The way that good and bad is portrayed in the media becomes ingrained in the way the world is consumed by people, so much so that the black-and-white classifications is the measure people’s character is judged by. I think most people are familiar with the portrayal of this battle between good and evil in Disney animation. The most notable that comes to my mind is Snow White. Little Snow White, white and pure as snow with a pretty face to reflect her kindness. She is the envisioning image of purity and a type of niceness that cannot go unrewarded. Despite being chased away by her evil stepmother, her goodness is rewarded in the form of a prince, a knight in shining armor. However, the Evil Queen, depicted in shades of green and purple, is like the putrid stench of the potions she brews. In a stroke of fate, the Evil Witch is thrown off a cliff by a lightning strike and then crushed at the bottom by a boulder for good measure. The cackling vultures swoop down to consume her leftover remains.
As a child, watching these movies implanted some seed within me that when people do bad things, they receive punishment in one form or another. Whether that comes in the form of mysterious punishment from the universe or the law itself, it goes without saying that the relationship between good as reward and bad as punishment is integral in the concepts themselves.
Most media- books, movies, tv shows, and video games adopt the motif of the protagonist as the hero or the “good guy” that goes off to defeat the villain. These motifs are nothing new nor are they surprising to the viewer. In some cases it becomes the expectation to see these parallels, especially in children’s media. I don’t think it’s entirely wrong for me to say that the good v. bad is a common trope that invades and runs rampant in media consumption; and, as a byproduct, has embedded some toxic views of the world in a binary of opposition.
I spiraled for a long time trying to overcome some cognitive dissonance on how the world viewed such opposed attributes. While I understand that individuals are usually gray and that expecting every situation to conform to some archaic binary is inherently limiting, I cannot help but want good behavior to be rewarded and bad behavior be punished. Where I feel the failure is the idea that really bad things slip through not only repercussions from the law, but slide through the cosmic bull fuckery of karma.
Although I do not think I am alone in this sentiment; a lot of people carry the hurt from those that get to continue life after a regular Tuesday for them, but the most traumatic day for someone else. I still continue to grapple with this “unfairness” that comes from the black-and-white dichotomies and the disillusionment of the media in portraying it in such a way to my impressionable mind.
While it seems out of the blue for me to be pondering on such things again after experiencing a high in my mental health, it doesn’t go without merit. This judgmental good v. bad bubbled up again after being sent an unsolicited instagram post from the person who inflicted trauma on me. In it, she twerks on top of a car, smiling and happy on the vacation she’s on. She captions it “I like to cause problems.” This was sent to me after celebrating a milestone on social media (honestly bad on me) and I briefly mentioned that the last few years had been hard.
There it was that anger, burning my throat, making my heart pound, and with it, the swinging anvil of the disillusionment of good v. bad. Cognitive dissonance sloshed around in my stomach, as I was reminded that this person has never received punishment of any form, and even the cosmic bull fuckery of the universe smiles in heaps of luck tucked into the barely-there shorts of this person. And it’s a hard lesson to swallow and I had to choke it down, that there are people that walk that black and white line so finely that it has very little to do with any assigned value of good or bad. That the privilege of learning has made me rethink everything I’ve been taught. I’ve challenged myself to look past the good and bad. Becoming fixated on the fictional schemes of Disney movies is incredibly damaging and wore down my mental health. Although, in part, it became my coping mechanism of dealing with the trauma I endured and let me seek justice within a world that never wanted to defend or help me. Healing is letting go of these constructs that kept me afloat when I couldn’t find driftwood; but now I’m on land. Disney may have fooled me once, I will not be fooled a second time.
While I may not be twerking on top of a car in scantily-clad clothing with a racist and a rap sheet that is inked blacked from the rotting stench of the potions I’ve spent my time brewing up to “cause problems,” but I’m shaping my time into something more worthwhile than a quick high.