An interesting piece by Stephen Hunter appeared in this morning’s Washington Post about the fairly vacuous topic of action heroes in film. I find it interesting not because I care much about action heroes (though I do like a good, mindless action movie now and then), but because—in comparing today’s to those of old—the author exposes a serious problem I’ve noticed with modern cinema and television.

In most modern entertainment, there is no subtlety. There are few complex characters—people who are neither pure good nor pure evil, but rather a realistic mix of the two in varying proportions. In modern television and movies it is rare to find a protagonist who you sometimes hate (House excepted) and equally rare to find an antagonist you sometimes like.

It’s most obvious in the action genre—has there been a good action hero since the ’80s ended?—but I have noticed this pattern in other genres as well. Think about it.