Malice is an adequate film in depicting that one can never truly know anyone or anything for certain – a film of skepticism and morbid enlightenment of the true nature of what one before had faith in. Though it seems that our protagonist Andy was never truly a “believer” an unquestioning yutz who ignored information that conflicted with his conceptions of things. He is from the beginning skeptical of his wife’s where-abouts and what she says; though in the beginning we and assumingly he chalk such feeling up to concern for her well-being what with a serial rapist on the prowl.
Skipping to the revelatory moment that more-or-less starts the third act, once it is revealed that Nicole Kidman had been working with Jed (or is it Jeb?) the whole time, the question (though I saw the connection in the operating room) of whether or not one would give a million dollars for the relinquishing of their arm or finger becomes clearly more than bar-talk. Nicole Kidman gives her ovaries for twenty million (or ten, assuming she agreed to give half to Jed/b) but she was clearly willing to do more than that for money. I would argue that the two go hand-in-hand, and that coupled with the final actions of Andy are the main message of the film. Once one is willing to degrade or destroy themselves for profit, they are able and find little if any moral qualms with disenfranchising others. Such is the nature of exploitation and oppression. As Plato acknowledges, those who do harm to others injure their own soul (and have already warped psyches in need of repair and rejuvenation) and though may be successes by the standards they themselves in some small way perpetuate, they are collapsed beings who have the real worth (measured by their actions; what impact their lives have on others) of a petty tyrant and destroyer of beauty, intelligence, compassion, creativity and all the primal-goods of this earth and our species. But such is the nature of the Capitalist and Statesman. Requiring deception and ignorance to thrive and conquer, like Nicole Kidman. That bitch.
But then I come to the main moral question of the film: was it moral for Andy to set NK up? Clearly it seems to be a yes considering the child is not actually at-risk. All he is doing is exposing her nature for what it really is. He is not creating this nature within her, he is not altering her essence to be this way, and in this materialist reality we all cohabitate, all we are and have is our own natures and the things which both formed them and we respond to with them. The first role of the Anarchist is exposing Capitalism, Government and religion for what it is. However, would it be correct for him to put the child at-risk if he had to? I would say no. For that would, while not darkening the nature of NK’s nature, or not by much, it would not only threaten the life of the child, but potentially make him a worse person, causing both him and others to suffer. If we believe in human rights, than one of the first things we must abolish as those who believe in fundamental human rights (as Liberals pretend to believe in among others) is putting others at-risk involuntarily for a cause we believe in and they very-well benefit from. Even if our salvation and their own is at-risk, we must never force our brothers to take up a cause they are unwilling to ally themselves with, either out of ideological differences, apathy, cowardice or conflicts in the valuing of time and resources (they may value helping a sick parent instead of protesting the profit motive for example).
This may at-first seem to contradict Consequentialism, and in a way it does, but once we look at human history, we see that once we remove unwilling bystanders as stool pigeons or unfortunate victims for a noble cause, then the quantity of justice in society raises drastically. Seen in the levels of political repression done in the USSR for a “worthy cause.” Some like Max Stirner wish to abolish the noble cause altogether, reducing everything to Egoism; this is clearly absurdity. Instead, we merely thrive to have a noble and global cause that is practiced on ethics as sound as the cause itself, which of course including all elements being performed on a participatory basis. If Anarchy is our ideal, our end, we cannot make shortcuts and contradict what our end would be in our methodology. This is like trying to become fluent in quantum mechanics, so one intimidates others for the knowledge of it (rather than actually knowing it) because it is quicker.
The film can also be seen as contrasting Materialist and Idealist Justice. In Idealist interpretations of justice, once an act is committed it is done and one must receive punishment for their sins. In Materialist modes of justice, though one may not have violated the Non-Aggression Principle, and therefore should not be removed from society, one may show evidence of illness that will lead towards violent action, or action that will lower the quality of society and therefore should be mitigated against in a fashion based on the quality and degree of harm that will fall to others. Sometimes merely verbal warning or reprimand may suffice, as it can with children for example. This is in steep contrast with both Liberal and Egoist notions. On one hand, the perpetrator is punished for his crimes and we all suffer; in Stirnerist notions, either none are punished or some are executed for their crimes based on notions of vengeance and affront to the Ego, so once again, all suffer and are for-the-worse. Materialism states that the quality of existence lays in conditions, and it is this we must change. Idealism (whether of Liberalism, Egoism or any other philosophical formulation) states that actions alone are things to be considered; coupled with Bourgeois notions of property one can see the most unjust relations and conditions of property and profit being held as some of the highest ethical ideals for they are on a superficial level based on voluntary associations. Same as the penny-less wretch who has no choice but to sell his body and potential is making a choice of “free will.”
What Andy does to NK is much like in-a-sense what the non-violent revolutionary does to the Capitalist (and any person who profits considerably from a hierarchy or exerts force or manipulation to keep it in-tact). By revolting, we make the Capitalist believe his empire may be at risk; and by his poor and boorish response to our protest it my in-fact be if others will grow in wisdom and courage through their heroic act(s). Damning himself through his own desperation to maintain his control of others – the façade which is the sole source of his wealth. Just as Kidman exposes her evil nature by wishing to dispose what would keep it in shadow.
But the film is called Malice. Is this because NK’s final actions or general motivations are ones of malice? I would argue not. Ultimately her psychology seems to be simple, and though she is a moral vacuum, she is not a sadist or one who acts (seemingly) out of malice. The malice then is seen, I would argue, in Andy. Though he performs a just action in catching one who would commit murder, one who, before then, had seemingly committed no crime or huge moral error other than long-term deception, it is done not for justice, but out of sadism. But first, let’s further analyze the actions Nicole Kidman and Jed/b performed and their ethics and legality.
The role Jed/b played is surely one that would revoke or have his medical/surgical license token from him if his actions were brought to the light-of-day while he still existed. I’m not entirely sure of either’s legality, but I would assume it is against the law for someone offering medical services to advise someone to take a drug in a un-prescribed or harmful way; as it seems he did for NK so she would know to have one of her ovaries be at-risk, requiring him to remove it and then make the other one look necrotic allowing him to remove it and both have NK take legal action and have him keep his license out of what seemed to be a sound reason to take a ovary out. Making an ovary look necrotic may very-well be against the law, and is surely unethical, because it is based on deception and though NK wills it, allows her and him to take advantage of a system that is designed to compensate those who actually are abused in life. Much like one should not have the opportunity to stick their hand willingly in boiling grease and receive settlement, but if one does so after long hours working in a unjust corporation (as all structures of business are fundamentally unjust), one deserves compensation for something that shouldn’t even necessarily be blamed “morally” on the corporation. Rather out of relation, especially considering the corporation profits from the worker’s labor, the corporation is obliged to aid the worker out of a sense of what is just being that which creates material prosperity (health) and opportunity (freedom, but particularly the freedom for Man to exercise his higher nature) for all. And for NK, I would assume there is some illegality (such as fraud) to her actions, but there certainly are moral blunders at-hand. Enough to, yes, like Plato in his Republic, test the true nature of NK’s character and see if she is either dangerous or merely a nuisance. This however is different than the Republic, which is founded upon lies (as all Government and hierarchies are). NK’s actions reveals the true nature of her character without harming a soul, while Plato in his Republic would harm many by taking away their freedom, and by making all suspect everyone by creating these constant tests of valor and virtue, tests which the natural course of life (especially in a unjust society such as this one) creates simply out of inevitable relations and conflicts with nature(s), both of aspects of society and within the individual him or herself.
Returning to Andy, he shows evil (not creates it – except arguably in himself) out of malice. Not out of justice, but out of the desire to destroy that which has destroyed his innocence; and in doing so destroys that which would have destroyed the innocence and lives of others. His instinct is understandable, but not one that is desirable or that we wish to commend. His action(s), absolutely, is worthy of praise, but that which motivates his deeds is largely based on a desire to see one suffer. It is excusable to wish to see the Capitalist, Statesman, Holy-man or to use an example the religious would understand, fictitious characters like the Devil suffer, for what they do to the world is in-fact awful and inexcusable, however, malice is in itself corrupting and is an example how even unhealthy desires can at-times bring about increases in welfare in the individual or society. Like a jogger who runs out of vanity; his shallow nature is unhealthy, yet his actions bring him benefit at-least in some regard.
Just as Andy’s first indication that Nicole Kidman is fucking someone else is his semen, his own impotence, Man’s first indication that the Capitalist system and all hierarchy is unnatural and unfit for his needs is it makes his own mind sterile. Injustice and Un-freedom are first seen not in the presence of the systematization of evil, for one grows up with evil and becomes accustomed to it astonishingly easily, even to the point he will defend such madness and destruction if he is ignorant or apathetic to the deterioration of his own soul in either acts of repression against him, or when he is holding the metaphorical whip to keep his brother down. Knowledge of the empirical world is essential, but even more so is knowledge of the self and what is destructive or healthful to one’s own nature and virtue; which in some ways requires scientific knowledge but more-or-less can be determined solely by close examination of one’s own nature and reactions to this world – emphasizing the role of self-examination that Socrates, Epicurus and others speak of.
One must first notice some stirring in his own psyche, must first be skeptical of things in front of him and perhaps even within him before he can realize that such things are largely the nature of the world we inhabit. If we do not familiarize and personalize the world, we have failed to become familiar and personal with ourselves. We will live lives of apathy, self-destruction, ignorance and in its final form whether it is explicit in our words and deeds or implicit in our support of such systems, finally of pure malice. We will either justify the suffering and destruction of others (and eventually the world) or blame the victims of the world for doing what they were incapable of doing, and only because we ourselves did not do the work necessary in being a human being.