Is It Justice That We Are Looking For? – I
“Justice without force is powerless, force without justice is tyrannical.” Blaise Pascal
We all enjoy when movies have happy endings. But when a movie ends negatively, although the absence of the enjoyment does not directly denote sadness or bad feelings, we feel angry at the director, screenwriter and the evil character of the movie. However, there is an incoherence at this point. We get angry at the producers of a movie just because the movie does not have a happy ending, but when a movie has a happy ending, we do not feel grateful to the producers. We may enjoy the fact that the evil character has been punished as a consequence of his wrongdoings, or by putting ourselves in the shoes of the good characters, we may feel satisfied and peaceful as if we won a battle victoriously. We do not say: “Thanks to producers! What a good ending!”, but on the opposite, when faced with a negative ending, we say: “Why would the producers end this movie in such a negative way?!”.
In this regard, it is easy to reach this conclusion: When a movie has a negative ending, we hold the producers responsible for that, because we believe that they did not perform their duty of securing the justice. When a movie has a happy ending, we do not feel grateful to the producers, because we believe that they only performed their duties (it is already how it should be). Maybe unwittingly, we accept and believe this: Securing the justice is the duty of the producers. A story with a negative ending disturbs us because the evil character did not face any sanctions, and this situation leaves our hunger for the justice unsatisfied. Moreover, when a movie ends negatively, we might even leave the theatre thinking of the possibility of a sequel to the movie; because an unexecuted/secured justice makes us desire/think that the justice will be established in the future (in a sequel to the story).
I believe, so far, I proved this: Execution/nonexecution of justice is one of the most influential elements for the ending of a story.
However, at this point, I would like to assert another argument that is likely to contradict with my previous argument: The thing that makes us uncomfortable and unsatisfied, when a movie does not have a happy ending, is actually not the lack of justice, but instead, it is the fact that the meek was not protected against the one holding the power and that the tyrant (the one with the power) wins.
As Blaise Pascal states: “Justice without force is powerless, force without justice is tyrannical.” The evil character in a movie is mostly powerful but unjust; because their goals are arising from evil motivations. As such, we can call this powerful but unjust character a “tyrant”. On the contrary, the good character is just and virtuous. However, because he does not have the power to establish the justice, he is ineffective, powerless, and downtrodden. Therefore, a movie that does not have a happy ending means the victory of the tyrant over the meek. By the way, I should also state that the evil character in a movie, a tyrant, does not have to be a human being, or a monster, or any living creature. The ill fate of the main character of the movie may also perform as the evil character. The important and necessary thing is the existence of a phenomenon which holds power but lacks justice.
When a movie has a happy ending, the good and just character – which represents powerlessness, meekness – defeats the power that lacks justice, and the fact that the meek defeats the tyrant makes us happy and satisfied. In this regard, I believe, the movie “Public Enemy” is a good example. In this movie, while our main character is a wrongdoer, the laws are demonstrated as the tyrant that holds the power. However, although the main character is evil, the movie shows his personality, psychological state, mindset and feelings to us in such a strong way that we feel empathy with this evil character; and although he commits crimes, we, – even if we cannot confess this to ourselves – unwittingly, want him to escape from law. It goes without saying that the laws exist to establish justice, however, in this movie the justice itself is presented as the injustice itself. At this point, I reach the argument I stated above: When we watch a movie, the important thing for us is not the establishment of the justice, but the powerless character’s victory over the tyrant.
Here, we can remember Abraham Lincoln’s words: “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
Here, we should question ourselves: In our daily lives, is it justice that we are seeking the establishment and security of, or is it the prevention of the oppression of the meek, and by this way, an indirect justice (or a feeling that the justice has been established)? It is clear that the search of a pure justice will be a rational approach grounded in logic; while an indirect justice that seeks the victory and prosperity of the meek may be regarded as an emotional or even a romantic approach.