jeudi 19 mai 2011

Redemptive Sacrifice and Spoilers.

Lately, everything I watch or read ends in a redemptive sacrifice. After becoming enchanted by the character of Doyle in Angel (my wife and I finished marathoning Buffy and had to move on to something), he throws himself in the mortal-killing light of a machine to save Angel, Cordelia, and a bunch of half-demons. The night before, I watched an episode of Supernatural where Sam's fling had to die because she was a werewolf. This one was more complicated because she chose the death (unlike Oz in BtVS), but Sam also chose to be the man with the gun. So to save others, he killed the woman he loved (at least for the episode), and she, to save others, asked for death. This episode doesn't even touch on how many times the Winchesters sell their soul to save someone or another. And then there's the plot arc of The Astonishing X-Men that ended with, spoiler alert, Kitty Pryde phasing herself into a gigantic missile to save Earth but doom herself to death or worse. At least in that situation, I have the comfort in knowing that in comics, no one really dies.

These instances come after I planned a screenplay that ends in redemptive sacrifice. I certainly had no illusions that this trope is novel. Hell, it started Christianity, right? But the use of the death as a model for redemption sinks its teeth deep into the heart of humankind. Just sitting here, writing this blog, I can name hundreds of narratives that end the hero's journey with a plunge into the abyss, especially one big novel to film adaptation that ends this summer (if you're concerned with not knowing the end of huge narratives that are immensely popular, don't dwell on this sentence!). But many of these, previous sentence and the largest Western religion included, don't actually end in the cemetery, but when the hero triumphs one last time over death. Buffy did it. Twice.

The sacrifices I'm haunted by lately, ones of my own devising included, don't have that I'll be home for Christmas endings. Doyle really died. And he doesn't come back, not even in spectral form. In fact, the actor, Glenn Quinn died a little over two years after his onscreen death from a heroin overdose. When I read that bit of news from 2002 (I'm catching up!), I transfered my emotions concerning Doyle onto Mr. Quinn, and felt doubly the pain of not seeing him banter with Cordelia, of knowing that he'll never have dinner with her, that he'll never save the world again. What this says about the state of literary tropes, I don't know.

But I do know that we invest a lot into our fictional friends. And when they're gone, another kind of abyss opens up and we have no choice but to populate it with more characters. I've become a sort of character junkie lately. And while reality is our nation-wide addiction, I still sentimentally clutch to the moments when someone's scripted behavior moves me. I wonder if it's always been this way, whether in the 19th people were outraged at the, spoiler alert, death of Anna Karenina or even Miss Havisham. Or whether once they'd read the fictional last rites of these people, that they immediately sought to find new books and plays to fill the gap left by the characters the way when my family's dog, Kal, died when I was in 9th grade, we immediately bought another Kal.

I hope they did.

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