Sunday, March 27, 2011

You Must Bear Your Brother's Burden Within Reason

After a week-long hike through the charming English countryside with my brother and sister-in-law I had a charming 7 hour flight home. The movie options were somewhat limited, so I watched three movies, two of which were about brothers and sisters passionately loyal to their siblings (the third was Monsters Inc, but that's just good entertainment).

In Conviction, Hilary Swank's character believes her lovable nogoodnik brother is innocent of the murder he's been accused of, so she decides to become a lawyer to overturn his conviction. Which means she has to go to law school. Which means she has to go to college. Which means she has to get her GED. (In other debates, I suspect Swank represents the kind of college student who perhaps doesn't need a lot of GE courses...) She never once entertains the idea that her sometimes violently angry brother might actually have committed the crime as she not only goes to school, but suffers economically, emotionally and even loses her husband and sons in her effort.

On the other channel of the itty-bitty screen, I watched some movie with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson on a revenge rampage to kill off the gang of criminals that killed his brother when he and his brother were in a gang of criminals. Lots of criminals. He guns them down, attacks them with ice picks, the whole gambit. He doesn't care how these scumbags live now, any more than he cares about the assassin and police tailing him. He's just going to drive that lonely highway in his Chevy Impala until he kills them all or gets killed himself. No one gets away with shooting his brother.

Watching these, I wonder what the limits of my fraternal loyal are. I mean, I certainly enjoyed spending time with my brother and I'd certain help him out if he needed emotional, financial, etc. help. I'd babysit as a live-in nanny, say, or pull strings to get him a job, or maybe even get in a fight with someone who wanted to fight him. But could I go on a killing spree to avenge his death? Probably not. Partially this is because he wouldn't want that kind of tribute. Could I dedicate (possibly ruin) my life and family to the faint hope of his innocence and exoneration? If my Dave were falsely imprisoned, of course, but if I had a brother as violent and unpredictable , with a criminal history as long as Hilary Swank's brother's? I don't know.

I guess all of this musing about limits of loyalty is all theoretical, and I'm probably more loyal than I think. In fact, in ordinary things, I'm very loyal, not letting people talk bad about my family members and calling periodically and supporting their goals and projects however I can. But these movies made me wonder how deep I could go if called upon to do so.


Day said...

I'm not sure taking "brother" literally (or even to mean "sibling/genetic family member") is my favorite reading of that. . . but I suppose if we get general, it swiftly devolves into really weird consequentialism.

Margaret said...

I found myself contemplating the same thing after watching Conviction (didn't actually try the Rock's masterpiece, but it's good to know we got to see the same movies on our flight).

I have to say, I appreciate you quoting the Decemberists on this one. Not only because it's a good song, but because it's a song about goodness.