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Old July 1 2013, 12:00 AM   #36
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Re: Changing the status quo - Good or Bad?

Charles Phipps wrote: View Post
However, from a Doylist perspective, Star Trek is a work of entertainment first and foremost.
Yes, but what we want from entertainment is emotional impact. We want it to make us feel, and that includes experiencing negative emotions like fear and sadness and anger in a safe, fictional context. If the only characters who die are villains whose demise we're encouraged to enjoy or spear-carriers whose deaths are just incidental plot points, then we're cheated of the opportunity to experience the emotions and drama and powerful storytelling that can come from witnessing characters dealing with death and loss. The scene of Crusher struggling and failing to save Tasha is immensely powerful, one of the most effective dramatic moments in the entire series. That makes it far more entertaining than just seeing some redshirted extra we have no investment in get vaporized and then move on to Kirk making out with a spacebabe. Sometimes entertainment makes you cry. That's part of what we want from it. We want the full gamut of emotions, as long as they're in the controlled, safe conditions of fiction. That's why tragedy has been popular for thousands of years.

Really, we're talking about two different things. I'm not talking about whether or not characters should be resurrected. That's a separate conversation altogether. I'm objecting to the notion that death in fiction is only acceptable if it has some uplifting "meaning" or "purpose" to make us feel okay about it. Sometimes what we want from fiction is to be shown things that we don't feel okay about, things that we can get upset by along with the characters. And often what we want are stories that challenge cliches and easy conventions, like the cliche of a "meaningful" heroic death.

Superman's death may have been epic and it would have been awesome to keep him dead in terms of "storytelling significance" but we'd have been denied all future stories of Kal-El from Krypton.
Superman's death is a poor example, since it was pointless on a more metatextual level. It wasn't about conveying a thematic point, it was just about making a grab for cash and headlines. And it was executed in the laziest, stupidest way possible by just having some big walking plot device with no motivation show up and randomly pummel Superman to death. It was nothing more than a gimmick, so I'm certainly not going to defend it as something that shouldn't have been reversed.

There's no absolute rule to these things. Superman coming back from the dead, even if his death had been done well, is something I could accept. I mean, he's Superman. It's not that hard to believe that he could recover from a state that a human couldn't recover from. And he's a mythic figure, an aspirational symbol as much as a character. One doesn't demand realism there. But the problem is that comics resort to the death-and-resurrection ploy far too routinely these days, to the point that no character death carries any real impact because you know it's temporary. Resurrection stories shouldn't be forbidden, but it's a mistake to overuse them.

The other reason Superman is a bad analogy is because, again, he's a figure of fantasy and myth. Star Trek is ideally more naturalistic and believable. Roddenberry always wanted it to be as plausible as he could make it, even if he didn't always succeed and even if many of his successors haven't bothered. So fanciful tropes like resurrection should be used judiciously, so as not to undermine the credibility of the universe too badly.

Her death in Yesterday's Enterprise was less about having a "heroic death" for me, also, than simply trying to take a chance on life--which we should all do when faced with the certainty of death IMHO.
That's all well and good, except they literally had Alt-Tasha say on camera that her other self's death was "senseless." After having Guinan say that it was "empty" and "without purpose." I've explained why I think that's profoundly insulting to the many, many heroic people in real life who've given their lives in the attempt to save others.

The fact she ends up becoming a sex slave to a Romulan makes me ill, actually, and is actually WORSE than her Red Shirt death.
Indeed. That's just one of the many things I hate about the whole Sela gimmick.

But getting back to my point, we can't bring the dead back to life in RL.

We can't warp travel either.
Ahh, but the latter may not be true forever. NASA's already doing proof-of-concept experiments in spacetime warping on a small scale.

So yeah, I'm okay with keeping our favorite characters safe.
Uncle Ben is a great character, but nobody thinks he should be brought back. And I've heard it persuasively argued that bringing Barry Allen back from the dead not only cheapened his great moment of sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths but undermined the characters such as Wally West who've been shaped by his legacy. As with everything else, it's not a uniform rule. There's no sense in saying that this or any other trope should be approached the same way across the board. There are cases where it works to bring a character back from the dead, and there are cases where it's a cheap gimmick and a lazy exercise in nostalgia. And, just to be fair, there are cases where having a major character die arbitrarily is deeply moving and powerful and intelligent storytelling, and there are cases where it's just a cheap gimmick too.

But really, what I object to is the double standard, the implausibility of having "our favorite characters" exempt from death's sting while redshirts and spear-carriers are out of luck. Why, in-universe, should there be this overwhelming statistical bias in favor of the characters we know and like getting resurrected? If we'd at least occasionally see Ensign Whoozit or Third Pedestrian From Left getting magically brought back to life, if it were something that could happen to anyone, then it wouldn't be so contrived when it kept happening to a certain starship's command crew or to the members of the superhero community.
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