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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Becoming the Antagonist

            I’ve been thinking a lot about the bad guys, recently. Rather, I’ve been thinking about emerging trends in fiction and movies, and I’m a little disturbed. Villains are dastardly, I get that. But we’re seeing a new trend with the heroes in that they are adopting the same methods as the villains.
            In looking at the original fairy tale of Snow White, I was horrified when I read that Snow White locked her wicked stepmother into red-hot iron shoes and forced her to dance until she died. However, at the Comicon panel, the panelists were quite gleeful that the stepmother got what was coming to her.
            The fact that readers of the original story likely felt the same is proof of how far back this “just comeuppance” idea goes, but then this was a story originally from the Middle Ages, which was not quite as civilized as Disney makes it out to be. But for a modern audience to feel the same is a bad omen in my book.
            The heroes are becoming villains, after all. Simply adopting the same methods as the villain is proof that they are going to the Dark Side. The Emperor is there beckoning “Give in to your hate” and the hero does so. The most heroic moment in Luke Skywalker’s life was when he spared his father and resigned himself to death at the Emperor’s hands. In that moment, he had won simply because he would not turn to the Dark Side himself.
            Now, fast forward to a little show called Game of Thrones. In this most recent season, in the ninth episode “The Battle of Bastards” Ramsay (Snow) Bolton is defeated. Hooray! He had it coming. Jon Snow beat the snot out of him, too. I’m fine with that. I would have been fine if Jon, in a rage for all the death Ramsay had caused, had killed the man in the courtyard with his bare hands. It was an emotional time, after all. Rickon shot down like an animal, Jon’s army nearly slaughtered to a man, and even Wun Wun shot right in front of Jon by a smirking Ramsay. It would have been understandable.
            But Jon stopped himself when he saw Sansa. There are many debates over why exactly he did so. I know there’s a big following about allowing her to get her own justice, which rings true. However, Sansa did not give Ramsay justice. She was vengeful. Moreover, she crossed the line.
            I know this because of the little smirk she had after leaving Ramsay to be eaten. Now, picture with me Ned Stark, alive and well. Remember what he did in the first episode of the show, giving justice to the Night’s Watch who fled, breaking his oath. He was swift, fair, and also merciful. He did not torture the man. The blow was clean. It was a noble, and fitting death, giving the man more honor than his deeds probably warranted. Jon and Bran were there for that. It was an important lesson that Ned wanted to instill into his children. Rob followed through on it, and so did Jon.
            Sansa, however, turned her back on that swift justice. Instead, she embraced Ramsay’s way. I’m sure many people think it poetic that Ramsay was devoured by his own dogs, the ones he abused by starving them. But Sansa has now betrayed her own character. She survived Joffrey’s torments. She survived being left in King’s Landing. She survived Robin Arryn and her mother Lysa. She survived Littlefinger handing her over to the Boltons. She survived Theon’s betrayal. She survived Ramsay’s brutality. But when she too came to have power, she slipped. She became like Ramsay in destroying him as she did. She could have used a knife to slit his throat or stab him in the heart. She could have hanged him. She could have let Jon behead him.
            And she enjoyed it.
            It may seem like it’s poetic justice, but this shows a dark turn for Sansa, and a growing trend for the heroes out there to become like the villains they face.
            Oh, and Daenerys was about to go down the same path until Tyrion brought her back to her senses, telling her how the Mad King was drunk with power and wanted to burn down all of King’s Landing.

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