The world needs heroes. Lots of them.
We humans are a duplicitous lot. We tear people down when they do not agree with us while we simultaneously make excuses for the failures, excesses and depravity committed by others through arguments of relativism and tolerance. The world burns and we explain it, justify it with pseudo-intellectual explanations that allow for the fallibility of humankind, the broken results of weakness that is institutional, or ingrained—or worse, genetic.
We need not aspire to a higher goal, for we are just human. We have a built in excuse.
It happens everywhere, and has bled its way into a genre of fiction once known for heroes and sacrifice. Once, fantasy fiction inspired us to greater things, stories as old as Odysseus and David and Musashi, stories of honor and sacrifice in the face of great temptation, and great fear. These stories have been replaced by stories that are filled with the darkness and corruption of humanity, where even the heroes give in to the corruption — and that corruption is often portrayed as some sort of character flaw to be proud of or celebrated.
I wonder if we revel in this because it allows us to accept our own devils, our own dark thoughts and shortcomings. It allows us to be comfortable with the crap that has accumulated in our damaged selves, and not feel compelled to confront it.
I long for Aragorn. And Odysseus. And even Captain America.
For these heroes inspire us to rail against our dark natures, against the depraved longings to feed our personal needs at the expense of others. These heroes ask us to be more than we are. The world needs them now as much as we ever have. The world needs to say “It is not ok” to do this bad thing, even if you are my friend, or my ally, or my political party, or my family member, or a product of some dark past.
Is it acceptable to watch as the world burns—so long as you or your children do not have to face the fire at Normandy or storm the curtain at Minas Morgul?
Eventually, the ruin will be upon us. It may not be today. It may come slowly to our children’s children. But one day, we or our children will awaken to the boot on your neck.
Heroes give us that. Heroes tell us that we can be victorious, despite all that baggage we carry, the fears we harbor and all that is arrayed against us. The cost may be high, but the terrible sacrifice is worth it. It is better that than the world plunging into hate-filled darkness. Without the struggle, the darkness wins. It is that simple. Darkness is pervasive, and consuming and ever present.
Dark fantasy should be dark, it should take advantage of the darkness within us, and leverage that dark, built-in conflict for compelling stories. Dark Fantasy should show us the darkness in the souls of our heroes, introduce us to their fallibilities, and show us the fight waged against it.
What it shouldn’t do, is provide an allowance for our heroes to accept their darkness. For, if it does, what have we become but that which we abhor?
What do you think?
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