Anger debuted as a force of human nature as one of the seven deadly sins. In opposition to peace, happiness, and joy, it seemed fated to be one of the villains of our nature. How did anger and fury rebrand itself from a vice to a virtue as civilization matured? The origins of this transformation in film and music in the past decades show anger may be more moral hero than sinister sinner.
In ancient Greece, the furies tortured mortals with frustration and anger, often dooming hopeless humans to their own demise. Later anger and fury became something to rouse when you’ve been wronged. Grief is often summoned to rouse anger in order to fuel revenge so that justice can be served to the evil-doer — only then will the wronged find peace. Anger became the path of reasonable response by the innocent victims of the violence and misfortune to which humans are subject.
In 1990’s “Ghost,” starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg, each of the villains responsible for Sam Wheat’s (Patrick Swayze) demise are carried off to the terrors of the afterlife by shadowy creatures that seem to embody the anger of those they wronged. The furies here are friends to the fair and just, not the enemy. The audience finds satisfaction in this rough justice served to those who have done wrong. The villains know that terrors await them, but they also are helpless to fight back. They get what they had coming to them. The tables are turned.
Anger as a vehicle for justice features prominently in Bruce Lee’s “Fists of Fury.” When his master dies unexpectedly, and a neighboring dojo disrespects his friends, Chen, played by Lee, sets off a series of anger-filled retribution that is the hallmark of this film. Simple insults and outright racism are among the wrongs that Lee’s furious fists right. Lee dismisses his rivals with a superhuman quality that seems to feed on the anger he feels for being mistreated.
Today’s cinema is also filled with superheros who conquer evil by harnessing and controlling anger. The best example of anger’s ability to bring about justice may be revealed by The Hulk. Like the characters brought to life by Bruce Lee, anger itself transforms Bruce Banner into the indestructible force for justice. Heroes who harness anger to serve justice are not sinners, but they are clever tacticians who tap into the supercharged emotion to achieve their ends.
Much-aligned punk rockers of the late 70s seemed to be angry for little reason. One of the most iconic bands of this breed was The Clash, who’s lyricist, Joe Strummer, wrote “let fury have the hour / anger can be power / d’you know that you can use it.”
In “Fists of Fury,” Chen knows how to use fury to restore the honor of his dead master. Bruce Lee has played an important role in anger’s evolution from a deadly sin to a force for good and justice.
Watch “Fists of Fury” on MovieZoot.com here.