Balancing Moral Ambiguity in fiction (or why having a good vs. evil conflict isn't interesting).

I got to watching The Force Awakens again recently. While I no means find it a bad film, I didn't enjoy it as much as others did. Part of that is that it's basically a remake of A New Hope dressed as a sequel, but a part of me didn't buy that. I enjoy remakes of films even better than their source material sometimes (the Jeff Goldblum Fly movie comes to mind). And to be perfectly honest, this movie is actually quite better than the original Star Wars in a number of ways.

So I kinda took it to be that I'm a cynical adult now and I just left it at that for awhile. But that bothered me too. Do I just hate everything now? I notice that I'm what some may call nit-picky and will criticize something that some may seem as a minor complaint. I understand these are problems of living and growing older and such. I'm certainly not the first to have these thoughts, obviously, but they are thoughts I nonetheless want to put to rest.

What did I like best about The Force Awakens? Kylo Ren. At first, he may seem like an angsty teen who has daddy issues, but it soon becomes clear that he has a sense of humor and a personality. He smashes up a computer in anger when brought bad news then humorously asks "anything else?" Kylo Ren is also the closest thing this movie has to a character with serious depth. On the bridge with his daddy, he flips between the dark and the light sides, ultimately choosing to side with the dark.

And that's Star War's biggest problem. That binary choice.

There's a clear cut 'do what it's good democracy and counsel and behave righteously' side and there's the 'do what is evil dictatorship and Donald Trump' side. There are no grey areas, when a character has to struggle, they're choosing good or evil with no questions asked. Life choices are more than binary, they're nearly infinite in scope and consequence. So I find Star Wars kinda alien in that regard.

So, tbh, I'm kinda just sick of the hero's journey. I think I've reached a point where it no longer means anything to me. It, IMHO, is a childlike way to view the world with a limited perspective in scope. I might make fun of Jenner in the SoN, but he actually has a decent motivation, which is more than I can say for Sauron in Lord of the Rings, for example.

I dunno, am I unreasonable to think that external power struggles have kinda run their course in fiction and that more internal-external conflicts between characters are the way of the future?


  • I'mma bump this. I think Star Wars (the new one in particular) is important for children to see. It gives them someone to root for and someone to fear. During the Cold War when the first movie came out, the end of world by means of nuclear warfare was very real. It was a scary time to be alive and having a hero be a sort of catharsis to that fear (going against the planet destroying Death Star) was necessary. The new film basically wrote the story so that anyone could be that hero.

    As an adult, I'm just more cynical. I see problems a bit more easily and I'm not one to shower something with praise as much as I used to. I believe that there are problematic elements in every piece of fiction and I can see these issues more and more. I'm learning to accept that there are going to be problems and that they shouldn't stop me from enjoying fiction regardless. I am also one to believe that criticism is important and that communication of that criticism in a thought out manner is also important.

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