“Show me a hero and I’ll show you a tragedy” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’ve heard Sin City called “brutal and breathless.” It is, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s about how a hero is, ultimately, someone who gives up his life to save someone else’s. That’s what the characters of Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis did. They were heroes, and their lives were tragedies.
Specifically, they gave up their lives to save women. Rourke’s character said Goldie (whom he said “smelled like angels”) gave him something he “never knew existed,” and when she was murdered he hunted down and tortured and killed everyone involved in her death. Ultimately it led to his death, but he clearly thought it was worth it.
As for Willis, he gives up his life twice and loses everything, to protect a young woman from the Yellow Bastard, a psychopathic torturer and murderer of prepubescent girls.
For all the brutality and blood and flying body parts, this movie is actually conservative, if you define “conservative” as trying to keep the chaos at bay (a leftist is someone who wants to let the chaos in, although they’re too stupid to know it).
The archetype of the horror story is Good attacked by Evil, Order attacked by Chaos. A hero is someone who tries to keep evil and chaos at bay and restore order. That’s what Willis and Rourke did, and for that matter, Clive Owens’ character.
In order to be a hero, you not only have to risk your life, but sometimes actually lose it. What makes a real hero is what they choose to defend.
Now we come to the women. Everyone protected in the film is a woman protected by a man, except for those men who kill women. Why is this so? Is there an instinct in men to protect women? Apparently so.
There is also apparently an instinct to kill, only that instinct is directed towards both men and women, and even children, as in the case of the Yellow Bastard.
Men fix, create, discover, protect, save. The easiest way to activate a man’s instinct to protect is to put in danger the lives of children and women. The easiest way to get a man to give up his life is for him to try to save the lives of children and women.
Cultures warp that instinct by telling soldiers – who are overwhelmingly young men – that they are heroes when they risk and lose their lives to protect society from Evil. This of course means the use of propaganda to convince them those defined as “evil” truly are insane evil homicidal maniacs, even if they’re not.
Almost always they’re not protecting society but the economic interests of the elites (I use that term neutrally) who’ve captured the government and become even richer through war. War, as Randolph Bourne commented, is the health of the State.
Because of the influence of leftist feminism (and almost all feminism is leftist) and indeed leftism in general, men have for many years been portrayed as the Yellow Bastard and the other cruel and heartless men in the film. But men who discover, create, fix, save, protect? They’re invisible.
The curious inversion in Sin City is that the heroes are outsiders and the evil are the soldiers, only they’re the police. Even though Willis is a policeman, he is a rarity – an honest one, which makes him an outsider. All the rest of the police are corrupt murderers protecting corrupt murdering politicians and religious leaders.
The movie, and the Frank Miller graphic novels on which it is based, is a warning that society, government and religion are now corrupt. The heroes are the outsiders trying to keep the corruption and perversion of those things at bay.
Ezra Pound called the artist “the antennae of the human race.” He was right. Art imitates life, and Sin City, although it uses an exceedingly broad brush, certainly does that.