My husband (ford_prefect42) and I got a Roku for Christmas, which means we've been watching a lot more TV. Which is usually considered a massive waste of time, and probably is... but it's fun, particularly when we get into occasionally heated debates regarding the plots and characters.
And one of the recurring things is moral cowardice. Not on behalf of the characters--on behalf of the writers.
What do I mean by this? Well, let's see... you know those times when you've got the bad guy, right? And he's killed dozens, will kill dozens more, and if you send him back to prison, everybody knows it's going to delay the inevitable by a matter of days or weeks.
Don't get me wrong--what I'm referring to as moral cowardice isn't deciding to let the villain live. It's *behaving, and having the whole universe behave*, as though it's not a question, and giving no thought at all to what may happen as a result of the decision.
(Made particularly egregious when the universe steps in and deus-ex-machinas the villain out of existence thereafter. "We're Back!: A Dinosaur's Story" probably contains the most blatant example I've ever seen.)
Sleepy Hollow, the current ABC series, is kind of fun, if you can ignore the occasional wildly anachronistic liberal rant they put in Crane's mouth. (And even those are sometimes funny.) It's also rife with this, particularly past the first season. You take hard questions, put them in front of brilliant people literally in charge of preserving the world from demonic takeover, and have them come up with ridiculously trite answers without hint that they care about the consequences.
(There's sometimes a counterpoint offered, but they never really get to even offer a good argument--just, "You know you might end up having to kill this guy to prevent the Apocalypse?" "No, I won't, and I shan't hear another word about it.")
And it's funny--I have no issue with the conclusion, not really. It doesn't seem like it would be hard to come up with thorough justification! (Particularly if they wouldn't shy so badly from theological debate--you'd think a universe where Revelations is a road map and we literally fight demons would be a little less circumspect about the other aspects of the religion. I mean, hell, Katrina is a Quaker, you'd think she could justify not killing people pretty eloquently.) But they don't. It's a shut book, not even bothered to open. And it basically keeps happening with every... single... issue.
(Well, no. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the episode with the angel.)
Once Upon a Time is usually a counterpoint--I mean, it's always the right thing to do the right thing, and usually obvious what the right thing is. But it's rarely *easy*. Gotta say, though, last season soured me on it--we had a brilliant opportunity to explore how maybe Snow White and Charming had blind spots that would have them aid darkness for the right reasons--and maybe even be right to do it, who knows how it could have gone? But they blew it to make [character] a generic villain, obviously evil for opposing Team Charming. So I'm not even sure I'll give that one a chance anymore. -_- But, um, yeah. Early seasons of that show are what I'm going to call a good counterpoint, where the decisions aren't easy even when they're obvious, and you live with consequences either way.
Blue Bloods seems to try pretty hard to manage this, too, though I don't watch enough to see many examples.
How about you guys? What are some examples of moral cowardice that make you want to hit your head against a wall, and do you have any surprisingly encouraging examples of difficult decisions done well?
I've been trying to avoid specific spoilers in the main post, but there will probably be a lot in the comments--hard to discuss this without specifics! So be warned. :-)