When I was a kid, glued to the screen of a fourteen-inch black and white TV, the good guys wore white hats. Watching Wild Bill Hitchcock, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger, I understood these men were righteous in every way.
As an adult, glued to the screen of a sixty-inch high definition TV, the hero is hard to discern. Watching House of Cards or Billions, just as I assign a white hat to a character, they turn the tables on me. In House of Cards, Frank Underwood started out as my buddy. After all, he spoke directly to me, letting me in on what was really going on. Then, just as I cozied up to the character, he pushes someone to her death in front of a Metrorail train. Frank! What are you doing?
Billions has a different twist. The main characters are an assistant attorney general and a super-rich hedge fund manager. The attorney general is the good guy, right? He’s fighting all the bad guys for us common citizens. The hedge-fund manager must be the bad guy as a member of the money-grubbing one percent. Yet, right off the bat, we see that the attorney’s relationship with his wife is based on sadomasochism, and the rich guy’s been married forever to his childhood sweetheart and is faithfully dedicated to her and the two boys. Seems we have a different relationship here.
But isn’t that more realistic? When we put people in boxes and paint them with one color, we forget the textures of human nature.
Nationalism and politics thrive on the use of a single color. It simplifies things. Our side wears the white hat. Sorry about yours. Perhaps we can look deeper. I hope that, as in TV, black and white is dead. We now use high definition.