It’s easy as an adult to see John Wick as a hero. I mean, he’s destroying organized crime syndicates all over the world with weapons as simple as a Glock 26 and a pencil. But in the release of John Wick: Chapter 4, his struggle with the morality of his actions is clearer than in previous movies. John Wick is morally gray, there’s no denying that, but he represents the balance and composure we wish for in our own situations.
We all want to be people who make the right decision even in the midst of ultimate evil. Our desire to do good stems from the heroic ideations of childhood. Struggling with questions about morality and duality is a key part of our childhood, building the basis for what we recognize as good and bad. But when children are surrounded by unapologetically dark characters disguised as morally gray, it leaves no room for empathetic growth in their own lives: learning true right from wrong. The John Wick series shows Wick as a morally aware character.
On the other hand, characters such as Morbius and Moon Knight are evil in disguise. Wrought with just enough tragic backstory to be labeled morally gray, these two characters proclaim themselves heroes. They fight with extreme violence, and their lack of control leads to dark actions.
Unlike Wick, Morbius shows no remorse and understands little about what his actions cause. Likewise, Moon Knight lacks control. His character is reduced to an evil spirit in possession of a body. Villainous characters at heart, they’re often even worse than the villains they aim to defeat. Kids today are consuming the experiences of heroes who never think about morality.
In today’s culture, people find morally gray characters like John Wick realistic. He is the hero because his actions have noble intentions, despite the evil cornering him at every turn. John Wick cuts through the black smoke of evil like a bright light because he understands what he believes.
John Wick reflects the dramatized version of what we wish we could do with our anger and grief. Let’s face it: gangster mobs aren’t usually the things killing our loved ones–instead, they suffer through illness and unexpected circumstances. Those aren’t exactly things we can fight in a bar with a pencil, but audiences empathize with John Wick. We excuse his extreme violence and morally questionable decisions because he is driven by more than selfish desire, more than hate.
Wick understands the world he lives in just how we should strive to understand ours. His kind of morally gray character is what the next generation should experience—not the villainous heroes currently populating Disney’s setlist.