darkness isn't cool // why i usually squint at grey morality9:43 AM
Look out, it's me, the buzzkill who's tired of flailing over villains.
(This is a post that's obviously coming from a Christian worldview, but I think it applies to most people anyway. *shrugs*)
We really, really like to make darkness cool. We like to make it edgy. We like to romanticize Kylo Ren and scream over Loki and make Pinterest aesthetic board upon Pinterest aesthetic board full of blood and cigarettes and depressing quotes and obviously make that the norm. We measure the grit and truth and awesomeness of a story based on how many people die, or just how gory it gets, or whether or not it mixes up morals and "shows all sides of the story" and makes a case for why bad can be good, sometimes, or can it, or does it even matter? We're very fond of our villain stories and our antiheroes.
And I'm getting really tired of it.
Of course, I should really be the last person to complain about this, since the sorts of things I write and prefer aren't fluffy or happy or light in most senses of the word. They're...yeah, gritty is the word I would use. I've jumped into some twisted, dark, intense things. I've written about the motivations behind serial murderers and attempts to justify human experimentation and fights to the death and war and the line between right and wrong and I've killed more characters than I can keep track of. My favorite shows are dark, intense, explore the line between wrong and right. (One of my favorite Marvel characters is Frank Castle/The Punisher, whose entire philosophy lies in the brutal killings of all criminals without real justice or nuance.)
Maybe it's just me, but I feel like there's a difference between showing darkness and reveling in it, making it normal. And maybe I feel like that's a line we need to walk very carefully.
Maybe I'm getting really, really tired of how cool and edgy it is to write about grey morality.
We're big fans of this grey morality thing: essentially, exploring characters and sides that aren't good or bad, but that hover between the two. We're also big fans of antiheroes: "a protagonist who lacks heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, or morality", according to Wikipedia. (I just sourced wikipedia. come at me, bro.) It's become fascinating and cool to portray stories, sides, and main characters that don't ascribe to any particular morality or who could even be "villains" from a moral standpoint. We like getting deep into that (we get movies like Maleficent, then, which blames others/society on the way she turned out) and then we like praising that darkness, that "complexity", that new way of looking at things. And then we really like turning those villains and antiheroes and edgy characters into cool characters we can fangirl over because omg, they're so complicated and broken and misunderstood. Again, maybe it's just me, but I kind of feel like this is a slippery slope.
I'm not opposed to grey morality. I'm not opposed to showing and exploring darkness, or even writing a story that focuses on the villain or someone who's morally grey and not exactly hero material. I'm opposed to the idea that it doesn't matter how we do it. I'm opposed to the idea that heroism and goodness isn't cool or complex also. I'm opposed to the idea that it doesn't matter how we portray this, that it doesn't matter if we're also showing right alongside it.
I'm opposed to showing darkness and grey morality as anything but the truth of what it is: a dangerous, slippery thing, a not right thing, a broken thing, something that twists and corrupts and never lands you anywhere good.
|a great moment from jessica jones, a show that didn't quite nail this whole thing but made a valiant effort.|
Morality is important. Right and wrong, good and bad, is important. That clear line is important. Exploring people who blur that line, or figuring out the line itself, is a good and sometimes necessary thing, but we have to make that line clear sooner or later. Morality is not a truly grey, nebulous thing, and that's not okay. And, in fact, there's something good and true and God-honoring about taking evil and grey morality to its natural conclusion, to the harm and self-destruction that comes out of it sooner or later.
This is my problem with stories about antiheroes and grey morality. Not that they exist, but the way they show them, and the way they treat the issue. The way we make darkness gritty and cool instead of pathetic and self-destroying and warped.
Write darkness. (I certainly do, and I can only hope I'm doing it right sometimes.)
Write about the evil people in the world, or the people who try to straddle both sides of the line at once.
Don't be afraid to write about it.
But write about them honestly, for what they are. Write about good and heroes and how that always always always always always wins. Write about the dark, but make sure people aren't confusing that with the light in the end.
And let's just all mutually agree not to make villains and darkness "cool" anymore. This matters.
how do you feel about stories about villains/antiheroes?