“Be the better man…”

I was watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine the other day. It’s a very good movie, I thought, but there were a couple of scenes that made me just pause the film, get down on my  knees and scream: “Nooooooo!”

My wife finds this to be a most undesirable trait in a television viewing partner.

One in particular I’d like to talk about is where (Warning: If you have not seen the movie, what I’m about to say contains spoilers.) …

Wolverine has Sabretooth on the ground, claws at the ready and vengeance in his mind. Suddenly, Wolverine’s love interest says something along the lines of: “Don’t do it! You’ll be just as bad as he is!”

My mouth hung agape as I once again paused the film to show my wife that my mouth was indeed, agape.

This theme, “Be the better man,” has become far too prevalent in TV and movies lately and I need to explain why it is so appalling.

The premise behind the argument is this: This man is bad because he murdered. If you murder, then you are also bad. So you should not murder him, because then you will be just like him.

But it doesn’t take into account some pretty crucial information. Namely, that killing a murderer (especially a mass-murderer) is not the same as killing an innocent. That’s like saying that because I drive my car to work in the morning you also are entitled to drive my car to work in the morning. No, you’re not. Because “my car” and “your car” are distinct from the idea of “car” in the same way that “justified kill” and “unjustified kill” are distinct from just “kill”.  The fact that both involve killing doesn’t make them on equal moral ground.

Back to Wolverine. This sap (who should be a man’s man, a real hero) gets all mushy and lets Sabretooth go. Now I find this disgusting on the premise that Wolverine was entirely justified in killing that mass-murdering filthy monster Sabretooth, and he was guilted into ignoring his entitled kill. Aside from the fact that he was entitled to it, that he had a right to kill Sabretooth, there’s another problem: Sabretooth will kill again.

It is my opinion that the first part of this argument stands alone. That Wolverine was justified in killing Sabretooth merely on the basis of Sabretooth’s past crimes and the idea that killing a bad guy is not as bad as killing a good guy or a civilian. But maybe you’re not convinced. Consider this: the X-Men trilogy (which, although released before Origins, shows events subsequent to it) shows us that Sabretooth kills again after Wolverine lets him go. If you like utilitarian arguments, then here you go. By letting Sabretooth live, Wolverine allowed him to kill more innocents. Who knows how many lives could have been saved if Wolverine had held on to his manhood, shown some grit and said: “Nah…,” and slashed his head off.

Compare this otherwise awesome Wolverine to the thoroughly awesome James Bond. What would  Bond do if he was in this situation? Simple, he’d respond with something witty like: “I am the better man.” BLAM! “I’m the one still alive.” And then he’d proceed to take out the bad guys and save the world. Because James Bond knows.

He knows that “Being the better man” is just another way of saying: “turn the other cheek.” And we don’t want a hero that turns the other cheek. He gets people killed. We want a hero that gives an eye for an eye. Because he takes care of the problem.

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