deird1: the Trio as Greek gods, with text "we are as gods!!!" (Trio as gods)
deird1 ([personal profile] deird1) wrote2013-12-09 01:34 pm
Entry tags:

upfront villainy

I was reading [personal profile] selenak's meta on fictional rapists and redemption arcs (which is interesting, so go read it too), and thinking about ...well, about redemption arcs. I particularly liked what she said in this bit:
One of the reasons why I think Faith wins at redemption arcs in the Jossverse is that what she did is never excused or forgotten, she eventually accepted responsibility and turned herself in (without mystical intervention causing her to do so), and she then kept (successfully) at trying to be a better person. Which is why I find it frustrating when her dark side days are then declared to have been all someone else's (preferably Buffy's) fault to begin with - that sells the redemption arc short.

Totally. I love redemption arcs where people accept responsibility for what they did and deal with it. It's awesome. I can like a fictional character who does pretty much anything – up to, and including genocide – if they have a good redemption arc thrown in. Which must be why I'm okay with fictional murderers and rapists, like Spike and Faith.

Except that doesn't quite cover it. Because I also love Scorpius, Lilah, and Azula, who are all quite happily evil, and never get redemption arcs at all.

I think I've figured it out, though. It's the up-front thing.

A character who does awful things, then says "Wow. I did all this awful stuff. That sucks. I need to be all repenty, now." will pretty much be my favourite person ever. On the other hand, a character who does awful things, then says "Wow. I did all this awful stuff. That rocks! I need to laugh manically, for a minute." will just about tie for my favourite person ever with the repenty one.

Whereas, a character who thinks their evil deeds aren't so bad, or are someone else's fault, will get much less leeway from me.

Holtz, for instance, can do very few evil things apart from trying to get revenge on Angel, and I will end up yelling nasty things at my television and wishing he'd come back to life so I could kill him again, nastily. Likewise, Xander lying to Buffy gets very little sympathy from me, because he is doing something bad that he never takes responsibility for. And Lindsey's association with Wolfram and Hart is something I tend to scowl at.

But Willow, Faith, Andrew, Spike, Lilah, Scorpius, Tempus, the Master, Azula, and Callisto? I will forgive the 'good' ones, and grin happily at the 'evil' ones, and not really mind them doing the evil things they do. Because every single one of them is, eventually, happy to point out that those things are, in fact, evil.

I think this is why writers of Xander irritate me so much when they excuse The Lie on the grounds that Xander was trying to keep Buffy focused. Because... it's an excuse. And, even though they're trying to put me more on Xander's side, giving The Lie an excuse rather than just calling it a lie is guaranteed to take me off Xander's side and want to pelt him with tomatoes instead. Whereas, if they'd just have him accept that he did it, and that it was selfish and bad, I'd like those stories a heck of a lot more.
velvetwhip: (Tasty)

[personal profile] velvetwhip 2013-12-09 03:04 am (UTC)(link)
I entirely understand where you are coming from here.

eilowyn1: (Default)

[personal profile] eilowyn1 2013-12-09 04:37 am (UTC)(link)
I loved that meta when I read it a few days ago. I think I have a thing about self-righteousness: the idea that character A thinks they're better than character B because they've never done action C (or action C has been done to them, in Angel's case) irritates me. Xander doesn't take responsibility; Angel blames it all on Angelus. Spike and Faith OWN their bad sides, which is why I'm far more in favor of them. It's all about ownership and taking responsibility, rather than looking down at someone else.
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (read)

[personal profile] zeborah 2013-12-09 08:49 am (UTC)(link)
This feels parallel to what I eventually worked out about which Stories About Bad People Doing Bad Things I like and which I don't: if it's clear that the author knows that these are bad things, I'm liable to enjoy the story; conversely if it's clear that the author actually thinks these are good things, I'm liable to get creeped out in the worst way. I don't need to be hit over the head with morality, I just need to have the feeling that, however much perverse fun we have writing/reading about it, we're agreed that it shouldn't happen in Real Life(TM).
juliet316: (Dollhouse: DeWitt/Dominic)

[personal profile] juliet316 2013-12-09 11:23 am (UTC)(link)
I saw that meta, it was a pretty interesting and well - thought out meta as were the comments within.

I do think your on to something re: redemption arcs and the characters owning their actions and that pretty much just gives me yet another reason hate on FOX for cancelling Dollhouse. I mean both Dominic and DeWitt and Topher had pretty sweet redemption arcs starting to take off in Season 2. You actually saw Adelle beginning to struggle with her actions regarding the Dollhouse and the Actives inside (as did Topher) and I thought they were doing a pretty good job in reintegrating Dominic on the side of the angels (so far as that goes on a show like Dollhouse) when he was reintroduced in S2; not perfectly, but at least the start of what I thought was a good redemption arc. Then FOX cancels the show and both have to be rushed, Dominic disappears with little explanation in the last episode and the less said about a certain character who shows up on the good side in the last episode with no redemption arc explanation whatsoever, the better.

This also perhaps twigs on why the character of Paul Ballard being my least favorite character in the show, despite being supposedly the hero. In S1 he does some pretty questionable things, up to and including waking Doll state Echo up and dragging her out of the Dollhouse all the while she's clearly confused and terrified before Langton gets to him and tries to save her (We'll leave aside the issues I have with S2 Langton because then I'll end up frothing at the mouth and yelling curses at Joss). In S2 there's no acknowledgement on any of it, not even from Echo who's clearly by a certain point in that season remembering everything that's happened to her as Echo. He doesn't even spare a passing thought that sleeping with Mellie/November/Madeline in S1 could have been non - consensual once he finds out she's a Doll. His first reaction is to be disgusted with her, not that she's as much a victim of sex by coercion as he was (as he had no clue who she really was when they slept together). ETA: He later forces himself onto 'Mellie' (which I'd forgotten about when I originally wrote this out) which certainly crosses the line of rape in my eyes as by then he definitely knows she's a Doll and is almost certainly aware that her responses are a programmed response, and that it is not whoever November/Madeline originally was consenting.

Those reactions really really put me off on him. Yes, he tries to 'save' her later by agreeing to work for the Dollhouse on condition of Madeline being released early from her contract, but that initial reaction always made me wonder just how much of that was really geniounely wanting to help her and how much of that was wanting her 'out of sight, out of mind.' I really wish Joss had actually explored that with Ballard more.

Maybe I'd have liked him more if there was at least some in show acknowledgement that some of what he did was skeevy. At best I put him as far more skeevy than Alpha was (Who's actions were at least, acknowledged as wrong for the most part).
Edited (Edited to add more thinky thoughts.) 2013-12-09 13:02 (UTC)
beer_good_foamy: (Default)

[personal profile] beer_good_foamy 2013-12-09 08:22 pm (UTC)(link)
This also perhaps twigs on why the character of Paul Ballard being my least favorite character in the show, despite being supposedly the hero.

Oh hell yes. That's still one of my biggest peeves about Dollhouse; they set up Ballard as a rather scary character exactly because he was so sure he was the good guy... and then, at some point, they just shrugged and decided that that's exactly what he was, end of story.
Edited 2013-12-09 20:22 (UTC)
juliet316: (Dollhouse: Badass November)

[personal profile] juliet316 2013-12-09 10:04 pm (UTC)(link)
I mean, I like Dollhouse, and I like some of the moral issues the show brought up; but it really did bother me a lot that they shrugged off a lot of the things Paul did in Season One and didn't even bother to acknowledge any of it in Season Two.
beer_good_foamy: (Default)

[personal profile] beer_good_foamy 2013-12-09 08:20 pm (UTC)(link)
Generally very much agreed. Though I do have a soft spot for stories about how people rationalise and justify their actions so they don't have to be reponsible for the wrong they do - as long as the writer is aware that that's what's happening. When the writer starts to buy into the character's bullshit (*cough*Dexter*cough*) I lose interest very quickly.
slaymesoftly: (Default)

[personal profile] slaymesoftly 2013-12-09 10:35 pm (UTC)(link)
Xander really didn't pay for any of the less-than-excellent things he did. Okay, yeah, he lost an eye, and that sucks; but he didn't lose it as atonement. I get grief sometimes when I make him sort of a villain in a story, but you know what? You don't have to do much tweaking to have him do hurtful, bad things. And he'll think he's justified every time... (wow, must be in need of food or caffeinated beverages - had 3 brainless mistakes to correct)
Edited 2013-12-09 22:37 (UTC)