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Six Popular Movies That Have Terrible Moral Messages

September 18, 2013

Published on Thought Catalog here.

We all know Hollywood likes to brainwash us with subtle symbolism and hidden satanic references, but there are some films that have pushed the envelope a little too far. And the worst part? We absolutely love them. Really. I don’t know what it is about bad influences that get audiences so hyped up but history has shown that the films with the loudest barks also have the nastiest bites. In some cases, it is not until you step back from the movie screen and dissect these movies like an over-analytic English teacher do you realize truly awful some of these messages truly are, and how well we are able to ignore them.

1) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Message: Slave labor is okay as long as we get candy out of it.

Oompa-LoompasCan we just talk about Oompa Loompas for a second? These little, misunderstood orange people (just so we’re all on the same page, I’m not talking about the cast of Jersey Shore) were recruited by Mr. Wonka to run his factory at little to no cost. This is very obviously slave labor, you guys. And yet, somehow, the filmmakers managed to make the whole affair seem fun by giving them a catchy theme song and hoping we wouldn’t notice the reality of the situation. What if that song is really a coping method for them? What if singing is the only thing in life that gives them hope and gets them through the day? We are celebrating their misery and we don’t even care because they are building a room made of candy and that’s fascinating.

2) Little Mermaid (1989)…and most Disney films, really.

Message: It’s okay to change who you are and give up your identity for love.

This situation could be different if the protagonist was changing who she was for the better. (If Ariel decided to ditch her hoarding habit so that she could lead a normal life, for example.) However, this is not the case. In this innocent Disney movie, Ariel the Mermaid locks eyes with a handsome, animated version of Matt Bomer and immediately decides to leave her family, her friends, and her tail fin behind. This seems to be the case with a lot of Disney films, but I don’t have nearly enough time to get into Walt Disney’s broken moral compass.

3) Fatal Attraction (1987)

Message: Professional women are to be feared, because they’re probably crazy.

There’s nothing better than a strong, confident woman who wants to kill your family. According to the producers of this movie, the original ending portrayed Alex, the obsessive other woman, as a victim of a careless cheater, but test audiences preferred the psycho image. As a result, Alex ends up being the violent home wrecker, not the man who cheated on his wife and betrayed his family.

4) Forrest Gump (1994)

Message: Don’t question the government, conservative politics, or really anything.

The film that brought us the greatest quote about life and Forrest-Gumpchocolate also carries one of the most misleading messages about success. Think back to Forrest’s life story. Forrest, the painfully innocent protagonist, is successful in everything he does. He runs away from his school bullies, right onto the football field, where he is noticed by recruiters and given a sports scholarship to a good college. Upon graduation, an army recruiter practically hands Forrest a ticket to his guaranteed success as a war hero, where he meets Bubba, the friend that inspires the creation of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and makes Forrest rich. Meanwhile, his counterculture girlfriend Jenny finds herself struggling in an abusive relationship, singing naked for money, and fooling around with drugs, which ultimately leads to her contracting AIDS and dying. Put simply? Anyone who doesn’t question the system (or, in this case, isn’t even smart enough to question the system, which was a very intentional decision made by the writers) will succeed. Anyone who does, will not. (None of this will stop me from yelling, “Run, Forrest, Run” whenever I get the chance, but it’s something to think about.)

5) Twilight (2008)

Message: Give up your mortality for your stalker./Let your baby date a werewolf.

This one pretty much speaks for itself. Why anyone would be turned on when their (albeit, attractive) classmate shows up in the middle of the night to watch them sleep is beyond me. If that wasn’t weird enough, (SPOILER) Bella decides to let Jacob date her unborn child in the final installment. (“Hey mom, is Jacob a good kisser? You’ve done it before, you would know.”) So, should we be allowing our kids to date dangerous, mythical creatures now? If so, I call dibs on centaurs.

6) Grease (1978)

Message: Change yourself for the person you want to be with.

Grease may be the ultimate “bad message” movie. Similar to The Little Mermaid’s dilemma (but without the whole half-fish, half-human problem), Grease shows not one, but two characters changing who they are for the other person. And yet, this film has been adapted into musicals and added to every “best movie” list. The logic here is questionable.

All of this comes down to a matter of perspective, though. One could argue that the moral message in Grease was, in fact, the exact opposite: both of the characters changed only to find that they loved each other just the way they were. Ariel gained the confidence to follow her dreams of becoming human and connecting with another person. Forrest Gump showed the power of unconditional love. Whatever. I could go on but the truth is, everyone interprets movies differently. That’s what makes them so magical. Maybe I’m wrong about all of these films. Maybe I’m right. Maybe those Oompa Loompas are still making minimum wage in a factory somewhere. I guess we’ll never know.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2013 4:12 pm

    I’d say you’re pretty much spot on with these films, definitely questionable concepts in Fatal Attraction and Twerplight as well as the other films.

    • Tyler Vendetti permalink*
      September 19, 2013 11:01 am

      Twerplight, omg hahah. Nice one.

  2. September 19, 2013 12:07 pm

    This list was so funny! Forrest Gump always left me confused too when I was a kid. It never seemed fair to me that he just bumbled into fortune no matter what and poor Jenny was out actively trying to find truth and meaning and just ended up dying at the end.

    • Tyler Vendetti permalink*
      September 19, 2013 12:13 pm

      I actually watched the movie for one of my film classes and it turns out it’s this incredibly conservative propaganda movie that is meant to demonize the counterculture movement. It’s mind-blowing if you watch it again and focus on the minor details.

      It won’t stop me from crying at the end, though.

  3. September 20, 2013 5:30 am

    And I hate that ‘life is like a box of chocolates’ line, it’s so bloody cliched. Life is indeed like a box of chocolates, if that box is full of the chocolates you hate because everyone else has taken all the best ones, grrrr…..

  4. November 15, 2013 9:18 am

    I actually thought Willie Wonka addressed that one fairly well:

    The Oompa Loompas were being hunted to extinction in their native land, and gave them an open offer to transport them from there and let them live in peace and security. He provides them a place to live and room and board, in exchange for helping him run the chocolate factory …

    And the movie also shows very clearly the alternative – Mrs. TeeVee scoffs at them and looks down upon them with disdain, and Veruca Salt sees them as things to own. Wonka, on the other hand, treats them with dignity and respect.

    Willie Wonka is really more of a victorian morality tale about the dangers of various societal vices.

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