Thursday, October 4, 2012

Morality versus Ethics


Now who would have thought that television has me question heavy subjects?  Thanks to recent television, I have looked into the differences between being ethical and moral.  Your stereotypical protagonist is both ethical and moral.  In opposition your stereotypical antagonist is Immoral and unethical.  In three of my favorite recent shows, The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, and Justified, they have explored a different dynamic.  First lest look at the definitions of Ethical and Moral.  The definition of Ethical is being in accordance with the rules or standards for right conduct or practice, especially the standards of a profession.  Moral is defined as the following: of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong.  In the Shield, Vic Mackey is Moral, but Unethical.  He does all the wrong things for the right reasons.  In the opposite corner we have Clay Morrow on Sons of Anarchy; he is Ethical, but Immoral.  Clay does all the right things for the wrong reasons.  Clay has a code of rules he does not break.  Those rules are outside the norm.  Both shows have these characters devolve as they break their own personal codes as things snowball against them.  The funny thing is Sons of Anarchy creator, Kurt Sutter was a staff writer on the Shield.  That is probably why we some of the same themes on both shows.  Let’s break down the two characters.

Vic Mackey is a hardboiled detective.  He is working in the world of Los Angeles street gangs.  This is not a world of black and white.  Vic knows drugs will never go away, so he tries to control things so the least amount of harm happens to the general public.  His control is an illusion, the more he tries to control the streets the more things get out of hand.  He finds himself so deep down the rabbit hole.  Like the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Vic’s behavior cost him, lives, friendships, relationships and his reputation.

Clay Morrow on Sons of Anarchy has done some bad things, but he is a criminal.  He wallows in it.  He however is against drugs being in his club and town. Typical of both works, he compromises his beliefs and all that goes out the window.  He broke a big code years ago and the fallout form that leads to more chaos.  In Clay’s downward spiral he sacrifices everything he loves and believes in, his family, his club and his standing. 

What I like about theses shows and Justified, is that they deal in the moral and ethical ambiguities that our world is made up of.  There is never a clear action that is not going to compromise something.  There is never a clear right or wrong.  Also when something seems to be too good or too easy, it blows up in the faces of the main characters.  Life is never clean, easy or understandable.  Good guys do bad things and bad guys to great things.  People are never A or B, they are sometimes both in varying degrees.  That is My Not so Humble Opinion.

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