beer_good_foamy: (Wild as the wind)
[personal profile] beer_good_foamy
There's been talk of redemption again in fandom, partly inspired by Mark Watches getting up to "Sanctuary". [personal profile] deird1 had a good post about it here, for instance.

And I just wanted to jot down some loose thoughts.

Now, on the one hand, I love a good redemption arc. It's why characters like Faith, Spike and for that matter Jed Bartlet and Bubbles are among my favourites on TV. The idea of forgiveness, of being a better person today than you were yesterday, of stupid mistakes or selfishness or ruthlessness not being a door that shuts in your face forever, is a powerful one. They've built religions around it for a reason. Stories about it can, when done right, be extremely cathartic. (Exactly what makes them work is a long story, possibly for a later post.)

On the other hand, I occasionally find myself sick to fucking death of atonement stories. Which is probably why characters like Lilah Morgan and Tony Soprano who openly reject it are also among my favourites on TV. Now, I'm not going to give any particular examples, partly because this is just a general musing, partly because I could go on for ages about both spectacularly failed redemption arcs and spectacular deliberate subversions of them, and partly because everyone in fandom draws the line in a different place and this post isn't about whether specific characters' actions can or should be forgiven. (Feel free to comment with examples if you want, though.)

But it seems to me that exactly because the narrative of the Hero Searching For Redemption is so engrained in us, appearing in every other story since Homer, it's easy for both writers and readers to get lazy or blasé about it. Redemption becomes an end in itself, a Get Out Of Jail Free card that the writers can play anytime they want simply by saying that they're playing it, which means that... well, especially in an ongoing story where you occasionally need to keep it fresh by adding new mistakes or atrocities for the hero to atone for, it's easy to get to one of these points (which are really just different sides of the same coin):

a) you get careless about why s/he* keeps making the same mistakes again and again, since the audience knows that s/he'll atone for them anyway. So whenever you need the story to have some extra catharsis, you have the hero do something s/he shouldn't, for which s/he then feels bad. In which case the question becomes, at what point does the hero become a complete monster who still keeps doing the things s/he feels sorry for? If the only person who benefits from said atonement is the atoner him/herself, who gets to feel good about the fact that at least s/he feels bad... is that really the point of the redemption narrative? (Actually, it may well be, but that's a different discussion.)

And on the other side:

b) If the Atoner needs to atone, then there must be something for them to atone for. Therefore, the more they have to atone for, the nobler they are. Therefore, while the horrible things they did may look horrible, they are in fact not only forgivable but even admirable - because without them, how could there be these powerful redemption stories that help us feel good? Except... once you've done this a couple of times, and the aforementioned laziness/blaseness sets in, it's easy for the story to shift from one about redemption to one that glorifies villainy and calls it redemption.

Again, the point I'm trying to make here definitely isn't REDEMPTION ARCS BAD. It's more like... um...

XANDER: And was there a lesson in all this huh? What did we learn about beer?
BUFFY: Foamy.
XANDER: Good, just as long as that's clear.


Yup. They're foamy. Tasty, thirstquenching, intoxicating, even necessary. But if you water them down too much, or consume a whole bunch of very similar ones in one sitting, they'll give you a headache and possibly double vision. And if you drink them from a broken bottle, they can even be outright harmful.

Sorry about that last metaphor. I'll go brood over that now.

Date: 2012-04-12 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shipperx.livejournal.com
The thing for me is that 'atonement' can't simply be brooding. Yes, reflection is good. Reflection is necessary. But there has to be more than navel-gazing for it to work for me. I think this is why one of the quite popular redemption arcs in Game of Thrones doesn't actually work too well for me. It's mostly belly-button gazing, which while a necessary component, doesn't really do it for me. On the other hand a different redemption story in those books works for me better because it's not intended to be redemption so much as fates retribution until there's a reaction. It has more suffering than brooding until there's will to act. The second works better for me than the first.

Date: 2012-04-12 11:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Exactly. Generally speaking, the ones I think work are the ones who take responsibility for their actions, who don't make excuses, but also don't choose to just sit in a corner and feel sorry for themselves; they get out there and work. (...Damn, the s2 finale of The West Wing is good.)

Date: 2012-04-13 01:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shadowkat67.livejournal.com
In regards to GoT - I'm not sure that's a good example, since the story is still in progress and the redemptive arc isn't in complete swing as of yet.
Actually, I don't see any fully redemptive arcs in GoT at the moment, but I'm admittedly only half way through Feast of Crows.

At any rate, I agree, navel gazing and moping does not equal atonement. It's my main problem with Angel actually.

And to be honest in GoT the only story I've seen to date is the second one - fates retribution until there's a reaction, which is more about suffering than brooding. Actually all the characters stories seem to fit this. Martin isn't really into traditional redemption arcs, he likes fates retribution until there's a reaction far better.

Date: 2012-04-12 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] smhwpf.livejournal.com
Hmmmm... very interesting.

Redemption. Atonement. Repentance.

Redemption - Basically a payment, buying a slave their freedom, paying to get back your jewellery from the pawn shop - redeeming it. Metaphorically, it's what - or who - gives you the chance, which you take, to leave the path you're on, to escape. Or maybe one should say the process by which it comes about. In religious terms, God (or the PTB). As it plays out (in story or reality), very often a person or persons, an event, etc. So a good redemption story needs to give an interesting and believable train of events that brings the redeemed person to the point of redemption. A lazy redemption story goes for an easy trope - they're evil, but then someone loves them and they decide to become good. Why it would have been such a terrible idea for Lilah to have been redeemed. Why Spike's story is really good - it's a love story, but really twisted and counter-intuitive, and subverting a whole load of the tropes.

Repentance - metanoia, change of mind - when reality suddenly - or gradually - shifts in front of you and you see the universe and yourself in a completely different light. But there can be little repentances too, realizing that you've been barking up a wrong tree and need to change the way you approach something. For a good story, a) once again, needs to be believable, that everything that's happened to the character has led them up to the point of repentance. b) Needs to still be the same person afterwards, but seeing things differently.

Atonement - At-one-ment - making things right. Hmm, not sure about the factors that make a good or bad story here. Obviously lazy if it's too easy, if the consequences get forgotten about to quickly, or if it just becomes about point-soring, totting up enough good deeds to cancel out the bad.

No conclusions really, just adding some more ponderings!

Date: 2012-04-13 08:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Great points. I guess I more or less tend to think of them as parts of the same journey, which once again, points out how tricky the redemption narrative is - it has to be pieced together from several different facets, but it's easy to just reduce to "He did bad things, now he feels bad, he's OUR HERO!"

Why Spike's story is really good - it's a love story, but really twisted and counter-intuitive, and subverting a whole load of the tropes.

The thing about Spike, and I've promised before to write a loooong post on this, is that he's basically a walking deconstructed narrative. A huge part of the reason his character and his journey work for me is that he's both consciously and unconsciously telling himself the story of himself - he decides both to become William The BloodyTM and later Heroic Spike. And being a poet, though not a very good one, he knows the tropes he needs to play on to become that person - only it turns out, again and again, to be more complicated than that.

Date: 2012-04-13 06:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] norwie2010.livejournal.com
So - when is your loooong post on this due? ;-)

Because, what you say there is what interests me most (together with the meta level of deconstruction of male narrative vs. female narrative, in which Spike takes an active part with varying outcome).

Date: 2012-04-13 08:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
So - when is your loooong post on this due? ;-)

Come to think of it, Mark is working his way up to s5, isn't he? Might be time to write it all down in time for "Fool For Love" or something. Hmmm. We'll see. No promises. :)

Date: 2012-04-13 12:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slaymesoftly.livejournal.com
*snerk* Good points, all of them, even the broken bottles...

Date: 2012-04-13 08:06 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-04-13 01:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shadowkat67.livejournal.com
a) you get careless about why s/he* keeps making the same mistakes again and again, since the audience knows that s/he'll atone for them anyway. So whenever you need the story to have some extra catharsis, you have the hero do something s/he shouldn't, for which s/he then feels bad. In which case the question becomes, at what point does the hero become a complete monster who still keeps doing the things s/he feels sorry for? If the only person who benefits from said atonement is the atoner him/herself, who gets to feel good about the fact that at least s/he feels bad... is that really the point of the redemption narrative? (Actually, it may well be, but that's a different discussion.)

And on the other side:

b) If the Atoner needs to atone, then there must be something for them to atone for. Therefore, the more they have to atone for, the nobler they are. Therefore, while the horrible things they did may look horrible, they are in fact not only forgivable but even admirable - because without them, how could there be these powerful redemption stories that help us feel good? Except... once you've done this a couple of times, and the aforementioned laziness/blaseness sets in, it's easy for the story to shift from one about redemption to one that glorifies villainy and calls it redemption.


Very well put. And both explain quite neatly why Angel's redemption storyline never worked for me. It also explains my issues with Angel the Series and the Buffy/Angel comics.

I will give Bill Willingham credit for one thing - and one thing only,
his statement that removing a superhero's agency, making them responsible for horrible deeds, then giving their agency back and making them feel guilty for it - over and over and over again...sort of strikes him as the definition of evil. Why did the character allow it? Permitting someone to manipulate them continuously. And not taking full responsibility for it - isn't that evil too? How can you atone, if you don't consider yourself responsible? No, it wasn't me, it was that other guy who possessed me! ie. Hyena!Xander or Angelus, or Evil! Cordy or Dark!Willow.

What made Spike and Faith's stories work so well...was they didn't blame someone else. Spike blamed Spike. He didn't say...oh, I was soulless at the time. That was me. Even the trigger, he took responsibility for, stating - I let her manipulate me so I wouldn't have to feel the pain, wouldn't have to hurt. Angel never is self-aware enough to figure out that's what he as Angelus is doing, he's letting someone else manipulate him so he doesn't have to feel pain. Then mopes about it afterwards. With Spike and Faith - you see the moment of self-awareness. I screwed up. I must do something to change. Faith sends herself to prison. Spike gets a soul. Angel mopes.

Date: 2012-04-13 08:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
How can you atone, if you don't consider yourself responsible?

Exactly. Though that's one of the things that (most of the time) made Angel the show work for me: It's always everyone else who brings up the "That was Angelus, not Angel" defense - Angel himself (almost) never does, because he knows the line isn't that clear. Though yeah, exactly how much of that was just lip service allowing him to brood and look tortured, and how much was actual plot point, is up for debate I guess.

It's funny, the different reactions to Angelus/Angel and Spike/Soul!Spike in fandom. I've seen a lot of people complain that Spike never felt remorse for what he did the way Angel did - which is funny, because I always read it the other way around. Spike feels remorse, therefore he decides to be a better person, with all the problems that creates. Angel feels remorse, therefore he decides to (pretend/try to) be a different person, with all the problems that creates.

Date: 2012-04-13 09:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Though that's one of the things that (most of the time) made Angel the show work for me: It's always everyone else who brings up the "That was Angelus, not Angel" defense - Angel himself (almost) never does, because he knows the line isn't that clear.

Definitely. That's true of Willow as well, who rejects First!Cassie's offer of an out ("I am the power, it's in me"). Hm, there might be a post in this....
Edited Date: 2012-04-13 10:03 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-04-13 11:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
I agree almost completely. :) In fact, it's an interesting reversal in that the only time Willow seems to see the two sides as entirely different people is in her rant in "Two To Go" where she starts referring to Willow in the third person, and even then she only manages that for a few sentences before returning to the "I" statements. And throught s7, she refers to Dark!Willow as something she did, as something that's in her, as something that will come out if she loses control, etc. To the point where she even (quite understandably, IMO) struggles to feel sorry about killing Warren - "I killed him for a reason!"

WILLOW: Hey. You OK? You've been kinda quiet since...
KENNEDY: You sucked the life out of me?
WILLOW: Yeah, since then. Look, it's important that you know what I am, what I'm like when I'm like that.
KENNEDY: I thought it would be... I don't know - cool somehow. It just hurt.
WILLOW: I'm really sorry. It's just, you were the most powerful person nearby, and - well, that's-that's how it works. That's how I work.


The bit where I'm not entirely sure it works is the question of whether Dark!Willow, all colour coordinated black veininess, isn't still a little too convenient. Willow acknowledges that that's her, that those were her actions, that she's responsible for them... but arguably, the quest becomes more about regaining confidence without turning into Dark!Willow again than about facing the deep-seated issues that led to Dark!Willow. I waffle back and forth on that.

Date: 2012-04-13 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
I'm a big fan of that W/K exchange too!

The bit where I'm not entirely sure it works is the question of whether Dark!Willow, all colour coordinated black veininess, isn't still a little too convenient. Willow acknowledges that that's her, that those were her actions, that she's responsible for them... but arguably, the quest becomes more about regaining confidence without turning into Dark!Willow again than about facing the deep-seated issues that led to Dark!Willow. I waffle back and forth on that.

Right. I can definitely see that. And I've talked over that point with others before -- about the way Willow's early s6 badness (with Tara, the memory spell) gets so eclipsed by Dark!Willow that they don't get dealt with directly. And I'm sympathetic to that and ultimately would rather see those get vetted more deeply than season seven did. And yet -- I do think that there is a lot of evidence of progress on those fronts, that exchange in Get it Done most of all. (She takes power and violates Kennedy for the cause, but is entirely upfront about it; and not only that, but immediately after a potentially damaging fight with her girlfriend, she pulls herself together and goes to comfort Buffy.) I do think that she's not "cured" by the end of season seven, so much as shown that it's possible to go forward. In fact, I actually don't even know if Willow has a "redemption" story -- which upsets some fans because, well, it isn't fair that Faith "has to" undergo redemption and go to jail and Willow doesn't (quotes because I'm not sure that there is an authorial "has to" per se), and I agree that it's not fair.

I think a lot of the issue is...I don't want to say a matter of taste, but a matter of accepting (or not) the story they decided to tell. On one hand, I do think that the early season six story could have gone a different direction -- one where Willow becomes increasingly darker without going to the Dark!Willow black-on-black obviously evil look, and that might have been more challenging in certain respects, where do you draw the line morally.

But I think that within the context of the season, and the age of the characters, it makes sense that things work out hte way they do. Just as Buffy sees her affair with Spike as entirely bad and dirty and wrong, Willow comes to view using magic and using her power as something that makes her black and dark and evil, and after Wrecked, first runs as far away from magic and power as she can, and then after SR runs toward it as much as she can. It's less a story about corruption -- though it is about that -- as about how damaging binary conceptions of goodness can be. I always figure that Willow picked the black-on-black clothes -- obviously she had to change and couldn't wear the blood-stained shirt all day -- because she was planning on being "evil" and wanted to look the part; like Restless, she needs to have a costume to hide the nerd within.

I always wonder, in Villains, what would have happened had Warren been the one on that bus, rather than the Warrenbot -- i.e. if Willow had killed him before the "I'm not coming back" conversation. She didn't torture him then, when she had her friends at her side. It's partly the feeling that she didn't expect that she could ever go back to her old life or her friends' good graces that sent her careening further and further out.

Date: 2012-04-13 11:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Just as Buffy sees her affair with Spike as entirely bad and dirty and wrong, Willow comes to view using magic and using her power as something that makes her black and dark and evil, and after Wrecked, first runs as far away from magic and power as she can, and then after SR runs toward it as much as she can. It's less a story about corruption -- though it is about that -- as about how damaging binary conceptions of goodness can be.

Excellent point. There's definitely a parallel between the Buffy/Spike and the Willow/Magic plotlines, both in s6 and s7.

like Restless, she needs to have a costume to hide the nerd within.

Exactly. It's telling that right after she tries (and fails within seconds) to refer to "stupid mousy Willow" as a separate person, she shoots down Buffy's attempted "you have so much to live for" speech with three words:

WILLOW: You're trying to sell me on the world? The one where you lie to your friends when you're not trying to kill them and you screw a vampire just to feel and insane asylums are the comfy alternative? This world? Buffy, it's me! I know you were happier when you were in the ground. The only time you were ever at peace in your whole life is when you were dead.

I always wonder, in Villains, what would have happened had Warren been the one on that bus, rather than the Warrenbot -- i.e. if Willow had killed him before the "I'm not coming back" conversation.

Hmmm. That never struck me. Interesting. I wonder if there's fic of it. It wouldn't necessarily have ended up better - after all, Buffy at this point doesn't know that Tara is dead, and would probably take Willow commmitting cold-blooded murder for (as far as she knows) no good reason rather badly.

Date: 2012-04-13 12:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
I think a full study of when Willow refers to herself in the third person and when she refers to herself in the first person should be undertaken and I volunteer myself (when I have free time) (so not for a while). It occurs to me, amusingly, that the other obvious occasion when she does so is in "Doppelgangland," where there is a lot of pronoun confusion ("What do I want with me?"), and Willow using the VampWillow outfit as an excuse to talk about traits that she dislikes about herself -- "She let everyone walk all over her, and then got mad at her friends for no reason! I just couldn't let her live." But yeah, I think that "Willow" is an identity/social construct -- I mean, it's a name, and it's a name that carries with it connotations that she doesn't like. Which, really, plays into the way names are used throughout the show; but I think it's interesting that "Willow" is used to signify "sweet, supportive, best friend, the girl we love and who doesn't hurt anyone else"; Buffy, Xander, Oz, Tara, Giles, Anya, Dawn, Snyder, Rack, Jonathan, etc. all have their own idea of who Willow is. Which, again, is very Doppelgangland. "I could cut class. You don't know!"

(In general, I find it odd when people say, after someone has done something, "That's not like you" -- as if there is a platonic ideal verson of that person who doesn't do what the person has just done.)

I think I've lost track of what the original point I wanted to make was.

And yes, someone should fic that. More broadly, assuming that Buffy couldn't overpower Willow out near the bus (and that Willow would have said that Tara was dead shortly thereafter): would Willow have stopped there? Or continued after Jonathan and Andrew? Turned herself in? Killed herself? End world hunger?

Date: 2012-04-13 10:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shadowkat67.livejournal.com
I've seen a lot of people complain that Spike never felt remorse for what he did the way Angel did - which is funny, because I always read it the other way around. Spike feels remorse, therefore he decides to be a better person, with all the problems that creates. Angel feels remorse, therefore he decides to (pretend/try to) be a different person, with all the problems that creates.

Oh, interesting!

I agree. Although I never quite thought of it in those terms before. Angel is trying to be a different person (which is actually impossible) and Spike is trying to be a better one (which is possible). Makes sense, Spike already knows the pitfalls of trying to be a different person, been there done that, with William. In fact, what Spike is trying to do is sort of get back to the person he was - with William. Angel knows that he has to create a new persona, since Liam is no better than Angelus in his head.

Date: 2012-08-17 06:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] red-satin-doll.livejournal.com
Spike gets a soul. Angel mopes.

My rather-lazy-metaphor regarding those two is that Angel reminds me of someone who has to go to AA (or anger management or marriage therapy) because he HAS to, because it's a condition of his parole or whatnot (having the soul forced back into him by the gypsies), and Spike reminds me of the person who looks at the damage he has caused and decides he doesn't want to do that anymore, and actively seeks ways to change. Which is simplifying things terribly I know (and I have not watched AtS, so I can't judge Angel from that, only on BtVS). But you can probably figure out which I find a more interesting story.

Date: 2012-08-18 08:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
That is, in fact, the explicit metaphor they go with for Angel in a lot of early AtS episodes. :) There are a lot of good scenes that develop it further, though.

Date: 2012-08-20 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] red-satin-doll.livejournal.com
Faith does joke in Five by Five about being the only person in the world with a vampire for a sponsor, doesn't she? I'd forgotten about that bit.

Date: 2012-04-13 02:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] infinitewhale.livejournal.com

Except... once you've done this a couple of times, and the aforementioned laziness/blaseness sets in, it's easy for the story to shift from one about redemption to one that glorifies villainy and calls it redemption.

It's sort of a Sequel-itis. Author completes one idea, but the story must continue...attempt to do it again because they have no new ideas. Do the old one again, but bigger and badder.

You only get one shot at it and there are lines that once crossed you can never go back. Like, say, ordering the murder of someone for being 'part of the problem'. That's a bold statement and no more stutter-steps are permitted after.

I don't care much for redemption stories. That's not to say I can't enjoy them but they must be a part of the overall character arc, not the whole story in and of itself. It's why I could never really get into Angel. It wasn't so much the character, it's just the setup never worked. The characters were great, but the whole redemption/shanshu deal...nah. I don't think Spike as a redemption story, actually. I think it's more of a progression and self discovery story. Maybe that's why I like it more than Angel's. Angel's come across as more a self-repression story.

Date: 2012-04-13 08:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
It's sort of a Sequel-itis. Author completes one idea, but the story must continue...attempt to do it again because they have no new ideas. Do the old one again, but bigger and badder.

Exactly. Or smaller and with robots, as the case may be. :)

I'm not sure I agree that there are lines that can never be crossed. But if they're crossed, the story must acknowledge that and work hard at uncrossing them - and that uncrossing can't just be about the guilty party feeling guilty, because ultimately that doesn't make anything better at all. The problem with some redemption stories is that, to me, they often come across as supremely selfish. "All those people I hurt are an opportunity for me to learn something about myself, now behold as I brood a while before repeating the exact same mistakes." Fuck that.

Angel the show, ultimately, tried a little too often to have it both ways. I think I like that series more than some, but there's no denying that there's a pretty profound gap between the show it presents itself as (The Dark Avenger And Protector Of Little Ladies) and the philosophical questions it claims to address ("If nothing we do matters" etc, not to mention Angel's own inherent Angelusness).

...Actually, that's probably another upcoming meta post.
Edited Date: 2012-04-13 08:33 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-04-13 11:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] infinitewhale.livejournal.com

Oh, I think they can be crossed but as you say once you do, you can't pretend they weren't. When that happened on the show, I thought it was very interesting and a turning point because I saw it as the end of Angel's redemption arc. Not that he was redeemed but that he gives up on it.

Good thing the story ended there! :)

Date: 2012-04-13 11:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Good thing the story ended there! :)

From your keyboard to God's ears. :)

Date: 2012-04-13 09:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Nodding along -- I don't have much to add today. :)

Date: 2012-04-13 11:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] green-maia.livejournal.com
Brilliant post, as always.

Date: 2012-04-13 11:31 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-04-13 02:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penny-lane-42.livejournal.com
Great post. I don't have a whole lot to say except: I agree.

Therefore, the more they have to atone for, the nobler they are. Therefore, while the horrible things they did may look horrible, they are in fact not only forgivable but even admirable - because without them, how could there be these powerful redemption stories that help us feel good?

I think a lot of times this overlaps with the dreaded Manpain, which is another reason why it grates so much.

I also am a big fan of people trying really, really hard to be good...and failing. I feel like we don't see that enough, but when we do, I love it.

Date: 2012-04-13 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks!

I think a lot of times this overlaps with the dreaded Manpain, which is another reason why it grates so much.

Oh yeah. I recently re-read a classic (at least over here) early modern novel, Selma Lagerlöf's The Saga Of Gösta Berling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6sta_Berlings_Saga), and had to laugh my ass off when I realised that it's basically a pretty sharp deconstruction of the whole woe-how-unfair-and-hard-is-my-rich-lazy-privileged-life of a byronic hero, ending with the message "GROW THE FUCK UP AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS"... written in 1891. I had kind of a hard time taking a lot of current pop culture heroes seriously after that for a while. :)

I feel like we don't see that enough, but when we do, I love it.

Oh yeah. Any particular ones you have in mind?

Date: 2012-04-13 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] norwie2010.livejournal.com
Selma Lagerlöf was great in many ways. :)

Date: 2012-04-13 10:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
She was - fantastic novelist, and feminist activist to boot. (And yay - I'm used to getting nothing but blank stares when I mention her in international circles. Either that or "Oh, she's one of those Nobel mistakes that nobody ever reads." Dude, she's been in print constantly since the 1890s.)

Date: 2012-04-13 10:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] norwie2010.livejournal.com
Every day i thank my mother for reading me books ("Nils Holgersson", f. ex.) and showing me this wonderful world of books and her famous words to me: "Don't waste your time reading good books - there are so many best books out there."

Date: 2012-04-17 01:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Nils Holgersson is brilliant. Have you read any of her adult novels? They hold up remarkably well. I'd recommend Jerusalem, Gösta Berling's Saga and The Emperor Of Portugalia (in roughly that order).

Date: 2012-04-13 07:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zanthinegirl.livejournal.com
Fascinating post.

All I have to add is that, pretty much by definition, atonement is active. You can be "redeemed" without choosing to "atone". It's why I find say, Spike's journey so much more interesting and compelling than (though I love him) Angel's.

Date: 2012-04-13 09:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Amen to that.

Date: 2012-04-15 01:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boot-the-grime.livejournal.com
Great points. Sometimes writers (*cough* Dark Horse *cough*) get too lazy with the "oh we can make the character do all sorts of fucked up things, we'll redeem him afterwards, like we did before". After a while, it becomes meaningless - the way that character deaths became meaningless on Heroes, since characters kept coming back and dying again and coming back.

As for stories that refuse to redeem characters - it can be brilliant, when the character just remains himself or himself and never wants redemption as in the examples you've mentioned. And then there's the example of a current supernatural show that did a brilliant story about a character whose only moment of redemption, if that's what it is, comes when he realizes that he has to die or he'll keep fucking up again and again and people will die as a result. (Even though the storyline might have been partially caused by actor's unavailability for the next season.)

Or it can be a complete disaster and Epic Fail, if writers panic over some fans' desire to see a character redeemed, and decide to do anti-redemption instead by making the character mu-ha-ha evil in a contrived way. (*cough* icon *cough*)

Date: 2012-04-17 01:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Sometimes writers (*cough* Dark Horse *cough*) get too lazy with the "oh we can make the character do all sorts of fucked up things, we'll redeem him afterwards, like we did before". After a while, it becomes meaningless

Hell yes.

And then there's the example of a current supernatural show that did a brilliant story about a character whose only moment of redemption, if that's what it is, comes when he realizes that he has to die or he'll keep fucking up again and again and people will die as a result

I'm guessing you're thinking of Being Human? Yeah, that was a brave choice by the writers, and I loved that they actually went there. And the way they did it; they didn't have him sacrifice himself to save the world, go out in a blaze of glory Doing Good, or do anything to make his death a noble act other than in being... well, death. It's not a triumph, it's a surrender.

Date: 2012-04-17 02:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boot-the-grime.livejournal.com
Yes of course. I didn't know if you have seen it, so it's better to be careful. I've had lots of shows spoiled in discussions where someone randomly brought them up!

Date: 2012-04-15 03:59 pm (UTC)
frogfarm: And a thousand gay men wept. (Default)
From: [personal profile] frogfarm
I love you and your posts because you say all the things I'm too lazy and dull-witted to think up.
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