Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Temptation of Christ (Spoilers Big Buckets O' Spoilers)

Yeah I'm not talking about theology... much. Here but that last post got me to thinking why I like reality warpers in fiction so much. When done wrong they are literal deus ex machinas. See the title. But when done right they can be some of the deepest most introspective characters in fiction. Take the grand daddy of them all, Christ.

For the sake this post and avoiding theological flame wars let's look at the bible as a narrative. I'm not saying it didn't happen. I'm not saying it did. If you really want to figure out my thoughts on religion you can just dig deep on this blog. I am talking about the narrative of the gospel.

Christ could have blinked his eventual death out of existence. His war on Rome wouldn't have even been a war. But no. He makes a conscious decision to go up on calvery. It is an interesting moment in the story. He has all this power but chooses not to abuse it.

I love moments like that in fiction. Moments where a character could instantly solve the conflict in the narrative but for a sensible, I repeat sensible, reason chooses not to.  Here are my top character/stories of that.

6. DRRR!: Anri
Okay first off DRRR! is weird. So I am summarizing a bunch of stuff better explained by the anime and novels. SPOILERS Anri is a young girl who has been possessed by a demon sword. Because she was physically and psychologically abused as a child she has trouble feeling the emotion of love, which is actually a good thing because it allows her to suppress the sword which shows it's love by doing what swords do.  Anybody it cuts goes nuts and turns into her zombie slave. Unknown to her the sword has a already cut someone turning them basically into a less emotionally balanced version of herself. Her entire arc is about learning when to just unleash the crazy.

It might sound weird but a crazy demon sword that makes zombies is the least of everyone's problems. Now a knife on the other hand.

It also doesn't hurt that apart from the love thing she is probably the second most sane and emotionally balanced character in the show.

She just wants to be normal but well. DRRR! In this show how sane you are can generally be measured as the inverse of how  actually "normal" you are. In the famous words of Dean Winchester, paraphrased. Humans. Monsters I get. But Humans. Humans will get you every time.

5. Trigun: Vash the Stamped

This is more or less the entire plot. So spoilers. Vash is an alien who or rather one of two genetic apoxes of humanity who crash landed on a desert planet with the remnants of the original. He is old. Due to events that are way better told in the story he becomes a pacifist in basically the space equivalent of the old west despite being the best damn shot in the history of the planet. If he wanted to he could solve literally every problem with sniper revolver shot to the head from 2 miles away. And he doesn't. Even though it causes him and his friends much misery.

Which is the point. There are times when even the audience wants him to shake off the limits of pacifism and just shoot the bastards. Eventually the plot starts to revolve around his evil twin brother trying to force him him to snap and just go on a rampage already by systematically dismantling everything he cares about including humanity.

4. Doctor Who: "The Waters of Mars": The Doctor
There is one rule to enjoying Doctor Who. Don't think about the mechanics of time travel. If you do you'll start to ask the question why doesn't the doctor just fix it. The series has a couple of reasons but they've never been too consistent about it.  Just nod and go along for the ride. "The Waters of Mars" is one of the best episodes where they tackled it.

It starts as basically a good yet normal episode. Doctor lands in strange place, monster starts killing, lots of running... Doctor doesn't save the day. Hmmm. And he goes ballistic until he realizes something. No one is left to call him on bending all of reality to his will.  The other Timelords are dead. He can do whatever the hell he wants. Which leads to him cracking and deciding. Do over. Regardless of how it changes reality. Do over. And then you get to see the results. Which aren't pretty.

The overall point being just you can reshape all of reality to your liking doesn't mean you should.

3. Angel: Illyria 
Illyria is basically an amoral Lisa. All the power. All the brains. And she starts as a villain. Before being contained she was worshiped as a goddess. She is introduced as being a nuke. The end of the world. There is nothing the heroes can really hope to do to stop her. The closest they come is nerfing her a bit but even that only somewhat leaves her nonplussed. They are still out of their league. What really mellows her out is time. Despite being an immortal reality warper worshiped as a goddess, her empire has fallen without her. She sees her own insignificance in the grand scheme of things and it messes with her mind. For her the idea that there are forces in the universe more powerful than her is a new one. Not the heroes mind you. Oh she destroys them. But there are.Time and by extension check out number one.

2. Supernatural:God
Any story involving Christian theology is going to have to deal with this and the problem of evil for that matter. Why doesn't God just blink all the bad guys to hell? Well that is an ongoing subplot in Supernatural, the second through fifth seasons dealing with the christian apocalypse. Eventually it's slowly revealed that Judgement Day has not been ordained by God and is really just the angels getting bored and suicidal. They have nothing better to do than destroy the garden so they do.  Hell the demons, with one exception aren't going to argue. They live for this kind of thing.  Let's get this shindig off the ground already!

The protagonists however want to stop THE END. Crazy humans and our notions of self preservation. They eventually decide that their best bet at stopping all of this is to call up the boss. See the angels are fatalists. Meaning to them if God really had a problem with their quirky plan to DESTROY THE WORLD, he would have made his reservations known.

I could make a glib joke about this but I'll just say it. God is one of the few entities I actually fear. Not just don't want to piss off because it makes my life easier. Actually piss my pants afraid of his wrath fear. I deal with the my crippling  fear of God with a firm belief of my own insignificance in the grand scale of the universe. Hopefully God has more important stuff to do than bonk me on the head, still I do not want to tick the big man off and in fiction anybody whose willing to throw that dice especially in a universe where it's firmly established he exists is kind of fascinating.

See this is where the problem of evil comes in. Whenever our protaginists have to appeal to the angels to knock it off with the revelation already. They go straight to the classic solution to the problem of evil. Free will. See the angels don't believe they have free will. Hell they barely believe humanity has free will.  Well a few do.

But ultimately that's  why it's so interesting.  We are the x-factor. Everybody knows every teams' playbook accept for ours, and a few defectors here and there. 

We small insignificant mortals are game changers! It's subtly hinted that God actually likes free will so he joins humanity in the form of...Chuck. Who says God is dead?

Chuck. Chuck. How to explain the metatexuality that is Chuck.

Okay. The best way is to just watch his intro episode, season 4 episode 18 "The Monster At The End of The Book".  Basically he sees the future and writes it. The prophet... Chuck. Yeah he's our John of Patmos. Chuck, the revelator.

Why am I spending so much time describing Chuck. Well there is a fan theory that nobody's managed to truely debunk that Chuck is God. See it's always played with how much he can affect what he writes. Unless you know... fate of all mankind, Chuck sits back and just lets things happen naturally but when the going gets tough well Chuck can write whatever ending to the story he wants and it's hinted that's what he does. And then returns to heaven.  "Horror is one thing but it's another to live through bad writing." God is the author of reality. For extra "huh" points he publishes under a portmanteau of two of the series's actual writers.

1. Supernatural: Death
Okay I'm cheating but death is a great character. His reason for not getting involved is simple. You know how I said I hoped I was too insignificant for the powers to be to take interest. Well most problems are too insignificant for Death to take interest. Oh sure, despite himself, he likes the heroes. A little. But he is not going to rearrange the cosmos for them and gets perturbed every time they ask.

Hell the only way to really get him involved is to point out that yes someone is messing with the natural order of things which which is the quickest way to get the anthropomorphism of man's greatest fear's attention, him being the only universal constant and all. Death is a bit of a traditionalist that way. Shit dies. It has to die. That can not change and should not in any way be fucked with! Do so at your own peril. Ask not for whom the bell tolls bitch.

Because if he really got ticked off to he could destroy the world, the heroes only really ring him up in most the dire of circumstances which makes his scenes all the more compelling. The guys are panicking pleading with him to do something and while he may throw them a bone every now and again he mostly reacts as if a really compelling plot is trite. The man has been around since the dawn of time and he has seen everything, worlds being born, worlds being destroyed, the creation of the universe. He is the alpha and omega. A few apes dying is not enough to get him out of  bed other than to you know do his job, which kind of requires an emotional detachment anyway. In other words you're mostly wasting your time bargaining with Death.

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