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“Noble thieves” movies

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DavidV
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About the only portrayal of efficacious and proud individuals in today’s movies is that of organized teams of criminals. Of the top of my head, some examples are Ocean’s 11, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Italian Job, and Catch Me If You Can.

Ok, it’s probably obvious to you that the above represents Hollywood’s anti-business mentality, but I find that many of my capitalist friends enjoy such movies. Is there something inherently wrong with enjoying a movie that glorifies crime, or is it possible to ignore that that and focus on the fact that these are goal-directed individuals achieving their (corrupt) values? Are there any recent movies that glorify the creation rather than destruction of values?

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...or is it possible to ignore that that and focus on the fact that these are goal-directed individuals achieving their (corrupt) values?

By 'possible' I assume you mean, "would it be rational to..." What would you say to this: would it be rational to enjoy a Nazi movie where the Nazi's are glorified? Say this group of Nazi's was quite goal oriented, and the movie is about them acheiving their goals?

This isn't to say that I agree with your first point (movies like Goodfellas being inherently wrong), I just don't agree with your reasoning in support of the second.

I too have thought about this issue before and have yet to justify my own position (that I also enjoy movies of this kind).

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The question is, what are the movies really about. The fact that crime happens to be the central action does not mean that crime is what the film is glorifing.

With the exception of "The Italian Job" (which I have not seen, and so, cannot speak for), the films you mention are primarily cat and mouse games (either romantic or otherwise). Perhaps it is the skill involved in the chase (the skill of the chaser, the chasee or both), not the crime itself, which is being glorified.

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About the only portrayal of efficacious and proud individuals in today’s movies is that of organized teams of criminals.  Of the top of my head, some examples are Ocean’s 11, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Italian Job, and Catch Me If You Can. 

I am not sure what your standard of "efficacious and proud" is, but mine is exemplified in a marvelous film made just two years before the (poor, as compared to the original) remake of your The Thomas Crown Affair . See the billionaire businessman portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in The Edge if you want "efficacious and proud" wrapped in a thrilling story.

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I have put a little thought in the issue of why the bad guys in so many movies are a business man. While I agree that it most of this stems from their idea that business is evil I also think that in a lot of cases it makes some sense. If your story has an evil man with a lot of resources at his dispense to do evil with where is he supposes to have this income spawn from? One of the simplest ways to explain your evil doer’s cash is to place him in the business world. And while this does make capitalism appear evil the bad guy is never really the honest business man, just like the character he is evil and scheming, like and Ellsworth Toohey.

I agree with Richard, usually the story is not about the business being evil, it is usually about good vs. evil. That is something I normally can look past in a film.

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It's the stigma of the underdog, Joerj11. People love to hate anybody who has more than them, so a movie depicting a member of the 2% as the bad guy will appeal to 98% of the populous.

Well, maybe not 98%. Not everybody who reads Rand is a millionaire... ;)

This, BTW, is the same fallible thought process that made Christianity so popular; it appeals to the underdog -the poor, the sick, the suffering- tells them that they will be rewarded for these things; glorifies their toleration of it! "Do not be sad if you are hungry, if you are poor; you are chaste for it, and will be rewarded in the End!" Of course so many hate the wealthy; because they feel inferior! And besides, what if they're wrong, what if they will not be rewarded in the End? That means they suffered all of their lives for nothing, while the wealthy got to have all the fun! O cruel irony!

ZiggyKD has a good point. Here's another: Robin Hood. ;) If art is a value-judgment of man's metaphysics, then in deciding whether or not a particular movie has any value, one need only consider its value-judgments.

For example:

The Unforgiven

American Beauty

Boogie Nights

Saving Private Ryan

Boyz n the Hood

All of these stories have elements that might be classified as stark anathemas of Rand's philosophy, but I think every one of them is an outstanding movie. After all, sometimes a negative illustration of a concept is even more powerful than a supportive one...

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Hmmm. I cannot think of any movies right now, but I do recall this one book I read about a year ago. In it this guy brings up some of the points you are mentioning about "noble thieves." His main opinion is that there is no such thing. That people like Robin Hood are evil. Of course the guy was pirate himself who sunk ships, stole supplies that were being used to support crumbling nations and broke people out of government instalations. I think his name was Ragnar something.

If you have read the book you know there is a lot more to it than that, but Ragnar raised a good issue. Is it okay to steal from thieves?

I enjoy many of the movies mentioned, but not because of the underlying themes of corruption. I enjoy watching the charecters, how they interact, how they rationalize (when they bother to think about what they are doing) their actions and the mindless violence.

would it be rational to enjoy a Nazi movie where the Nazi's are glorified?

I can think of a Nazi movie where the Nazi is glorified. Shindler's List.

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His main opinion is that there is no such thing. That people like Robin Hood are evil.

It should be noted that Ragnar is the real Robin Hood, the man who stole the taxes from the taxers and gave them back to their rightfull owners. It is only the Robin Hood who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, whom Ragnar condems.

However, since "stealing" what belongs to you is not, in fact, stealing, it remains true that there is no such thing as a noble theif.

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I can think of a Nazi movie where the Nazi is glorified. Shindler's List.

But clearly he is glorified for his anti-Nazi activities.

There was an old Audie Murphy Western called Seven Ways from Sundown that dealt with the idea of the noble thief. Audie was a Texas Ranger who had to track down and bring in an outlaw he suspected of having killed his brother, also a Texas Ranger. The problem was that no one would help Murphy find the outlaw, because everyone loved him. He was charismatic, handsome, self-confident, brave, shared his loot with a liberal hand, and was very friendly---to those he wasn't currently robbing.

Murphy finally caught up with him and captured him. Then he had to take him back in, which meant three or four days of travelling with the captive. Before the first day was out, the outlaw had charmed Murphy almost out of his sense of justice---but not quite. Murphy was too moral to fall for the noble outlaw myth. He brought him to justice in the town where he was wanted.

But then the noble outlaw broke out of jail, as he had told Murphy he would do. On his way out of the town, the happy-go-lucky outlaw fired a few random shots into the air by way of celebration---and one of those stray bullets hit and killed Murphy's girlfriend.

That is why there is no such thing as a noble outlaw. However charming or brilliant they may be, they are initiating force upon others, either deliberately, or through a reckless disregard for the lives or property of others.

I am referring to the Thomas Crown type of "noble thief," not the Ragnar type, who I don't consider a thief at all.

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  • 3 months later...

Recent Movies that glorify creation of values or, at least, creators.

THE EDGE - excellent pick, stephen. (and Alec Baldwin dies - that's so just)

GATTACA - can't really think of any way that I'd change it.

CHOCOLAT - peikoff was right - and i never would have rented it but for his reccommendation

DINNER RUSH - Little Known film about a man keeping his restaurant from the mob and passing it to his son.

to be continued...

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Recent Movies that glorify creation of values or, at least, creators.

THE EDGE - excellent pick, stephen.  (and Alec Baldwin dies - that's so just)

And, even more dramatic, it shows how Baldwin depends upon our hero for his very survival throughout the film, despite his devious plans.

I too loved Gattaca and Chocolat. I never did get to see Dinner Rush, though others recommended it too. I will make an effort to see that sometime soon.

We seem to like some of the same films. So, while speaking of values and creators, have you seen the romantic comedy/drama Other People's Money? If not, by all means enjoy it as soon as you can.

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Speaking of comedies, try Andrew Niccol's "S1mone," which stars Al Pacino. You'll laugh so hard, you might forget your name.

I think that Niccol is the top director working today. He wrote and directed "Gattaca" and "S1mone"; and he wrote "The Truman Show."

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