Re: RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled politics

Date: 18 Jul 2003


Re your comments below:

> why do we identify with these characters,
> these losers (I'm
> assuming most of us do, at least to some extent)?

Because, to piggy-back off my comment to Mario, they are NOT losers. They are heroes. And it is in the nature of audiences to identify with the hero.
> And I'd say that over
> the decades, they are become even more the losers,
> and often recognize
> themselves as such. Tanner, to use your example, is
> pretty damn
> self-aware about his outsider status and the great
> price he pays for it
> in loneliness. And he tossed away a legal career on
> the inside to
> pursue this role.

That's not the same as being a loser. In the context of the series, at least, it's displaying integrity. Maybe it wouldn't be in real life, but it is in the context of the story.
> I don't really know why we find this so appealing.
> Perhaps we see
> ourselves as losers (even if we are not so far
> outside or have more
> trappings of success) and wish we were as noble as
> these characters. Or
> maybe we wish we had the balls (as presented in the
> genre, could just as
> easily be seen as a failure of character in the real
> world -- was
> Flitcraft a hero for pursuing a new life or a coward
> for deserting his
> old one?) to walk away from all of our
> responsibilities and walk the
> lonely path. That lonely path can seem appealing
> (in a self-pitying
> kind of way) during those moments when everyone in
> your real life seems
> to represent nothing but obligation and/or betrayal.

It's appealing because it's seen as heroic. "Walking the lonely path" is seen, in the context of the story, NOT as a way of "walking away fromn all our responsilities," but as fulfilling them.

Oh, and as for Flitcraft, he is not only a coward for running away from his responsibilties, but a dullard for not having the insight or self-awareness to see that he's gotten into exactly the same rut in his
"new" life.

The "fixer," to use Mario's term, DOESN'T avoid responsibility. He grabs it by the horns. If he has to go down those mean streets, he does, without becoming mean himself. Flitcraft found the prospect of falling beams to terrible to face, and, found another city where (he hoped) the streets were less mean. In the process, he dishonorably reneged on committments and responsibilities to his family. That's why he's a coward.

Marlowe, Spade, the Op, Archer, etc., do their jobs, keep their promises, uphold their committments, and, when this steely resolve puts them in harm's way, they face danger bravely. That's what heroes do.

It's appealing, Mark, because it's an attitude that seems to audiences to display both moral and physical courage. And that rare combination is a pretty good defintion of heroism.


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