Sigma Male, "Cool" Pyschopaths: Jordan Belfort, Pat Bateman, Joker, et

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@beelzebubble recommended I started this thread on some comments I made in the 2010s, top 100 and I think it can be an interesting point for discussion

There seems to be a sub-set of films that stage rather villainous and flawed protagonists, that half the audience ends up loving & idolizing.

Some other examples




I don't want to be dismissive, or sit on a throne but in much of these cases it seems like the idolaztion comes from missing the mark. That just by framing an awful person in a "heroic" and successful role people gravitate towards them

Whenever I see a Fightclub or American Psycho poster, I wonder: did they really get the film? You do realize these aren't heroes?

Very scattered, but would love to get other thoughts and examples
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Yeah, there's no body mutilation in it



I don't love or idolise these characters, but I think when done right, they can be very interesting and compelling. I don't see any of them as heroes, but I wouldn't consider them villains either, in the traditional sense of the word. I think it can be worthwhile to try and understand them and see things from their perspective, even if we feel they are wrong and disagree with what they do.



My very general, first-blush thought is that this is a transitionary thing: for a very long time the protagonist was the good guy, and as the art form(s) (television in particular) evolved it began to depict a wider variety of types of protagonists, some neither good nor bad, some outright bad, and some gradually moving from one to the other. But a lot of people had spent decades consuming stories a certain way and assumed, consciously or otherwise, that they must be the good guys, and sometimes they contorted themselves to make that "fit" rather than step back and examine their assumptions.

I think that's part of it, at least. Another part is that we naturally empathize with any well-drawn character if we see what they've gone through, which is something that should cause us to reexamine our assumptions not about TV characters, but about supposedly bad people in general.

And of course, there's also what you allude to: some people kinda see what they want. Poe's Law, but for depicting bad, brash behavior. Someone will always think it's just supposed to be cool.



I think that's part of it, at least. Another part is that we naturally empathize with any well-drawn character if we see what they've gone through, which is something that should cause us to reexamine our assumptions not about TV characters, but about supposedly bad people in general.
Right. I think that it's very easy to fall into the mindset of the main character. I remember watching an episode of Hannibal where a gas repair person or something was kind of rude to him and it was implied that Hannibal later killed him. And I remember thinking, "Well, he was very rude." Obviously my moral compass has not shifted to thinking that people should be murdered for being rude, but you can slide into the morality/perspective of a character, especially if they are charismatic and fun.

And of course, there's also what you allude to: some people kinda see what they want. Poe's Law, but for depicting bad, brash behavior. Someone will always think it's just supposed to be cool.
Right, and I think that some people have trouble distinguishing between actions that are genuinely rebellious and those that merely go against social conventions with no actual intention. I had a student several years ago who thought it was really cool that Logan Paul had found a suicide victim while on vacation and included that in a YouTube video (including footage of the victim). There's this knee jerk "People didn't want him to do it but he did it so he must be a cool rebel!" reaction that sometimes doesn't reflect any kind of critical thought.

I think a lot of people fantasize about bucking the system or whatever and don't always consider the big picture of such actions.



The Force is Favreau
I don't get this whole new taxonomy of masculinity. Alpha, Beta, Chad, Gamma, Soy, Sigma? Is this a cope for guys who can't partake of the ever-proliferating taxonomy of the genders of "all things not straight"? Cartoon images of men with ridiculously large chins and beards? "Which sort of mega-chin are you?" Or is this the revenge of astrology? Instead of asking your sign, I should ask for your letter? I don't know what this is, but I don't think that this is real (e.g., the whole "alpha" thing in wolves has been discredited). And if it is not real (or not exhaustive, exclusive, reliable, valid) how can we do real analytic work with these odd "tags"? Myself, I'm sticking with coffee-flavored-coffee, non-bespoke pronouns, and a manual transmission in my car.



As for your question, villains are simply more interesting. They get to do what we can't and say what we're not allowed to say. They get to throw off the shackles of moral conventions. They're an Id-release. Spend too much time with a sympathetic villain, especially one who is featured as the protagonist, and yes audiences will fall in love with them (the same love that Narcissus felt when looking into the pool). And to some extent, at least, this OK. Films are a release from our everyday lives. On the other hand, when all of your cultural heroes are actually villains, you might be in a declining culture.



Subtle Slayer of Normies
You like Huey Lewis and the News? Their early work was a little too new wave for my taste. But when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor. In '87, Huey released this; Fore!, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is "Hip To Be Square". A song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity and the importance of trends. It's also a personal statement about the band itself.
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Love and purity are the most important things in life.



Right. I think that it's very easy to fall into the mindset of the main character. I remember watching an episode of Hannibal where a gas repair person or something was kind of rude to him and it was implied that Hannibal later killed him. And I remember thinking, "Well, he was very rude." Obviously my moral compass has not shifted to thinking that people should be murdered for being rude, but you can slide into the morality/perspective of a character, especially if they are charismatic and fun.
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I forgot all about that show- and moment. But that's a great example!



I've only seen one of the listed movies: American Psycho. Not my type of movie but it was a nom in an HoF so I watched it. I never thought of Patrick Bateman as a hero, ugh that would be twisted. In part this is what wrote about him:

I'm of a mixed mind on this one. I really liked the first hour of the film. I loved the dark satire of the whole 1980s Wallstreet-Yuppie-Greed thing...it was brilliantly done. It was great how Patrick Bateman's anti-social psycho killings were driven by his deep insecurities, and by his need to be a name dropping rich snob. I loved the whole send up of the 80s stuff, that was cool.

Christian Bale nails it! I liked his character. He's quite charming in an odd way...and that's why I liked the first hour so much. Patrick Bateman was personable just like Anthony Perkins was as Norman Bates. Clearly the movie Psycho has inspired this movie.

In the first half of the movie the killings weren't too graphic, so were tolerable for me as they were done with a tongue in cheek humor, which also reminded me of Heathers.

In the second half the film gets more real and more darker as Patrick goes completely over the edge and the body count rises...And that's where I stopped liking the film, as it then took on the feeling of a slasher movie and I never liked those.



A system of cells interlinked
Whenever I see a Fightclub or American Psycho poster, I wonder: did they really get the film? You do realize these aren't heroes?
I don't see this as a signifier of some sort of anti-hero worship, although I am sure it can be. I had Fight Club in my top 10 for a while, but at no point was I hanging around in seedy bars asking dudes to fight me in the basement, and I tend get my soap at the store. Instead, I am just a David Fincher fan, and I really dig the film. If there was a cool Mondo Art poster for the film, I might even frame it and put it up in my office, but I am well aware that Tyler Durden is a psycho, and I have no wish to emulate him in any way...well... except maybe becoming President ab-raham Lincoln after doing a bunch of crunches.
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Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
I love Breaking Bad for example, but I wanted Walter White to suffer in the end and face consequences for sure.



Why confine this to men. Add Gone Girl & The Last Seduction, & you have films with two really smart but conniving women, who I weirdly cheered for. I bet there are more.


I don't mind grey leads, as long as they are well done.


Walter White's character arc was perfect in that sense. I loved him, hated him for a short time, before loving him in the end.

Hannibal as well. Same with Jamie Lannister, even though the series was ruined in the end.



Let's also be honest about the fact that a lot of people aren't terribly observant about what they are watching and simply will accept a Tony Soprano or Walter White as a hero simply because they are the main character. They aren't weighing his good deeds vs his bad deeds. They by default they become the protagonist. So it isn't so much as a moral failing with them as an audience failing.


Usually though it's probably a bit of both



Why confine this to men. Add Gone Girl & The Last Seduction, & you have films with two really smart but conniving women, who I weirdly cheered for. I bet there are more.
People cheered for Amy in Gone Girl?? I couldn't stand her



People cheered for Amy in Gone Girl?? I couldn't stand her

I did. I mean in a loose sense. L(I wouldn't want to be around anyone like her). But in the end I was terrified of her.But initially I cheered for her, cause Ben's character was a grade A prick too. So it felt he deserved it with his cheating.

But when she did Doogie Howser bad, I didn't like her. By the end she was scary. Same for The Last Seduction. In the climax I was scared of Linda Fiorentino's character, but before that I cheered for her.



The Force is Favreau
I love Breaking Bad for example, but I wanted Walter White to suffer in the end and face consequences for sure.

I felt for Walter the way a parent feels for their child. Your mother will visit you in prison pretty much no matter what you did, because you're her baby and always will be. You want the best for you child even when they're at their worst. When I met Walt his life was treating him unfairly even though he was doing everything he could to do his part and just get by. I cheered for his successes and clever escapes. I agonized when he reached for the darkness, but even as a villain, he was my villain. I wanted him to get better and do better, but I also wanted him to redeem himself. From a theistic perspective, this is the God's-eye-view of humanity.



I wonder if Walt was really lost was after
WARNING: "Spoilers Y'all" spoilers below
he killed Crazy-8
or if the crucial moment was when
WARNING: "More spoilers Y'all" spoilers below
he let Jane die.
Or was it really when
WARNING: "Spoilerier and Spoilerier" spoilers below
he decided that he would sell poison to the public to pay off his bills?
I don't know. I love watching the descent, however. And even knowing the he's a monster, I feel for him.



Ultimately, the lesson of all these crime stories is pretty much the same. If you don't want to be put in a position where you have to do unconscionable things to survive, then don't get into a business that requires people to do unconscionable things to survive. It's not that crime doesn't pay, but that crime always costs. Breaking Bad was great because it showed us the cost internally and externally. "Hey, why don't we sell some drugs to pay off our debts? Remember Walter White? Oh yeah, I guess that would be a bad idea."



Hero seems to be a loosely based term these days. Crazy kids.



A morally reprehensible lead character usually sinks a film in my book, simply because small children and idiots may not understand entertainment fantasies can have devastating real world consequences. I actually label these as sociopath films.

And there are some nice examples in the current crop of greatest film achievements from the 2010 decade.

Imagine a film set on an American military base and career soldier goes on an extended killing rampage. The (American) audience would find this troubling and repellent. But isnít this the plot to John Wick? Keanu Reeves is heroic because he is bent on liquidating vicious Russian criminals . . . but didnít he used to belong to the same gang? Isnít he killing off all his old friends and acquaintances?

The Ryan Gosling character in Drive is a sociopath.

You could have called the #11 film, The Criminal Scumbag of Wall Street, but that would have really hurt itís box office appeal. It is a small step to go from Jordan earned 49 million one year to Jordan stole 49 million. I also think this is not a black comedy but a white collar gangster movie. The Scorsese film gains a little for its brutal honesty, during his first day orientation meeting with Matthew McConaughey, he says stock brokers are parasites living off the fat of the land. We donít make anything. We donít support the real economy. We donít contribute anything of value to society at large. The job is simply charging a fee and a commission for each and every trade they make, and the name of the game is multiplying these transactions as much as you can and whenever you can. The Stock Market is simply a measure of pathological greed. In a couple of weeks when they announce the retirement age in U.S. is going up to 75, watch the stock market take off.



The Force is Favreau
A morally reprehensible lead character usually sinks a film in my book, simply because small children and idiots may not understand entertainment fantasies can have devastating real world consequences. I actually label these as sociopath films.


If the potential for small children and idiots to be misled was the filter, then we wouldn't make it much past Veggie Tales. Research into media effects is mixed, and there is no definitive evidence of movies, dungeons & dragons, heavy metal, or video games doing damage to kids.

Imagine a film set on an American military base and career soldier goes on an extended killing rampage.


Just about every Jason Borne knock-off is a tale of a betrayed super spy or sniper or SEAL who has to go to war with a corrupt element of the U.S. government, killing off old friends and acquaintances. We're actually cool with this, no?

The Ryan Gosling character in Drive is a sociopath.
Sure, that's what makes him interesting.



I only take issue with hypocrisy. When Hollywood gets up on her hind legs and starts barking morality, I cannot help but remembered that this dog protected Polanski and Weinstein.







outrageous film reviewer
OP is missing the point of appeal of those characters. In most of the sigma male idol movies.....the lead characters are extremely attractive and are real alpha males. Sure Bateman is insecure but he is ripped as hell and he is able to get any woman he wants (not just prostitutes) and super rich.
Tyler Durden might live in a crappy apartment or a figment of imagination but he is able to influence 100s of young men.
Jordan belfort is the ultimate alpha of Capitalism. Him being caught doesn't negate his meteoric rise.

As per TV characters OP mentioned...they are Dad bod alpha males.

All these shows and movies have 1 thing in common. For 99.99% of their runtime they dont deal with consequences. For most of the runtime they revel in the characters vices. Consequences are more of a footnote.



Nobody mentioned Dexter -- the quintessential good bad guy.