Friday night was date night for me. My wife and I did something we don’t do very often – we went out by ourselves. We decided on dinner and a movie in a city about twenty five miles away from us. Although our town has great places to eat, we only have one theater that shows two movies and neither really appealed to me. After a wonderful dinner, a large beer for me and disappointingly strong margarita for my wife, we went to a Movie Theater nearby that has eight theaters. After living here for eight years, it was our first time there. I wanted to see Sicario. If you are a fan of Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt, or Josh Brolin, I would highly recommend it. The story takes place in Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales, and Juarez, all cities I am very familiar with and I found myself trying to find markers I recognized. Only the aerial view of Juarez stood out to me. I found out later that the majority of the movie was shot in Albuquerque and the Juarez street scenes were actually filmed in Mexico City. You have to love Hollywood.
Despite being an action movie, Sicario dealt with a deeper issue that prompted a conversation between my wife and I on the drive home that evening. We discussed the ethical behavior and decisions of the main characters during the movie. Some of this was to keep me attentive driving country roads in the dark but most of it had to do with questions raised by the actions of those in the movie. I enjoy when something I see makes me think. Usually, I read a book and comment that it would make a great movie. This movie would make a great book.
As a writer of fiction, I can create fictitious characters, cities, or worlds. I can bend some writing rules to suit my own needs to create my own style. I can explore morality and behavior, leading the reader to consequences or non-consequences. I can write the past, present, or future with a mixture of actions or customs that are either factual or made up yet plausible. I can borrow from tried and true formulas of other writers in specific genres: good guy gets the girl, reluctant hero coming to the aid of those that ask, good triumphs over evil, the pursuit ends in capture, sleuth solves the crime, true love prevails, and so on. Or if I was creative enough, I could devise my own formula that defies the norm yet still attracts readers. For the most part, I can do whatever I want to do… within reason. It’s fiction. What I can’t do is plagiarize. Why? Because it’s wrong. Period. That would be cheating. Yet we see and are exposed to cheating on a daily basis.
I had a poster I special ordered once. There is a photographer who covers Le Tour de France who takes the most amazing pictures of the riders and countryside that fill this epic race. I took the poster to Michaels and had it framed in a very expensive frame with no glare glass. It hung on my wall for years and was an inspiration to me on what was possible when someone has the drive and determination to succeed. To win against the odds. And then it all came crashing down and that expensive frame sits in a closet somewhere less the poster that I ripped up and tossed in the garbage. Some might argue that his winning served a greater good, benefiting the philanthropic efforts he is a part of for cancer. I would argue that it didn’t. More cheating was exposed throughout the sport and I haven’t watched it since despite religiously tuning in each July for over fifteen years, not missing but a few stages of the race.
“We are more likely to cheat if we see others doing so. We tend to conform to accepted norms of reasonable behavior, rather than adhere to strict rules.” – Evan Davis
I get an executive briefing each day from a professional engineering society I am a member of. There a number of briefs regarding inventions, innovations, and contracts that involve major manufacturers throughout the world. Recently it contained a brief regarding a major car manufacturer that had cheated on their emission testing. This bothered me not only because it’s a company I have always respected but because it took a substantially large group of engineers and decision makers to collaborate and pull this off. I won’t speculate as to why this decision was made because I can’t fathom the thought that it was even up for decision. There are rules in place because society deems them necessary. If you’ve ever driven in or near Los Angeles, it’s easy to understand why (and I’m only picking on LA because it was the first city I visited where I noticed smog for the first time). It was an abuse of power by some, it was cheating, and it was wrong.
A private email server being used by a government official. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you know what I am talking about and this is the moment I might upset a few of you. That’s not my intent and it’s not political. This is also the time where I probably need to make a disclaimer and state “these thoughts are my own” although I feel my thoughts are in line with the code of conduct paperwork I sign off on each year. I am not a direct government employee but work in the government division of a very large company. My division builds key equipment and components found on aircraft carriers and submarines in addition to equipment used in nuclear plants. Because of this, there are strict rules I have to abide by. There are procedural rules regarding everything involved in acceptance or non-acceptance of component parts and/or finished assemblies. There are also strict procedural rules regarding how we conduct business, both general everyday business activities and how we communicate and work electronically. Is some of it inconvenient? Yes, but what is at stake overrides any inconvenience. There are lives that depend on the following of these rules. My job also depends on my following the rules. This is black and white to me with no grey area so I don’t buy into anyone at any level not following the rules.
So where am I going with all this? Back to writing of course. As writers, we have a lot of freedom to write about anything and everything. This can be through works of fiction or non-fiction we intend to publish or simply through a blog post. We can draw on the events of the past, the present, and of probable or not so probable events of the future to create a story or simply to talk/rant about something. Those events can be feel good events or they can be events we deem morally wrong, subjective to the individual interpretations we all derive from them. Throughout this process, we can play with our own perceived ethical or moral behavior in a manner that might or might not influence at all. The potential for influence is there though and with that comes accountability and responsibility. I’m not suggesting tossing artistic creativity by the wayside. I’m only suggesting, that much like the examples I mentioned above, or the everyday influences of leaders, athletes, teachers, coaches, parents, and newscasters to name a few, we all have the potential to influence. Don’t abuse that power.
People have a choice of what they can and can’t live with, what they see as right or wrong, or what they are just indifferent to. Is it always black and white? No, sometimes it is grey. I can live with grey occasionally when the argument for it is compelling enough.
Now to go punish my main character for bad decisions…
images found on google images and Pixabay