By Jennie Goloboy
When I was in high school, I watched the first Robocop, and it hit me so hard that I walked around like a zombie for the next two days. I’d never seen anything so violent and yet so soulful before. So, naturally, when the 2014 version came out I avoided it. But I was folding laundry, there was nothing else on, and so I watched the last ten minutes, and it was just awful.
I turned it on in time to see Robocop confront CEO Badguy on the top of a building. (No, I’m not looking up the names. Who cares?) On his side, the CEO had a Guard, a Male Suit and a Female Suit. He had Robocop’s Wife and Son as hostages. On Robocop’s side: a big honking gun. All the people stood aside and watched– just watched– as Robocop and the CEO held their guns pointed at each other. And then Robocop shoots the Badguy, and even though he’s injured, everything is okay afterwards. The late CEO Badguy has his crimes revealed to the public. The CEO’s company fixes Robocop’s body, and Robocop goes home with his family. Justice prevails!
I found myself picturing the scene immediately after the gunfight.
Guard: The CEO’s dead.
Male Suit: Then we should definitely take Robocop back to the office and fix him.
Female Suit: And tell everyone how evil our boss was.
Guard: And we should leave the CEO here for the buzzards! Hey, no hard feelings, Robocop!
To me, this is an example of one of the more toxic tropes that has slithered into genre fiction: the idea that the story is over when the hero shoots the bad guy with the gun. That afterwards, everything is good again. That once the hero gets over his natural reluctance to take a human life, the world will be a better place. That the gun is magic.
I like to see the hero prevail as much as anyone, but my #mswl is that he does it by any other means than shooting the bad guy. I’d like to see a hero win through negotiation, subterfuge, rhetoric, forming alliances, diplomacy, will, skill, and integrity. I’d rather see Guardians of the Galaxy than High Noon.
Let’s kill this toxic trope deader than CEO Badguy.