Good / Evil

Originally published at: Good / Evil -

#164: How do good and evil expressed in media influence how we think about them in real life? We discuss how “good” and “bad” can be relative and that we learn a lot about good and bad from media even though we should probably know better.

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00:00:00 - Intro / Good & Evil

00:33:54 - Patreon Ad

00:34:22 - Media Matters

00:44:50 - Geek Therapy

00:53:24 - Wrap-Up

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This was a really nice episode, it really got me thinking.

I struggle with the concept of good/bad, not only because it is polar (black/white) but also because it assigns the properties on people. A man can have done a horrible thing, but as long as he does nice things throughout his life, people will have a hard time categorizing them as a bad person and then they will have a harder time believing they are capable of doing bad things. A man who sexually assaulted someone but generally is nice to fam and friends and works in charity is someone that others find it easier to forgive and excuse than a man who consistently does a bad thing. It’s so important to keep conversations on bad actions and their consequences, because people are not good or bad, they just are, but actions have consequences and our focus should be on preventing harm.

Ali Mattu talks at the beginning of how forensic psych works with people who are murder convicts and how our job is to connect to the humanity of another person. That’s so much of what brought me to psychiatry in general. I’ve worked with a lot of people in substance use, and as a rule, it’s very common that the illness has brought them to do a lot of things they regret. drawing a balance from telling patients that their illness is a key factor in their decisions while still holding them accountable for it is key. The same goes for said person’s upbringing or formative experiences. We can always hold people accountable to be better and their background is not grounds for us to accept their behavior as is.

When Lara talks about crime procedurals and about how there’s a struggle between knowing a person did bad things and wanting them to pay for their crimes and wanting to understand where they come from; I thought about how there’s an additional piece of the puzzle that makes it more complicated. We know that prison only works as a form of punishment but is not very effective as a form of rehabilitation. The general narrative around bad/good is that bad behavior should is punishment and that this punishment is called justice. But true justice consists in implementing change that changes the conditions that brought about crime. The more I work with people in correctional setting the more I believe nobody deserves to really be there and how it does no good. I don’t have a better answer for what we could do to stop people in general from doing bad things, but punishment is not good. instead of focusing on whether a person is good or bad and deserving of punishment we should focus on how to stop these things at the root.

This reminded me so much about the song from Crazy Ex-girlfriend “nothing is ever anyone’s fault” which to me is such a perfect synthesis of the lines we have to draw of accountability especially in mental health where our job is to look at the humanity.

Josue asks about why people aren’t informed on better behavior by media (there aren’t racist characters that people love).

There are so many things that contribute to people’s understanding of media and how we excuse bad behavior or even interpret hero’s dilemmas as one that sits with our political and moral leanings.

First of all, people, in general, go a long way to excuse people’s behavior. A lot of people (who may self-identify as reasonable people) can easily accept a person’s behavior on the grounds that they understand why they are that way.
Example: Lauren’s mention of how boys bully girls because they like them.

A lot of people use utilitarian logic or pose as devil advocates when moral lines are clearly crossed. We also sympathize with horrible views if the person who holds them is framed as tragic or sympathetic.
Example: Thanos; There is an alarming about of people whose state that “Thanos was right”. This is not only because the movie frames his sacrifice as worthy of sympathy but also because it frames it as a logical solution for suffering and disparity. NEver mind that his solution is the Genocide of half of the galaxy. (Also never mind that population growth is exponential and eventually you will be at square one, and that maybe it would’ve been better to address the cause of this disparity and how to fine tune it so that more lives are saved. Also Why the f does Thanos think that he is uniquely qualified to make that decision for half the galaxy?! Who is to say that living in pain is better than not living at all.) /Thanosrant

People have different limits for moral values.
Example: Lauren mentions how some people consider themselves not to be racist on the grounds that they don’t kill people of color. But little effort is done to address how the actions we take are all contributing to racism in daily life. The word racist (often interpreted as a person who discriminates against people of color IN EXCESS) in and of itself makes it so that it’s so much harder to address inequity. It would be so much better if we all understood that we all have a part in it and start from the assumption that we all have some form of ingrained racism that needs to be addressed. Instead racist is a word that qualifies a person as a bad person and if I’m called a racist that means I’m bad, but nobody believes they are bad so the problem becomes an issue of how racist do you have to be to be “actually racist”.

We are willing to overlook bad messaging in media in order to maintain the integrity of the work.
Example: We are all forced to see some form of stereotypical representation in media that we don’t agree with but nonetheless accept as a part of the work (Evil Psychologists trope). Thsoe who go against that representation accept it as a unfortunate stain on the work of art, while other viewers may see it as a confirmation of their biases. See: Any and every representation of mexicans in crime. We can see these representations and say its biased and steretypical, but another one will only see the good cop getting rid of the bad criminals who all happen to be mexican, and the reason they are all mexican is likely because its an accurate reflection of reality because otherwise why would it be so common. All media is educational media.

People also interpret things differently. Example Black Panther. It is a movie liberals LOVED because of it’s representation achievements and because they identified with the plea of the villain (making him “relatable”) while it was also loved by conservatives because it framed social justice and Black Lives Matter as the villain amongst other things.


Ali also mentions race in lord of the rings and how black races are often seen as brutish or evil. while elves are often see as pure and intelligent. This is one of the ways we ignore toxic messaging across mediums. Another example is the consistent framing of perverts in anime as funny, silly and totally not creepy. A lot of “nice” and sympathetically framed characters come with the added feature that they will touch a female character’s body without their permission with the goal of attaining sexual gratification from it and somehow we accept this so much in anime culture that it is EVERYWHERE. When we know that in real life that crap doesnt fly.

It’s just so much to talk about, but essentially people take from media what they like and tolerate the things they don’t like. When they complain about things in media or criticize it, they are seen as unable to appreciate a piece of media and being prudish or easily offended. This makes it so that we accept a lot of toxic tropes in media that reinforces toxic behavior and ideas in real life.

I firmly believe in being critical of media, especially the media you love. Because when you love something you want to see it grow and become less toxic and share it freely with others.

That’s my take at least.