Thoughtful Thor’s Day: It’s a noir world after all

I’ve been finding myself considering a lot of different things lately. I’ve been a bit unmotivated because I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m not sure why but dealing with it is proving challenging. My intention to begin maintaining a journal has also been derailed. I have good intentions but when the time comes to actually write, I procrastinate. I’m not sure what the resistance is but it’s annoying.

I’m also finding myself drawn to film noir and noir novels; stuff like Sin City and Mike Hammer. I’ve always had a fondness for the genre. Andrew Vachss’ Burke novels and Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder books are two of my favorite series. They describe a world where “good guys” can be corrupt and brutal and “bad guys” may have a higher moral and ethical code. I’m very familiar and comfortable with that world. Growing up in my neighborhood I was well aware that cops weren’t always law-abiding and some criminals were actually pretty decent human beings. I don’t subscribe to the delusion that all criminals are really Robin Hoods at heart or that all cops are dirty but I’m well aware that those possibilities exist.

In some ways I’m rather surprised I enjoy noir tales. As someone who prefers not to deal in shades of gray it’s interesting to me because noir tales are awash in gray and shadows. Nothing is clear, nothing is absolute. It’s world filled with moral ambiguity and rampant examples of situational ethics. The very behaviors that make a character a hero in one tale might condemn her to villainy in another.

Maybe my forays into noirish realms are a way for me to explore these gray, shady areas of life. There are few real-life circumstances that are clear-cut, black and white issues. Shades of gray (aside from being the title of a widely popular, poorly written book) describe most human experiences. Is Yahweh always good? Is Satan always bad? Do the ends always justify the means? I wish there were clear, simple answers to these questions but there aren’t. What film noir and hard-boiled noir novels do for m is allow me to consider this different viewpoint and live it vicariously through the characters. They allow me to learn what motives and drives them. Why they made the choices they did and behave the way they do. They may not be pretty or have happy endings but I find them enthralling and captivating. In fact I think they can be summed up by the phrase “no one here gets out alive”. Whether the characters are “good” or “bad” the one thing you can be sure is that death comes for them all in the end. Sometimes that all the comfort available in life.

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