harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Question I Missed - 'Cause I was just , plain tired:

I'm not sure why I haven't learned to just check The Slayerettes automatically every Monday for the Sunday Question, but I haven't. So - yesterday night/Tuesday morning I had missed this'n one... which I will now speak to, lest someone out there miss out and be despondent:

Do you like or dislike the tendency for main/supporting characters to die in the Whedonverse?

I generally support the notion that main characters die in the course of a series, but not just because of the shock value of doing so (which, you know, nothing really wrong with that either). To me, it's not really whether a main/supporting character dies or not, but how it is handled either leading up to or immediately after the character dies - - Is the writer taking this death seriously, or is this a shock moment to garner attention?

In the show's reality, I don't require any specific purpose - plot or arc wise - for the death of a major character (for instance - a car accident that kills a character doesn't have a 'reason' - it's a random and tragic event), but on the meta-level, I need to feel like there is a purpose behind this character dying.

Now, sometimes, that reason can be as simple as "the actor wanted out, and we don't get to deal with death on this show very often - this provided a great way to explore that situation" and that is okay.

But, what really makes a major death acceptable to me is if it is used to drive a character's actions going forward. In the Jossverse, I'd say major deaths that worked for me were Joyce, Tara and Jenny. In all three situations, these were taken seriously and they have lasting impact long after the episode in which they were featured - this is what should always happen if you're going to put your audience through this sort of emotional trauma.

On the other side of the coin, I have to say Anya's death was unsuccessful for me and therefore I don't like that she was killed. It wasn't her dying in battle I objected to, but that she died and there was no time to deal with this fact. It was pro forma, we need to kill somebody to make this battle look important, sort of death. I'd also put Renee in this category in S8 - there was no real need for Renee to die at that time and place - it didn't spur Xander in any special way, it was just done to surprise the audience (which failed on me, since I already expected her death at some point in S8's run).

So, in cases like Joyce, Tara and Jenny, I like that Joss is willing to kill beloved characters as a way to spur the growth of the remaining characters. I may not like their characters dying (Jenny's still haunts me), but I like that Joss took us there. I can respect the decision and support it.

In cases like Anya's and Renee's, I hated that he went there -  not because I don't want to see any of the characters dying and don't want to see our survivors hurting, but because it is done for little purpose. It doesn't force growth on our characters (you could make an argument about Xander - but it would be complete fan-wank to do so, there is nothing textual to suggest Anya's or Renee's loss forced a change onto his character), and it is random and unjustified because in Anya's case - we have no time to deal with the ramifications of such a major secondary character's demise and in Renee's case, because it didn't seem to serve a greater purpose to the story telling.

I guess my bottom line, which I'm coming to via the rambling above, is that I'm glad Joss is willing to go there, but I also need such major deaths to be justified. It doesn't matter if it is justified because the plot makes it a logical consequence (Jenny), because it is emotionally justified by exploring the aftermath (Joyce) or because it directs a character's actions and development (Tara's on Willow and perhaps, Dawn); any of these reasons are acceptable.

What it cannot be is simply one more thing that happens to take up space until we reach the end of the story (Anya and Renee). That sort of thing is what happens in real life, because we're mortal and it sucks - but in fiction, I want to know that the writer of the death has thought about the consequences before killing a major character and has a greater reason driving the decision.

Tags: joss whedon, opinion

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