Monday, September 29, 2014


Ethics can be changed by many influential factors. How moral someone is, whether or not they're in love, and how honorable they are all play a part in shaping someone's ethics. In The Usual Suspects, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Gladiator, there are three very different ethical structures. In The Usual Suspects, almost everyone is a criminal. They don't have much in the way of morality, so their idea of ethics is far different from normal people's. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has several different couples who are in love. Love changes the way everybody looks at things. Whether the person in love is on the receiving end or whether there are actions governed by jealousy, love twists the way people look at things, for better or for worse. Honor is something that is harder to change, like in Gladiator. Maximus is honorable to the end, following the conventions and going through proper channels to get what he wants, no matter how hard it might be to get there. Commodus, on the other hand, has no honor. He smothers his own father and lies his way to becoming emperor. His idea of ethics revolves solely around himself. In all three movies, it is shown that ethics can be skewed from the typical sense of right and wrong by morality, love, or honor.

Criminals have their own sense of justice and mercy. This carries over to their morals. Being fairly immoral to begin with, the people in The Usual Suspects don't exactly have much of a sense of ethics. But they do have a sort of code. Their ideas of right and wrong don't match the policemen's ideas, nor do they match what an average person might consider ethics to be. In the scene where Fenster turns up dead, he was killed because Kobayashi didn't want anybody running away. This shows how immoral but still ethical the criminals are. Kobayashi said what he was going to do an he stuck to it, because that was the right thing to do for his employer. His idea of ethics differs from others because of his morals. The entire plan to get aboard the boat is a mess of terrible ethics. But since they had something they wanted to achieve, they threw their old morals out the window. In the beginning of the movie, Keaton had said he didn't want to kill anyone. By the end of the movie, Keaton was the first one on the boat, shooting people left and right to get to the dope he was looking for. As soon as something became more important than his policy of not killing anyone, his morals, and therefore his sense of right and wrong, had changed. What changed his mind was the idea that the woman he loved could have been killed by Kobayashi, so he cooperated with the new plans and the new morals.

When someone falls in love, their priorities can get a bit screwed up. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel and Clementine shift their entire livelihoods to coexist. They are complete opposites. Anytime they sit next to each other, it shows how different they are. Joel is plain and gray, with a boring name and a boring life. Clementine is exciting and colorful and crazy. They defied the idea that people so different couldn't be together because they did fall in love and their worlds had to change a lot to include the other. Their ethics had to change. Something that Joel wouldn't do, like break into a house, he would do when he was with Clementine, because she made his sense of right and wrong change. What was right for one was what was right for the other, because they were in love and they wanted to be together, for each other, no matter what.  Love messed up their priorities, their ethics, their lives.  When someone's in love, their other half becomes the first thing they care about, and everything else can follow. They put the other person first regardless of the effect it will have on other people.

Love and honor are closely intertwined. Maximus was a soldier in Gladiator. He believed that war and dying in war was honorable. Then his family is killed and he is charged with treason for standing up for something he believes in. When Maximus's honor of being a soldier is taken away from him, his sense of right and wrong is drastically changed. He is forced into the gladiator arena, and there he can't not kill people if he wants to make it out and do what he wants. His love for Rome and his love for his family fuels his desire for revenge against Commodus. Commodus wants the opposite of what Maximus and the late emperor want. Maximus is only trying to do what he believes in, what he thinks is honorable given the situation. But his ethics change from the beginning of the movie to the end. At the beginning, he would only kill in war. By the end, he was still only willing to kill for his cause, but his cause was very different. His cause was the good of all of Rome no matter what, but he wound up being fueled by love with regards to the gladiator matches rather than honor and duty on the battlefield.

There are a lot of variables that can cause ethics to change. Some of them are morality, love, and honor. While The Usual Suspects, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Gladiator are not movies that would normally be grouped together, they do exemplify how ethics can change from person to person, or even how one person's ethical code can change given the experiences they've had. Morality is something that varies depending on who the person is. Everyone's moral code, though fundamentally the same in some ways, is also very different in others. Love is something else that everyone has, although once again it is in many different forms. People fall in and out of love, but no matter what, love comes first. And honor is something that isn't on people's minds as much as it used to be. But honor is just another word for ethics. Everyone has something that they hold above all else, whether it is to honor something, because they believe it is right, or because they love it. But in the end, it's really all the same thing.

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