Redemption Arcs

Okay, so it’s Wednesday, and I absolutely failed to post on the 4th for obvious reasons, and then on the 11th because I came back from a hotel and promptly fell over.

Tonight still isn’t going to be a giant post, because wow brain not happening and also I’m editing the third book in the Sentinels trilogy, which is probably why brain is not happening. But I do exist, and I’m writing, and I am…nope, not gonna talk about my outlook, lest I invoke the wrath of whatever from high atop the thing per Sorkin in one of his better moments.

If you have some cash and want to help us take away the senate from the Worst Turtle and his accomplices, check out Romancing the Runoff! So many things up for auction, and proceeds go to Fair Fight, Black Voters Matter, and the New Georgia Project. It’s awesome!

Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about redemption because of some bad political Twitter takes, and some other bad writing Twitter takes. I did a longish Twitter thread about the political aspect, but to summarize/put in a longer-lasting format:

In fiction, my willingness to invest in a character’s redemption is inversely proportionate to how similar that character is to real life assholes. Vampires, goblin kings, and the literal Devil? Lots of leeway. Regency Dudes? Can get away with being a bit of a snotty asshole before learning better and proactively making it right with no hope of reward (Darcy) but not being a giant dysfunctional puppy-killing weirdo (HEATHCLIFF).

Republicans/libertarians/Proud Boys/etc? Fuck no. I can start caring about them after they’ve admitted to being assholes and started trying to make up for their past. I have no interest in seeing them get to that point, in fiction, and in real life? People mostly don’t change, and of the few people who do, most of them don’t put in the work to do so unless there are social consequences. Look Past Political Differences Because They’re Really Good People may be bullshit enabling if it’s a thing you’re doing yourself, and definitely is if it’s a thing you’re telling other people to do.

Along those lines, the closer a fictional villain is to actual RL assholes, the less I’m willing to buy into their redemption. Loki, sure, if you assume his fascist turn in Avengers was extremely influenced by Thanos or the Spacevoid. Snape? Even before JKR turned out to be a TERF asshole, Snape could go to Hell. Over in Star Wars, I felt much worse for Darth Vader before the prequels revealed Anakin as Generic Angry Young Man, and Kylo? NOPE.

Basically, if the villain seems like someone who, in RL, would mention Ethics in Games Journalism, I mostly want him to get eaten by something, not be redeemed and find happiness.

Granting all that, redemption still needs to be a thing the redeemed person works toward, not the results of people bearing lovingly with bad treatment or patiently taking assholes by the hand and explaining decency. With that, fictional arcs I actually like:

  1. Darcy: As above. Actual misdeed not egregious, gets yelled at and changes without expecting a reward.
  2. Dr. Strange: Changes on his own, and also can’t get his old relationships back.
  3. Lucifer: Was the literal devil. I don’t love how the Fox episodes shade toward “redemption” meaning “becoming monogamous,” but fuck it, it’s Fox.
  4. Scrooge. While he doesn’t change proactively, and he is very similar to many RL people, I can’t resist an arc that’s basically “the fucking undead and/or seasonal demigods BEND TIME ITSELF to kick your ass until you buy and distribute enormous geese to the downtrodden.”

    God bless us, every one.

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I'm Izzy. I write stuff: mostly vaguely fantasy stuff, and most notably the following books: Hickey of the Beast, published March 2011 by Candlemark and Gleam Romance novels from Sourcebooks: No Proper Lady Lessons After Dark Legend of the Highland Dragon The Highland Dragon's Lady Night of the Highland Dragon Highland Dragon Warrior Highland Dragon Rebel Highland Dragon Master I also like video games, ballroom dancing, and various geeky hobbies like LARPing. I have been known to voluntarily purchase and eat circus peanuts. Like, a whole bag at once.

One thought on “Redemption Arcs”

  1. “Even before JKR turned out to be a TERF asshole, Snape could go to Hell.”
    Yeah, while I have a lot of sympathy for Young Snape — despite his obsession with Lily, he still doesn’t deserve the bullying he got — it’s no excuse for him to make Harry’s life a living hell.
    Scrooge works for me because it’s not just about redemption but about someone who’s emotionally cut off learning to reconnect with humanity. That’s a character arc I’m favorably disposed to.

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