Everyone loves to play the bad guy, but a lot of movies have turned the protagonists, the ones we’re supposed to sympathize with into the villains without us knowing it. I’m not talking about clever movies like Looper or movies that tricked us into believing Dwayne Johnson/The Rock was the good guy in Doom when it was really Karl Urban.
No, these are movies in which if you look at what the characters are and what they’re doing, it’s very bad and almost criminal.
Mrs. Doubtfire – With all due respect to Robin Williams, but his Daniel Hillard is quite the asshole. First off, he can’t keep a steady job. Ok, granted, he is fired for opposing the promotion of tobacco use in a cartoon, but then he decides to throw a crazy house party for his teenage son, Chris (Matthew Lawrence). This was because Daniel’s wife, Miranda (Sally Fields) said Chris couldn’t have one because of his grades. But this isn’t dad taking them out for pizza and a movie. No, he hires pony rides and other farm animals. Then, they through a mess of a party at his house, forcing Miranda to come home early and go fucking crazy, as she should.
Then, we have Daniel tamper with a classified ad that Miranda is going to put in the newspaper for a housekeeper. (Now, I’ve worked in the newspaper business for many years. Just changing a few numbers wouldn’t work. Miranda would’ve had the opportunity to proof the ad before it went to press, where she would’ve caught the changes. But let’s just say they were busy.) So, Daniel calls making harrassing phone calls to his wife when he could’ve just very easily have led off with Euphegenia Doubtfire.
So, he gets the job which is theft by deception. And I’m pretty sure this constitutes some violation of a court order. Then, Daniel/Doubtfire turns violent toward Miranda’s friend, Stu (Pierce Brosnan). First he vandalizes Stu’s car by breaking off the hood ornament. Then, he throws a lime at the back of Stu’s head when he doesn’t like how Stu calls him a loser while he’s a guest at Stu’s own club.
Finally, Daniel/Doubtfire tampers with Stu’s jumbalaya by sprinkling it with pepper, causing Stu to have an allergic reaction and choke. Yes, he saves Stu by performing the Heimlich manuever. But Stu probably thought the kitchen or the waiter messed up his order. So now, Daniel has inadvertantly placed the blame on someone else who probably lost their job.
What About Bob? – Bill Murray could only pull off a role like Bob Wiley, a man with extreme mental health problems and phobias. While these can be understandable, he resorts to constant harassment to the point he has stalked his new therapist Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfus) to his house on Lake Winniepesaukie, N.H. But before he did that, he impersonated a police officer at a phone company switchboard center. (Those existed a lot more 30 years ago before people began to use mobile phones more.)
Bob is actually very annoying and unlikeable when you get down to it. The only problem is everyone around him thinks he’s sweet because they’re stupid and the plot calls for it. The movie tries to make Dr. Marvin the bad guy. And while he is egotistical, he at least deserves to be left the fuck alone. The movie also makes Leo a villain to a group of locals, the Guttmans, who are mad because he bought the house years earlier that they wanted. Hey, blame the fucking real estate agent.
At the end of the movie, Bob drives Leo to madness to put explosives around him. But when Bob thinks it’s part of the therapy, he gets loose and leaves the explosives in the house to explode much to the Guttmans’ happiness. So in the span of less than 48 hours, a man loses his home and his sanity because Bob should’ve very easily been arrested the minute he showed up at the Marvin’s lake house.
Ghostbusters/Ghostbusters II – OK, I’m not just picking on Bill Murray, but look at how bad the Ghostbusters really are. Their first encounter with an apparition, they tried to attack it with Dr. Ray Stanz (Dan Aykroyd) screaming “Get her!” So, the library apparition changes to a more demonic evil look to scare them. All it was doing was just minding its business in a library reading. When Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray) tries to talk to it, it passive-aggressively tells him to “Shhh” twice. They were warned.
Later when they do go into business, their first call is at a prestigous hotel where Slimer (or Onionhead as it was called in the first one) is just casually minding its own business and eating. But Ray decides to provoke it by firing a heavily dangerous proton phaser at it. It runs away scared and then it sees Peter looking like Ray who just provoked it, so all it does it go after Peter thinking he’s a threat too.
Even in the ballroom, Slimer/Onionhead is just minding its business. But the Ghostbusters not only destroy private property, they more or less trap (or kidnap) the phantom. Now, they even mention earlier they’re more or less breaking the law by wearing these unlicensed proten packs. Even in Texas in 1984, something like this would have been illegal.
Then, they try to screw the snooty hotel manager (Michael Ensign) out of $5,000. Ok, he’s kinda a dick, but they just tore about the ballroom. How much is that going to cost? Maybe he should’ve gotten an estimate before calling them. And the Ghostbusters are probably not working as a bonded business. But it still doesn’t seem right they’re going to overcharge him.
In the headquarters, they then place a lot of the ghosts, phantoms and apparitions they’ve trapped into a container that is obviously not regulated. Walter Peck (William Atherton) with the Environmental Protection Agency is a dick (or dickless), but he does have some concerns about the environmental impact of the storage facility.
Later in the sequel, they obtain equipment to dig a big hole in the middle of a NYC street without any permits or authorization. When they lower Ray down to look at it, he inadvertently knocks out power all over Manhattan. They were also under a court order not to partaking in any ghostbusting activities, even investigating. So, they defined a court order. The judge in the case (Harris Yulin) may be an asshole but they still defied a court order and knocked out Manhattan during December.
During a montage, they resort to trapping a ghost who is just casually jogging through Central Park. It wasn’t bothering anyone. Imagine how other people who jog treat people. Those same joggers saying “On your left” because they don’t want to zigzag causing you to get out of their way.
I’m not even mentioning how awful they made Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) out to be in Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Terms of Endearment – Shirley MacLane and Debra Winger seemed to be having a contest on who can play the most detestable character that we’re supposed to feel sympathy for. First off, Auror Greenway (MacLane) is so narcississtic the movie opens with her waking her infant daughter who was just sleeping. Later when she hears she’s going to be a grandmother, she freaks out like a Karen asking to see the manager because they want honor a coupon.
Later in the movie, she treats her grandchildren terribly. But who could blame them? They get treated badly throughout the movie, you really just want to call CPS every time they’re on screen. The one moment in the movie in which they seem to have fun is at the pool at the motel as their mother is in the hospital and Aurora has to scream at them for no reason ruining their fun. When the eldest child Tommy rightfully so badmouths his mother, Aurora hits him. But let’s face, she was a horrible mother.
Now, for Emma Greenway-Horton (Debra Winger), she obviously is self-centered. When her and her husband, Flap (Jeff Daniels), decided to have sex rather than get him something to eat, it should’ve been a sign of things to come. Emma seems to spend the rest of the movie screaming at Tommy any chance she can get, despite Tommy wanting to help his infant sister, Melanie, when she’s sick.
Emma thinks it’s okay to cheat on Flap with Sam Burns (John Lithgow) from the bank because Flap cheated on her. Granted, Flap is a scumbag moving his family to another state to follow his mistress but two wrongs don’t make a right. In the end, we’re supposed to feel sympathy and sadness for Emma because she’s got cancer and dying. But it’s not like you just spent two hours of watching her be so selfish.
In a scene so ludricrous even in the 1980s, it wouldn’t have worked, Aurora goes completely Karen demanding Emma get a shot of painkillers. This isn’t how many hospitals work even if the patient is dying of cancer. Too much pain medication can be dangerous. But Aurora just freaks out and screams a lot.
Apparently, Oscar voters were basing their choices on who could scream the best.
Overboard – Oh, boy! Where to begin with this one? Only in the 1980s would a movie like this even be considered watchable. Dean Profitt (Kurt Russell) is just a hard-working blue collar carpenter working in the Pacific Northwest trying to take care of his four sons. When he is hired to work on a yacht for snooty stuck-up heiress, Joanna Slayton (Goldie Hawn), he is stiffed on the bill for using the wrong wood. She knocks him over the rail of the yacht along with his tool kit and sails off.
Later she falls overboard and suffers amnesia. But Dean decides to pretend to be her husband, despite having no marriage license. His idea is he can use Joanna to repay him through slave work. Calling her Annie, he brings her home and forces her to work around the house. And it’s even suggested he might try to have sex with her. This is called rape by deception.
But she eventally falls in love with him and he sees that she’s got some humanity. Even after she discovers what Dean has done, she doesn’t do the logical thing by notifying the police and pressing charges. No, she realizes she likes her fake life with Dean more than living on a yacht doing nothing but getting richer. Yet it never really occurs to her that Dean more or less kidnapped her and treated her badly. Okay, Joanna was kind of a bitch, but two wrongs don’t make a right.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Ok, there have been numerous posts about just how bad Ferris (Matthew Broderick) really is through deleted scenes but I’m only going to refer to the final cut because he is still an awful person. At first, he’s just doing minor things like faking being sick. Even by going into his school’s computer system and resetting the number of days he’s been absent is on the district for not having a better firewall.
But when he makes his friend, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) get out of bed when he’s sick to make fake phone calls to administrator Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), he’s actually risking Cameron’s school record. When Cameron doesn’t say what Ferris wants, he hits him. So, Ferris is violent. Then, he guilts Cameron into believing he’s done wrong. Sounds like an abusive relationship to me.
So, Ferris steals the Ferrari that belongs to Cameron’s father. This is a huge robbery. The fake phone call is one thing. But this is far worse. Oh, and that phone call was to make Rooney believe that the grandmother of Ferris’ girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) has passed away. Of course, this is a risk that Rooney didn’t already call her father or even know her father and thus could recognize that it’s not her father on the phone.
At the restaurant, he steals someone else’s reservation. I mean, what did he think would happen when the real Abe Forman shows up. After arguing with the Maitre D, he again makes Cameron do a fake phone call, this time impersonating a Chicago police officer. Pretty much Ferris controls himself after they eat lunch even though the likelihood they could attend a baseball game, visit a museum and a float that obviously takes place in a weird time that it doesn’t interfer with rush hour, but a lot of people are able to attend.
At the end, Ferris has to run home to beat his parents. He leaves Sloane after having a good moment with her, but as he’s running home, he stops to flirt with two women sunbathing. Really? And he’s talked about seriously marrying her earlier in the movie. Maybe he’s planning on an open marriage.
Revenge of the Nerds – I couldn’t end this list without this one. Again, this is another movie that only seems to have been able in the 1980s. Now, the nerds of Lambda Lambda Lambda go through a lot through diabolical pranks by the Alpha Betas. They are kicked out of their dorm building with the Alphas burn down their frat house.
When the Tri-Lambs have a party, they crash it and embarrass them in front of U.N. Jefferson (Bernie Casey), the president of the national fraternity. So, it seems a fitting fuck you when the Tri-Lambs pour liquid heat on the Alphas’ jock straps. I mean, it’s the perfect revenge. Jefferson even is amused by it.
But I’m sure Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) didn’t tell him about how they did a panty raid on the Pi Delta Pi, installing video cameras all around the sorority house to spy on them. Of course, the panty raid is pretty bad because it is sexual harassment and even assault. But installing the cameras is worse. This is highly illegal. But since the campus police is only arresting people for exposing themselves to blind persons, the Pis don’t bother.
Even the more rational Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) seems to enjoy spying on many Pis undressing. And by showing this to the juvenile prodigy Harold Wormser (Andrew Cassese), they’re probably violating some laws regarding showing pornographic material to minors and contributing to the delinguency of minors. Speaking of which, wouldn’t there be some restrictions about Wormser living off-campus with about two dozen older college students? I don’t know. This whole movie seems to make college looks like a place where anything goes.
Later at the Homecoming Carnival, they sell nude pics of Betty Childs (Julie Montgomery), a Pi. And no one bothers to report this, even Stan Gable (Ted McGinley), who is Betty’s boyfriend. But since she’s apparently a nymphomaniac, she’s perfectly okay with Lewis pretending to be Stan so they can have sex together. Yes, it’s rape. Yes, it’s bad. But Betty apparently likes it, so it’s okay.
Well, no it’s not.
What do you think? Please comment.
2 thoughts on “Movies In Which The Protagonists Are Really The Villains”
I remember Overboard. I watched it as a kid, and loved it. It’s definitely problematic though. I think now it succeeded only because of their chemistry.
Add Spiderman: No Way Home to that list. Peter Parker is the real villain of that film. While trying to get Dr Strange to fix reality in Spidey’s favour, he instigates everything that then goes wrong and is truly the Evil Ming of that film.