Undying Good

So…last blog I made the claim that evil in fiction is often portrayed as undying and overpowering. (Author’s note: The jumping off point for this statement was Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which I finished since that blog and which ending only reinforced my claim.)

But, I also claimed good was not often portrayed in the same unconquerable, irresistible manner. I’ve since rethought that claim.

While it’s true that, for the sake of good drama, the bad guy is often portrayed as far more powerful and unstoppable and legion than the hero, I think heroes have their own claim to the words “undying,” “invincible,” etc.

First, we might as well admit that as many villains have cried, “Why won’t you just die already?” as heroes have. There’s a whole sub-category of action hero who refuse to die or who, at least, Die Hard.

Second, because we want evil to be destroyed, we abhor its constant revival and wriggling out of death’s grasp. But we want good to triumph, so when it miraculously avoids capture and/or death, we revel in it. Even ridiculous heroes like Inspector Gadget make it out just in the nick of time.

Third, while I claimed that evil is often impervious to death except by some special means (like silver bullets), heroes often have an Achilles’ heel, like, well, Achilles. We’re not just talking kryptonite, ether. For most heroes, the weak point is their wife/child/best friend/dog. They’ll sacrifice anything except that one person. Their weakness is often more noble and human than a villain’s.

Fourth, and most important, a hero’s death, when it happens, is often paired with a resurrection, whether physical or metaphorical. (There’s also the sacrificial death.) In comic-book/fantasy land, this is extremely prevalent. Even James Bond in Skyfall has this exchange:

James Bond: Everyone needs a hobby…
Raoul Silva: So what’s yours?
James Bond: Resurrection.

According to such fiction, evil has a sort of tenacious grasp upon the world. Perhaps it is not truly alive, but it is very hard to kill. Good, on the other hand, has a tendency to sacrifice itself, thereby becoming “more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” (H/T Obi-wan)

What’s the point of all this? Just this: it seems that Western escapist fiction reflects quite a bit of how the world actually works, from a Christian point of view. It is hard to escape the echoes of Christ even in a post-Christian society.

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