Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and Their Life Expectancy

Over the years, I’ve come to notice certain character traits that are prevalent in many of our modern stories, be they books, TV shows, movies, or video games. More often than not, they take place in nitty gritty worlds with dystopian elements, be it zombies or war or pandemics. Upon noticing these traits, it’s also come to my attention the flaws and contradictions that tend to accompany them.

Does this mean they’re bad stories? Not at all! In fact, I love things like The Walking Dead, The Last of Us, and A Song of Ice and Fire. But each of these manner of stories share a very common theme that’s been preached throughout, and that’s that the good guys die, and the bad guys survive.

Except that bad guys tend to die, too, and that seems to be something that a lot of stories these days neglect to really explore — or even acknowledge. Unfortunately, we’ve become so obsessed with antiheroes that we fail to really appreciate the goodness in individuals as well. That we’ll all destined to turn on each other if we are to last in a harsh world. Which is ironic because, in a lot of the stories that seem to advocate becoming a bad person, it also shows that being a bad person will just as likely get you killed. Yet they continue to insist that you can’t be a decent person, even though they’ve proven themselves that their own philosophy is wrong.

At this point it’s not even just me complaining about the good guys not always winning, it’s about the message that modern stories seem to be trying to tell us. And that’s not a kind of story that I want to tell, or even relish in.

What I want to tell is the flipside. That even though nice guys are oft to finish last, the bad guys are almost guaranteed a shorter lifespan. I like dark and gritty, and dark and gritty is what I tend to write. At the same time, I prefer seeing characters survive while still valuing their humanity instead of being reduced to unlikable, deplorable people. That our continued existence isn’t reliant on how much of a horrid person you are, but that there is strength in unity.

In many of these stories that we see encourage monstrous behavior in a lawless world, we also see that bad people tend to get their comeuppance in the end. That their distorted views lead to their downfalls. It’s the same for storylines supporting the idea that you must only look out for Number One, even though it’s also proven that going it alone can also get you killed.

So why do we see so many of these stories today trying to tell us that lying, cheating, and stealing is key to survival? Are they unaware of it, or do they want us the audience to judge these actions for themselves?

Who knows.

What I do know is that, based on what I’ve seen and heard, it’s equally becoming popular in frustrating fans as it is for those who write them. Maybe we should take a page from that and reevaluate the stories we want to share.

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