The Battle for Moral Supremacy in There Will Be Blood and Unforgiven

Elena Woolley


This article examines the ways in which villainous characters are portrayed in post-classical American films, and examines how these characters are viewed by the cinematic audience in order to ascertain the degree to which the socially and morally understood roles or heroism and villainy might be inverted through cinematic representation. The potential for the inversion of perceived good and evil in the characters that inhabit the films discussed is considered in relation to the aligning and allying capacity of cinema. This work also considers the impact of stars in villainous roles and the significance of generic conventions in rendering the villain apparently inert to a viewing audience. Through considering the formal presentation of characters and scenarios, this work suggests that villainous deeds can be perceived as unthreatening, and even 'moral' to an extent. The purpose of this article is to form an understanding of how audiences engage with iniquitous characters, and to consider the potential spectatorial implications of such a bond.


Morality, Ethics, Spectatorship, Villainy, Genre, Stardom

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