Saturday, December 06, 2014

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: BraveStarr: "The Vigilantes"

In “The Vigilantes,” BraveStarr and Thirty-Thirty make return trip to Fort Kerium only to come upon a dangerous ambush on the way.  Dingo Men have captured a vigilante who is bound and determined to kill Tex Hex.

The vigilante wants BraveStarr to look the other way, but BraveStarr warns him to break no laws.

Then the vigilante becomes a “rabble rouser” in Kerium and starts “stirring things up,” so that a mob will go after Tex Hex.  Again, BraveStarr must intervene because as much as he hates Tex Hex “it is wrong for one person to be judge, jury and executioner.”

If you ask me, one of the worst things to happen in our modern popular culture is that many audiences have accepted vigilante justice as a noble or worthwhile thing.  Laws are for wusses, right?

“Revenge” has become an acceptable (and common) motive for so-called heroes and superheroes, and I find that fact highly disturbing. A reader said it here on the blog not long ago in regards to The Lone Ranger: heroes are supposed to follow the rules. 

That’s what makes their task or challenge so difficult. The bad guys break rules every way possible, but heroes must remain true to their values even in the face of such “cheating.” They have to succeed in a way that ennobles them not that drags them down into the sewer with the antagonist.

Or they’re not heroes.

“The Vigilantes,” an episode of the late 1980s Filmation-produced animated series BraveStarr gets to this point quite ably. A man in Fort Kerium wants to get rid of Tex Hex, but comes to loggerheads with the good town marshal because even though their agendas match their methods do not. 

As BraveStarr asserts “the law is what lots of people decided on.”

Unless and until the law is changed, that means no one has the right to break it, even if -- as the vigilante states -- “your puny laws do not work on crooks like Tex Hex.”

Bravestarr as a series, then, doesn’t elevate vengeance as a noble purpose or, even, as a valid choice. I would certainly like to see big budget films (especially in the superhero genre) take this stance, but I’m not holding my breath.  As BraveStarr says, “Do right…and others will follow.”

I also appreciate the episode’s stance that “Shooting hardly ever solves a problem. Usually, it makes it worse.”  I also feel that this is a lesson our pop culture must re-learn.  Guns are legal, cheap, and fully protected by law in America, but carrying a firearm comes with a great moral responsibility, and in my youth, heroes like Marshal BraveStarr took that responsibility quite seriously.

Filmation always featured message-heavy stories, and sometimes the moralizing gets a little old, a little preachy, a little thick. But on some topics, episodes such as “The Vigilantes” also provide a nice gut check about paths that need not be taken.

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