Why We NEED Frank Capra And Superman

Greetings Loved Ones. Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

In light of the recent bombings in Paris, I felt it was necessary to sit down and write something positive–something up-lifting. I felt that this was necessary because, in recent years, I’ve noticed that people seem to have lost faith, and I don’t just mean in God, or the government. I mean they’ve lost faith in the idea of faith itself. They’ve stopped believing that there is anything worth believing in. And when a tragedy like the one that took place in Paris happens, it becomes necessary for us to be reminded that there is some goodness left in the World.

Now, on the off chance you think I’m making too broad a generalization about society, I’d like to ask you all to take a step back, and examine the pop culture of the past decade. If you do that, then you’ll notice that the movies, TV shows, and music that my generation has grown up on is overwhelmingly negative and pessimistic. House Of Cards, Breaking Bad, True Detective, Hannibal, Dexter: these are works of art that very often showed evil–or, at the very least, morally ambiguous people–doing evil and morally ambiguous things with little to no repercussions, and all while justifying their actions with a shrug and the statement, “Hey! Life’s not fair. Get used to it.” And rather than be disgusted by these characters and their abhorrent acts, we love them. We hail them and their creators as visionary–as brilliant minds who have captured and accepted the bleak realities of life. But, the question we never seem to ask is, have they really? Have they captured the despair that awaits us at the end of our existence, or have they simply created an unrealistic, overly negative version of the world that should be questioned or done away with?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of wretched, unfair, and even downright evil things that happen in the World. 9/11, the Paris attacks, the Rape of Nanking, the Holocaust–the list goes on. But so often we get caught up in the negative that we forget that there are lots and lots of good people out there who do good things every day. The Peace Core, Habitat For Humanity, The Gates Foundation–these are organizations devoted solely to helping others. People like Dan Habib, Nicolas Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn and Li Yinhe have devoted their lives to ensuring that everyone–regardless of their gender, sexuality or disability–get treated fairly. And if all that seems too broad or vague for you, I’d like to remind you that there are tons of good deeds done on a smaller scale almost constantly. Take what happened to me last Thursday as an example. I was feeling sad, and a classmate of mine–someone I don’t really know that well–reached out to me and asked me if I was okay. She didn’t need to do this. She probably had other, more important things to do than see how I was feeling. And yet, in that instance, she tried to make me feel better. She showed me kindness–showed me basic human decency. And even though it wasn’t much, that simple question, “Are you okay?” made me feel better than I had in ages. It reminded me that this life is worth living, because there are people in it worth meeting, people who will help you, and who will need to be helped.

But, of course, when you bring up such things to people of my generation, they more often than not laugh at you. They say you’re naive, that you have an unrealistic view of the World. My girlfriend even tells me this. “Life isn’t sunshine and rainbows. The Knight doesn’t slay the Dragon, and he and the Princess don’t live happily ever after.” This is what she says to me when I bring this topic up. And it’s not just her that thinks this way. This is a view that’s reflected all the time in the pop culture I listed earlier. Very often, characters in movies and TV shows who are religious, have a moral compass, or who believe that life is worth living are portrayed as stupid, weak, or naive, and are usually patronized by the “wiser, more grounded souls” who have accepted the World for the bleak place that it is. If you don’t believe me, look at how Matthew McConaughey treats Woody Harrelson in True Detective, and how Hugh Laurie treats, well, everyone in House.

The problem with this mindset, and the recent trend to not give stories happy endings is that it teaches us to give up. It teaches us that, because life is so dark, miserable and unfair, we shouldn’t even bother trying to do good. The bad guys–the Jordan Belfort’s, Frank Underwood’s and Hannibal Lecter’s of the world–will just win in the end, so don’t concern yourself with anyone or anything else. This strain of pessimistic nihilism that has become so popular nowadays–the one that we think makes us stronger–actually makes us weaker. It teaches us to be apathetic. It enables us to detach ourselves from the world. It tells us that it’s smart–that it’s “cool”–to whine and complain, and not care about anyone else.

I don’t accept this. Good people do good things everyday, and we need to be reminded that those good things are worth doing. Make movies and TV shows with happy endings. Show the virtuous and the kind being rewarded for their efforts. Don’t laugh at It’s A Wonderful Life or Superman for being optimistic. The truth is, we need things like them! We need the hope that they give us. They teach us to care. They give us a reason to help and get involved in this world. They are what’s going to carry us through the bleaker moments of life, not the whiney nihilists who say it’s all pointless. To quote the Man of Steel, “there’s nothing funny about truth, justice and the American way.” And we’d all be happier, and better off, if we were reminded of that every once in a while.