gay. My problem was not that it was homophobic but that the characters had not a molecule of compassion for someone who was closeted gay in a prejudiced society. Which is deeply concerning for a team supposed to fight literal demons. One would assume, they’d be angels and love the person. Yet, Buffy was not a show about light versus darkness. The vampires hadn’t made faustian bargains to join some vampire cartel in a metaphor for capitalism where they may become a normal vampire or much more likely an enslaved minion like they do in my fictional vampires. No, they were just street thugs and Buffy was Guilliani. The fictional universe also was, despite having the supernatural, officially agnostic toward the existence of God which I consider ballless because, on a tangent, if one is doing Japanese mythology, one should have Shinto Kami and if one is doing Medieval Slavic (or any Medieval European; east, central, or west) Mythology then Jesus needs to be canonically real. I say this less as a Christian and more as someone who majored in history.

Friends nor Seinfeld nor Dawsons’s Creek nor any franchise contemporaneous with Buffy either purveyed moral courage. It just was completely absent. The amount of money and hours these characters volunteered for charitable causes was pretty much nil which was the same as time and money spent on noble political causes. With Buffy it is especially offensive since she wears a cross but not only did the producers lack the balls to make her a mythologically accurate Christian; they failed to make her even a good secular humanist. What they did make her was a Rawlsian member of the magic LAPD fighting magic street thugs. The media landscape of the 1990s and today was and is a moral desert. I mean I went after Swift but The Backstreet Boys were also completely devoid of moral courage in any of their lyrics.

There are many etiologies for the demise of liberal democracy but one of them is the absence of moral courage in the media and the culture. Because democracy requires civicism which requires one to sacrifice free time otherwise spent in a nightclub or on social media to participate in politics and the community. Absent that, one is less informed and the information one does get is out of context and one lacks the experience to discern the truth from the misinformation. In the end, a civically malinformed populace is prone to fascism. A lack of moral courage is the road to fascism.

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