In Defense of Successful People

To start, I invite you to picture a horrifying hypothetical scene. Imagine, if you would, that a mentally retarded girl has a crush on a normal man. She goes to visit him at his college campus, and accidentally sees him attempting to have sex with another woman. She intervenes, and as such the man takes her up to his dorm room. He then proceeds to disrobe and present his genitals to her, going so far as to take her hands and place them on his genitalia and stimulate her until orgasm, all while his roommate watches. This scene I have presented hopefully horrifies you, although this exact scene happens in “Forest Gump”, only with a mentally challenged man and a normal woman. And it was shown as humorous and even heartwarming.

This is just one of several examples of a trend in cinema, both movie and television, to mistreat people because they wouldn’t have problems in real life. Forest was a straight white man, so it was okay that he was sexually abused by someone. In fact, his character got it relatively easy. The only thing that happened to him was getting raped, getting tricked into serving and almost dying in Vietnam, then having a child dumped on him by a woman who was dying of AIDS that she got from having sex and doing drugs with other men while ignoring Forest’s professions of love. At least Forest Gump wasn’t portrayed as a villain.

Perhaps the most classic example of hate towards successful people is the portrayal of jocks in movies, or even more generally, people who are good at athletics. For instance, in the movie “Hossiers”, the audience is expected to root for a basketball team of all white men in Kentucky in the 1950's. And who is the audience supposed to root against? The Indiana Wildcats, an all African-American team. They are the bad guys for one reason and one reason only: they are good at basketball. Sure they can’t drink out of the same water fountains as the Hossiers, but the fact that they are talented athletes means they can’t possibly also be good people. They are the popular, well respected team, and as such Hollywood had to cast them in a negative light.

A villain by any sports movie standard

I can see where this trend comes from, as one of the main jobs of the movie and television industry is wish fulfillment for its audience, but the problem comes from an overcompensation. Is someone a cool, popular kid? That must mean they are evil and a jerk. Is someone Christian in a show with homosexual main characters? Well if you ask the writers and producers of “Modern Family”, that must mean that the Christian people are idiotic bigots. In the Netflix original “Stranger Things”, the popular kids are all bad guys, and the only way the main character’s boyfriend is able to become a good guy is by giving up his popular status. And god forbid you be a talented athlete who has trained for your whole life. If you are in a sports movie, that means you are an objectively worse human being than the amateur who has only been training a few months.

Underdog stories have always been some of the most popular stories. Everyone loves to see someone go from the bottom to the top. But for some reason, that always seems to mean that the people who are already at the top are bad, at least to producers and writers. And it’s easy to go along with this concept. Everyone likes to imagine that the people above them don’t really deserve what they have. Everyone’s boss is a jerk in their mind. Nerds will always imagine how great it will be when the popular kids now become losers later on and start working for them. Everyone laughs when a show makes a joke about a straight man getting raped in prison (this joke is pretty common in media for some reason, as if rape is assumed to be part of the punishment). One could argue that its simply human nature to think that those who are above you in some way don’t deserve to have that position as much as you do.

All of that being said, I urge you to look past these biases. Having it good does not make a person bad; if it did, then every first world country would be composed of villains. The best way to avoid falling into the trap of hating successful people is to just think critically about what you are being presented with. Otherwise, you might be agreeing that its okay for a woman to rape a mentally challenged man, and that’s something that nobody should ever be okay with.