Mental Flotsam, Mental Jetsam

Because the only thing that beats going crazy is going crazy with somebody else

Friday, April 25, 2008

You're Killin' Me, Here

***Spoilers Below for Lost and Battlestar Galactica. You've been warned.***

I caught drift of last night's Lost. In it, the comely young woman, Alex, is held at gunpoint in an attempt to gain leverage over Ben, whom I'm going to start calling the Father of Lies. The guy's a total bastard. Anyway. Bluffing (or one hopes he's bluffing, if he has a shred of humanity to him), he berates Alex as meaning nothing to him; she was little more than a pawn.

Heartbreaking words to hear from your adoptive dad, especially if they're the last thing you ever hear. Alex dies on her knees with a bullet in her skull.

And with that, a supporting female character whose usefulness has come to its apex is brusquely shown the door.

In comics, we call this Women in Refrigerators Syndrome. The character is killed for very little reason; other than to incite the corpse's loved one (aka the protagonist) into action. Their headstone becomes a stepping stone for the plot.

This sort of writing bothers me. It seems unnecessary-- for one thing, there are so many more interesting ways to hurt a character than merely knocking them off-- and an easy way out of having to write for them any longer. I don't like it.

The exact same thing happened to Cally Tyrol last week on Battlestar Galactica. Wife of a recently-realized Cylon; Cally has been sleeping badly and has been growing more paranoid by the day. She ultimately decides to take a walk in space with her hybrid child Nicky. She is stopped at the threshold by another Cylon-in-hiding; and lulled into giving up her child. She does this. It's a poignant, emotionally significant moment that could show Cally still has some marbles and lights a candle of hope that the cylons aren't all bastards.

You literally could not say that sentence out loud (for lack of time) between the moment the baby is safe and the bitchsmack that sends Cally flying. Dazed and confused, she only gathers her wits in time to realize she's doomed and blown out an airlock.

What's this teach us? That some characters are doomed to abuse? In her fictional history, Cally was almost sexually assaulted, placed under arrest, beaten savagely by accident, and exposed to naked, empty space. Twice.

Back to Alex for a minute? Sure thing. The poor girl's death was textbook for unnecessary. If we were looking for an excessively violent gesture to show the mercenaries meant business, they demonstrated that at the end of the episode prior when they wiped out some other characters that had outlived their usefulness (but not by much).

There are other less timely examples, but why belabor the point. I will, however, offer a counterpoint.

I'm writing a comic book miniseries in which some truly awful things happen to the undeserving: namely, superheroes. I was telling Shawna about one such character and her trials; and Shawna said something fascinating. "Wow. You really love your characters." It was meant without sarcasm. I realized she was right.

I do have a great fondness for my characters. If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to inflict such exacting torment; let alone stick around in the narrative to watch them get better.

I don't know. I'm not claiming to have any great point, here.

I just hate to see good material go to waste.



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