I was reading 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.