Re: RARA-AVIS: Types of noir (was Re: Pop. 1280)

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 30 Jul 2007

At 06:22 PM 29/07/2007, you wrote:

>miker wrote:
>"You mention the moral aspect and the end justifying the means as a
>possible indication of craziness (you didn't exactly say that, but I'm
>twisting your words to fit my need), but as much as it is denigrated,
>the end-justifying-the-means stands fairly solid in the school of
>ethics. We've also established that people can do some pretty nasty
>stuff without being crazy. I'm not arguing here. Just rolling it all

And Mike replied:

>Me, too, kind of working out my definition as we discuss it, trying to
>put into words what was essentially a gut reaction.
>I don't think you're twisting my words, pretty much agree with what
>you're saying here. In fact, it made me realize something that had been
>missing from what I wrote, something that was kind of nagging at me.
>For me, psycho noir's not just about ends justifying the means, but also
>the ends that are being justified. For the psycho/sociopath, the ends
>are always focused on the betterment and/or enjoyment of self, with
>others just as pawns for the psycho's fun. And it's more fun for the
>psycho (and reader?) when that betterment comes at the expense of
>someone else.

Are you sure it's not the drain you're circling in this discussion?

Ends vs. means are moral considerations whether evaluated by a priest or a psychologist. In either case, the sinner or psycho (the individual, or small collective) has behaved in ways unacceptable or incomprehensible to the larger collective in which she/he finds him/herself. Ethics and psychosis overlap because they extend from the same culture. Of course, just as laws vary from one political jurisdiction to another and are not always accepted with unanimity within jurisdictions, ethics, morality and psychosis vary.

I'm sure there are books written in which the protagonist is doomed for this reason, but that is not, alone, what makes them noir. Tragedy perhaps, but not noir. Then again, there are books that are noir, showing that immoral or unethical or psychotic behaviour is one of the many ways in which the characters meet their doom. In noir the characters are doomed regardless of whether their behaviour is moral, normal, ethical or otherwise. This does not preclude free will, and we could argue that noir is about what choices people make while faced with their inevitable doom. You can step in front of that train, or be pushed, or push others ahead of you, or step forward and then back, tempting fate. You can try to run away but the road always circles back to the track, or one just like it (hard to tell for sure.) You can sit beside the track and pretend the train doesn't exist, consider whether it matters or doesn't matter, or imagine that when the train hits you will be transported to another land without trains and tracks. You can join a support group for train phobics. Whole bunch of things you can do, but eventually that train will get you. Just the way things are.

Whoo Whoo, Kerry

------------------------------------------------------ Literary events Calendar (South Ont.) The evil men do lives after them

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 30 Jul 2007 EDT