Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Wacky Morality

I think I'm starting to recover, as I managed to sleep late this morning, which means I'm unwinding. The knee is only slightly stiff and not at all painful. I can walk and manage the stairs normally. I'm still not sure about anything more intense, which could make children's choir tonight interesting. If the improvement continues, I may attempt the beginning ballet class tomorrow night as a substitute for the class I missed last night. We'll see. It might be wiser to give the knee an entire week off.

I was reminded yesterday that I never did any posts inspired by WorldCon panels. I guess I went straight from WorldCon to preparing for FenCon, and my brain never caught up. The main panel that inspired lots of blogworthy thoughts was, oddly enough, the one on Star Wars. David Brin said some really thought-provoking things about the morality in that universe that I think also apply to the way morality is perceived in general in a lot of modern entertainment. He also had a very interesting thesis about Yoda being the most evil character in the series because at just about every critical turning point, he either did something or refused to act, which resulted in things turning out the wrong way. And there are some crazy things like assigning the training of the most potentially powerful Jedi ever to the rookie who's barely finished his own training or letting the only remaining potential Jedi grow up with no training at all, when they're supposed to be the last hope.

But the main thing that made me think was the weird morality that stacks the deck against the good guys. Brin talked about how in the confrontation with the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, the Emperor is gloating about the number of people he's about to kill, and the gist of it is that Luke killing the bad guy to stop him from doing bad stuff will be what makes Luke turn evil. That reminded me of the wacky morality in the TV series Once Upon a Time, where killing the evil sorceress who's about to wipe out the entire town and who killed her mother and set most of the things that destroyed her life in motion leaves a "black spot" on Snow White's heart. As in the Star Wars universe, the villains can run amok, then do one good thing and be totally redeemed, but the good guys will go bad if they actually do something to stop the bad guys from running amok.

I think they're trying to show how good, sweet and nice Snow White is, but to me she looks like a terrible ruler who puts her own emotions ahead of the good of her people. They intercut the "current" story with flashbacks from the fairytale past, and those are non-linear, so you see events out of order. We saw the bit where they'd actually caught the evil queen and put her on trial, but Snow White wouldn't execute her, and they knew they couldn't hold someone with her power in prison, so they just let her go. Since then, we've learned this came after she slaughtered a whole village for revenge and held another whole village hostage. Since they let her go, she's enacted a curse on their whole world that yanked everyone out of their lives and left their world in ruins, and she's killed even more people. But executing her after a trial would have darkened the good guys, while letting her keep hurting innocent people is perfectly okay?

It's hard enough to be a hero without all sorts of wacky rules about what a hero is allowed to do, even to a villain and even to help protect innocent people. If you can't kill a villain in order to keep the unrepentant villain from hurting more people, how are you supposed to win?

This doesn't come from the original tales, where the villains were thoroughly punished. Cinderella's stepsisters got their eyes poked out by birds. Villains might also get put in barrels studded with nails and dragged through town. Fairytale heroes were supposed to be kind to animals, the poor, old people and those who weren't obviously attractive, but they were under no obligation to let villains walk all over them. I think some of the problem comes from poor planning, so that the power balance or competence balance between the hero and the villain is off, and that means shifting the rules around to keep the hero from winning until the story is over. If one action by the hero could end the story and stop all the misery, it's easier to come up with a reason why the hero can't just take that one action than to revise the story to keep things more in balance so that it takes more than just that one action.

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