December 12, 2013 · 12:10 am
Except when they don’t
Hush little audience don’t you cry, you knew your favourite character was going to die…
Well, that’s an unnerving little lullaby isn’t it? The fact is, the author giveth and the author taketh away, and the characters and worlds creative professionals breathe life into are often at risk of having that life sucked right back out of it. Yes, friends and loved ones, I’m talking about character deaths again. An excessive amount, or a lack thereof, both of which seem to be trending across popular TV series at current, and both of which have some iffy implications.
Game of Thrones, for example, has by now a stellar reputation for sticking an axe into everyone you love, or, in less weepy terms, its writer assigning no contractual immortality to the ‘good guys’. One of the most popular anime series at the moment, Attack on Titan, runs a similar operation, as does the Fate franchise which has spent the better part of this year putting my heart through a pepper grinder. Supernatural is not much better. In the sphere of YA The Hunger Games and Harry Potter are well worthy of note, with fans everywhere lamenting the loss of their favourites in whatever context. Suzanne, George, J.K. and their kind have earned their place in the hearts of many as the harbingers of doom.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Steven Moffat, who, as much discussed in the wake of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special, has a general aversion to actually killing characters off. Which is fine, on one level, since not every series has to contain a warzone’s worth of death if it’s not actually set in a warzone. But what our champ the Moff does is fake out deaths; kill Rory and bring him back so many times it becomes a running joke, displace people in time so they pass away quietly off-screen, or just smack the literal giant reset button and make everything okay again. As a side note, there is an actual website where you can press a ‘make everything okay’ button, which is really cute, but as a writing technique it’s… rather dicey.
There he goes again
At one end of the tightrope, you have Game of Thrones watchers joking that they’re hesitant to get attached to new characters since they’ll probably just get killed off, at the other, all tension and sense of fear for the Doctor and his crew is pretty much evaporated due to their writers’ discomfort with the idea of killing anyone permanently. Neither of these is really a position your show wants to be in. Continue reading →
Filed under Things We Need to Stop Doing
Tagged as A Song of Ice and Fire, Agents of S.H.I.E.LD, Day of the Doctor, Doctor Who, Fate franchise, Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero, Game of Thrones, Joss Whedon, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shingeki no Kyojin, Steven Moffat, Supernatural, The Avengers
July 11, 2013 · 12:33 am
You all know the story—a world-innocent but slightly bored peasant boy gets swept into an adventure to save his people. How’s he going to do it? He’s just an everyman, after all, the most relatable archetype out there, that of the well-meaning but gormless youth. However he might protest, however, he really has little to no say in it—he has to go on the adventure and defeat this evil, because destiny dictates he’s the only one who can.
What am I talking about here? Star Wars? The Arthurian legends? Buffy the Vampire Slayer? It doesn’t matter. The idea of the fated hero is older than print, present in everything from Greek theatre to modern sitcoms. But the question that I pose to you is thus: is the concept a bit worn out?
After all, the thing about destiny is that you know what’s going to happen. As if the definition wasn’t enough, we have the added bonus that a lot of these plots march along a certain previously laid-out path, that of The Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell was the first to nut this out in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces and if you follow your nose you’ll see it guiding adventurers all across the spectrum of literature.
It starts with our ordinary hero, our relatable everydude, in their ordinary home town, somewhat dissatisfied with their predictable life. Suddenly, in crashes some sort of bizarre happenstance that ignites the plot. Maybe a mysterious girl falls from the sky, or maybe they find a hidden treasure, or maybe some sort of mystical, pun-making wizard appears and calls them to adventure.
The Hero can’t just rush off into the story, however—for whatever reason, be it their loyalty to home or their honour or their wobbly knees, they must refuse the call. In spite of this, they’re going to get roped into the fray anyway, like in the aforementioned and formula-perfect Star Wars, where Obi Wan points out that Luke’s really got nothing better to do than come with him and face the adventure he was born for since his house and family are now on fire.
Does destiny really say I have to carry your Muppet ass around?
Continue reading →
Filed under Archetypes and Genre
Tagged as A Song of Ice and Fire, Brave, destiny, Fate franchise, Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Joseph Campbell, Pixar, Star Wars, The Hero's Journey, The Three Doors
June 13, 2013 · 12:59 am
[Hello friends. This post has the word ‘dying’ in the title. Spoilers abound beyond this point.]
Within fiction there are certain codes, ingrained enough in our collective psyche that, hypothetically, if we were to end up stranded in a made-up world, we as geeks and fiction aficionados (I wonder if anyone just rocked back in their chair and went “Ooooooh, that’s where her blog name is from!” ?), we’d sort of know what to do to stay alive.
Because let’s be frank, the fantasy world is a dangerous place, filled with high drama, magic and robots, and overseen by the cackling form of some distant author. And you know those people are crazy. You also know, however, that you’ll make it to the end of your adventure if you’re lucky enough to be the hero. Right? Simply act your good-est and you’ll be fine, since the good guys always win, and they certainly always last until the end.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that may not be the case—in many story worlds, it seems to be the go-to to spectacularly kill off the most quintessentially good characters within. Every time you make a heartfelt mention of honour, justice or chivalry, you may just be stepping closer to your untimely and dramatic demise. Continue reading →
Filed under How To
Tagged as A Song of Ice and Fire, Catelyn Stark, Dying in Fiction, Eddard Stark, Fate franchise, Fate/Zero, Game of Thrones, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, red wedding, Robb Stark, tragedy
May 23, 2013 · 12:35 am
It’s been a long time since I did a review (is it nearly June already? Bloody ‘ell) and this is a show I can’t seem to shut up about, so it’s only fitting.
Down to zero we go…
Fate/Zero drops you gently into the befuddling and intricate world of Nasu’s fictional universe; a prequel to the insanely popular Fate/Stay Night visual novel, which delves into the action of a magical war for a wish-granting device called the Holy Grail. It’s not actually the Holy Grail, but it’s certainly capable of making miracles—so naturally enough, when it materialises those in the know fall into a flap and start bickering over who should get their hands on it.
The Grail can only grant a wish to one party, however, thus the summoning of the omnipotent device quickly turned into a battle royale, where the mages at hand summon the spirits of legends as their champions. Seven teams, pairs of chosen mages, ‘Masters’, and their summoned heroes, ‘Servants’, going all out to eliminate the others for supremacy and a miracle all of their own—it’s a messy business, and in Fate/Stay Night there’s much muttering about the horrors of the previous Grail War, ten years beforehand. This is what Fate/Zero is about. A fun premise already! Continue reading →
March 21, 2013 · 1:01 am
I dreamed a dream and then I diiiiiiiiiiied
When discussing the finalists of a local writing competition, my companion had to point out to me “All the ones that are getting the most points are the ones where horrible things happen.”
True enough, a lot of the finalist stories included themes of death, regret, depression, suicide, madness and other weighty topics, and none of them really seemed to propose that the characters therein or the reader would be having a great fun time. Why were they getting awards, then, she wondered? What drove the judges to stamp their acclaim on the fiction that had broken their heart?
I think this is The Newbery Medal Effect at work, a rule that simply states “If there’s some sort of award sticker on the cover, somebody in the book must die.” If something has gotten acclaim, critical or otherwise, one must assume that at some point it’s going to rip out the audiences’ hearts and grind them under its figurative heels.
I mean, look at my recent escapades into fiction, for crying out loud. I’m waiting patiently for the third season of Game of Thrones, a series notorious for hooking its audience and then pulling the rug of emotional stability out from underneath them. In the words of Mark Oshiro, who inspired this whole ‘consume media and then screech about it eloquently on the internet’ thing in the first place, I am not prepared. And I’ve read the third book, on which it is based, so I know what’s going to happen. This should make me doubly terrified for the trauma that is to come, but really I’m just doubly excited. I am voluntarily waltzing towards emotional pain of both myself and George R. R. Martin’s characters.
Alright Alex, you ask now, is that it? Are you a sadist? Do you like watching people suffer? The answer is that when it comes to fiction we are all sadists by default, because without a certain degree of Schadenfreude in the creators and the audience we wouldn’t have a fiction industry to begin with. Continue reading →
Filed under Pop Culture Ponderings
Tagged as A Song of Ice and Fire, Fate franchise, Fate/Zero, Game of Thrones, John Green, Les Miserables, Melina Marchetta, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Supernatural, The Fault in Our Stars, tragedy