Originality Is Not Quality Storytelling

Originality Is Not Quality Storytelling

Tropes work for a reason. Story structures that are tried and true also work for a reason.

It comes down to heroism and what makes a compelling character. All too many comic books in the last thirty years have tried to peddle nonsense like “evil is not truly evil, it’s misunderstood!” and “there’s no such thing as a true hero, everyone is flawed!” The problem with these storytelling structures is it objectively rings false.

I hate giving Star Wars as examples, but the reason The Last Jedi falls flat beyond anything else is its portrayal of Luke Skywalker as a nihilist. He’s a jaded, dejected old man giving up the fight. It doesn’t jive with the plucky young adventurer who’s willing to just walk into a Death Star by himself to save the day. If a hero like that has given up and abandoned everything he believed in because it’s too hard, it leaves a foul taste in the audience’s mouth. You can’t have Mary Sue Rey walk in and make that better.

All storytelling therefore comes back to Aristotle’s theorem A = A. When something rings true, it works. When a hero is a hero, the story feels right. When an anti-hero is sold as a hero, it feels false because something that is anti by definition cannot be what it’s claiming to be. Even if the effects are good, the dialogue polished, and interesting things happen, at the end of the day the consumer feels unsatisfied because it is wrong.

The best stories are simple ones. Hero gets called to action. Hero fights villain. Hero struggles because it’s hard. Hero overcomes obstacles. Hero gets girl. The end.

No matter how hard you try to subvert expectations or put in a twist, you’ll never be able to do better than what is right and what is true.

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Comments (7)

  • Bonesaw Reply

    But we need our expectations subverted!
    That’s, like totally more important than good storytelling, having heroes we identify with, or villains we can enjoy disliking.

    February 15, 2021 at 2:55 am
  • TroperA Reply

    It’s hard to get simple stories with genuine heroes if the people writing them aren’t heroic. The last 50 years of fiction have been sneaky dastards portraying heroic people as losers who don’t have the courage to be dishonest and sneaky. The only thing that matters (to them) is winning and getting power by any means necessary.

    There’s also the desire to muddy the moral waters (which makes acquiring power easier for evil people.) Who needs light side Jedi and Dark Side Sith when you can just declare both sides as pointless and push “gray” Jedi who don’t actively do evil but who don’t actively pursue good either because all being good does is cause evil to happen in response to it? (Yeah that makes no sense to anyone other than a Hollywood writer. The more morally gray and postmodern something is, the more complex and intelligent is, so say the big brains that write movie scripts these days…)

    February 15, 2021 at 8:25 am
    • Seeker Reply

      In a nutshell:

      – Morality gets replaced with Ethics as the final arbiter. Thus the leader of the organisation gets to decide right and wrong without any morality beyond themselves. It’s like the leader of the organisation is the one commanding the binding of Isaac, that sort of level of control.
      – The antihero by their nature must violate one of the four cardinal virtues, justice, fortitude, prudence, or temperance (or moderation). A hero can sometimes be imprudent without becoming an antihero (this is more for the inexperienced headstrong and overeager hero), but the others are definitely necessary for a true hero. The postmodernist does not hold to any of these four virtues, which is why they cant write good moral characters. Any of them that do manage to create such characters are typically relying on residual religious/old philosophical knowledge of some kind to produce them, or they just stole them from somewhere.
      – In the end, this mindset leads to heroes being a bunch of enforcers willing to do anything that the man/woman/it in charge tells to do. Virtue being defined as conforming to systemic ethical guidelines removed from metaphysical morality. And that explains a lot about certain modern movements.

      February 15, 2021 at 12:17 pm
    • Codex Reply

      “We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

      They are men without chests.

      People want our he same thing, but different. Like springtime and Christmas.

      February 17, 2021 at 5:23 am
  • Seeker Reply

    We’re also at a point where subverting the trope is more the norm than the exception, which makes everything reverse predictable. For example, in Solo I knew the tough barbarian character was going to be end up being female the moment I saw them. And you’ve seen that same trope play out over and over again in action movies where the tough masked leatherclad assassin usually ends up being a woman. Ironically enough, this subversion has become common enough to be a trope in itself deemed the “Samus Is a Girl” trope (after the video game character). Everything edgy or original becomes “just another trope” after it becomes common after all. And often for the worse as you’ve pointed out.

    February 15, 2021 at 12:31 pm
  • Patrick McNally Reply

    The original Punisher was a good classic example of how the anti-hero properly formulated works. The Punisher always wound up in periodic conflict with Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Captain America, despite often ending up fighting on the same side as them. This was because they advocated a law-abiding approach whereas Frank Castle sought to wreck vigilante justice over the memory of his murdered family.

    But it didn’t reek of any of the claptrap we see today. So I have to say that you’re overshooting the mark here. The anti-hero concept has a valid place, but requires more skill than what Marvel today has degenerated down to.

    February 15, 2021 at 5:21 pm
  • Wazdaka Reply

    Give me Pale rider
    Stranger comes to a town that has a problem that locals can’t solve
    Stranger fixes problem
    He leaves before he becomes the next problem

    February 15, 2021 at 10:19 pm

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