Friday, April 6, 2012

The Darth Vadar Effect

Living in a world of gray, it becomes hard to determine right and wrong, natural laws and religious laws, and whether or not telling that jackass on the comment boards off was a good act or just as bitchy. Fiction, however, has the advantage of thick lines in which we can determine good by the way a person looks, the rumors about him, and who the author likes better. We know who is supposed to be the hero and who is the villian. We are aware of who's side we're expected to be on, and if we weren't sure what was the right answer, we know we'll be told soon enough.

It is interesting, however, to note exactly what some writer's are telling us about good and evil. In the musical Rent, the protagonist is an unemployed, heroine addict, near pedophile, who's main conflict is having to pay the debt he owes. The villian? A man who owns a warehouse and wants to kick out the homeless people loitering to, you know, use it. Grease teaches us that a person isn't living unless she's dressing for her man, smokes, and that abstaining from sex before marriage makes for a bad relationship. The biggest issue, I have, however, is the common theme of "evil tries to do things, good people have things done for them."

From The Lion King to Harry Potter to Star Wars, we see that story over and over. Many tales take this approach, which could be the common foundation of the Hero's Journey, but needless to say, I think no matter the reason for it, it is the reason behind the thought process of the modern people.

The story goes like this: an evil man wants to take over the world. The main character, however, wants for nothing. He maybe has a dream of being a great hero or , but he does nothing to actually take action to achieve that goal. Harry Potter wants a loving family who doesn't lock him in the broom closet, but he doesn't run away, tell them off, or even study hard in hopes of getting out through college. Aladdin wants to live in a palace, but he steals only what will keep his head above water. Little Anakin Skywalker wishes for freedom, but he has yet to make attempts to escape.

Then something happens. A giant comes and tells him he's a winner. A sorcerer takes him aside to give him a job. A Jedi sees his true power. A few turns of luck later, (the child's happen-chance survival against Voldemorte makes him a celebrity, a monkey steals the lamp, the boy happens to fall into a racing ship and uses his innate talent to win) he is taken away from his horrible life to be brought up as The Chosen One.

He then proceeds to chance into creating problems for the evil doer. This, of course, is not a goal for him. He does not want to fight Voldemorte, the wizard just won't stop chasing him. Aladdin doesn't care about Jafar until he goes after the princess. Anakin just goes with the flow.

You can tell the moment that Mr. Skywalker goes evil because he starts to try. Throughout the text of the story, the lucky protagonist doesn't seek the epic super powerful sword, he just gets it. He doesn't make decisive decision to attack the villian, he waits for the marauder to make the first move. The moment that Anakin starts to want something, Padame, power, and everything else that begins with a "p," not only did the movie hint that he was doing bad things, but actually stated, bluntly and out in the open, that a Jedi should never want for anything.

When writing a novel, many people stop because they've subconsciously copied this standard. Writing something in which the antagonist makes all of the moves is hard. The protagonist has to be the conflict, which means that if he hasn't made the decision to stop the villian then the author has to come up with some sort of reason for him to be in the same place at the same time and causing problems.

That is the reason Jafar needed a "diamond in the rough" to go into the Cave of Wonders. He then had to find out that Aladdin was such a person and collected him all in due course. In the movie he does it in a somewhat convoluted way, arresting him to get him into the prison so that he can talk to him when it probably would have been just as simple as to come up to him on the street and offer to pay him. But that would give Aladdin the illustion of initiative. Meanwhile, while the archenemy is commiting to all of this, Aladdin is walking around, twiddling his thumbs. But, because it's his story, the narrator has to come up with something he's doing.

They did well, having two plots going at once. One, the story of Aladdin and Jasmine's romance, the other about Jafar's lust for power. This is a great way of solving the problem by having two goals that exchange problems and locations. However, it also makes Jafar do all of the work.

We wonder why there are people sitting in their basements waiting to be found by greatness. Many of us don't search it out, don't do the work, and truly believe that the untalented have no way of competing with those "meant for bigger things." If we are not good at what we do, why should we bother? Like the characters in our stories, we know that to try is evil and means failure, but to sit around waiting for good things to happen will eventually lead us to our mentors.

If we learn anything from Darth Vadar, that is passion causes nothing but problems, so it is is better to just wait it out.