Bryan Grove Thanks for responding :) I like your points. let me try to respond to each one in turn.
A) You’re probably right, I’m talking about movies from the late 80s to early 90s that I can remember. I should be a little more analytical and see what the trend is now. I’m sure you’re much more expert in what’s happening in the contemporary films for kids. That said, I’m only talking about films that prominently feature an antagonist vs protagonist. There are other types of stories that don’t apply. (granted I used some hyperbolic language on facebook but thats my jam)
My these here is that : In our culture, when there is an antagonist the story will resolve with that antagonist being destroyed and be presented as a “good resolution”. Two caveats — sometimes the antagonist will “get away” so that the battle can continue in a sequel, and sometimes the antagonist will be “sealed away” ie put in jail or locked up someplace. This has the same effect as death however, they’re punished and can’t do anything. Death/sleep/coma/life-prison-sentence/whatever are synonymous.
B) again can’t speak to every movie and I hope you’re right, maybe we’re becoming more aware of how antagonists are treated. I think in the last 10 years there has been much more interest in characters with “shades of grey” and I think thats generally a good thing. So maybe we’re at a watershed with this idea and our culture is toying with dropping this, I’d like that.
Your notes on repurposing old stories I see as proving my point: Our culture has been telling this story of righteous revenge and violence for a long, long time. Disney is just the latest to update and modernize it. In some cases they tone down the violence but they won’t remove the idea that the antagonist is beyond redemption and must be destroyed. To me that’s the real point.
C) I’m being deliberately vague about “our culture” because I culture is a big amorphous, ever changing thing. I think its fine for us to use American culture or western culture but don’t want to limit it to just that. I’d say this idea of Righteous Revenge is ancient, its in some of human civilization’s oldest stories and societies. But just as America traces its history back through other cultures, so too does this idea go way back. America- British Empire-Rome- Greeks- Egyptians- Mesopotamia etc all carry strands.
D) I’m not sure what the effect would be, but I think it wouldn’t hurt. If we’re using this lens of “the bad guys have GOT to be destroyed” and look at the current political climate I think we can see a lot of parallels.
Almost everything that comes out of Trumps mouth is directly appealing to this idea. ‘That ”Mexican’s are rapists, we need to ban all Muslims because they’re terrorists, that its the “elites” who have stolen the political system’. He’s all about identifying an antagonist, scapegoating them with our fears and frustrations and then insisting that he’ll fight them and get rid of them. He even says it; he likes to brand his opponents. His candidness about this idea is extremely helpful I think for understanding it.
And I think he’s been so successful because our culture is absolutely saturated with the idea that there are “good guys” (us) and “bad guys” (them) and the only way the issue can be resolved is if they fight and one side is defeated.
E)So to me its less about violence in of itself than it is about why and why we rationalize it. Bryan you know that in some cases I LOOVE violence :) I watched Conor McGregor and Nick Diaz beat each other bloody last night and thought it was totally great because neither of them is a “bad guy” they’re just two dudes competing.
So what I’m asking is that we start talking about how stories can be written to include the idea of forgiveness, mercy and redemption. I don’t see why the Lion King had to be written such that Scar’s death needed to mirror his murder of Mufasa. I don’t see how the Emperor in Star Wars is a necessary character in the original trilogy, other than to be thrown to his doom by the redeemed Darth Vader (side note: isn’t it interesting that George Lucas decided to write in both ideas: redemption and revenge? like he couldn’t let go of the righteous revenge as being the resolution to a story?)
I’m all for teaching kids about good and evil, I fully believe that those concepts exist but I don’t believe that good people or bad people exist. I think people are just people. Their actions reflect both concepts but can’t define them. I think that those labels of good and evil onto people present a whole host of problems. So I’m suggesting that we get rid of them and tell stories differently, where characters are responsible for their actions and capable of reconsidering them. I don’t want to not explore those ideas, I want to explore them in a more thoughtful way.