Bzp's Some-won Dyed!1!1! Culture, & The Killed Off Psychological Shield
This is an expansion on a recent post about this. And please note, I'm not trying to be offensive in any way about this -- if you feel I'm speaking to you, I apologize if my tone seems that way. I must admit I'm annoyed about this but I won't want to seem to be belittling anybody. What I'm trying to get across to someone like this is -- I think you're making a mistake. And here's why.
Okay, guys, here's the deal. I was planning to finish my History of Bionicle Set Gimmicks entry for this one, but something else has come up in response to the latest comic in which a character died (not Mata Nui; he was already dead). If you heard the news, you know who I mean, but please don't say it without spoiler tags. This blog entry is about one -- no, two -- of my main Pet Peeves. *Product Placement Alert! *
It's the "Dumbledore dies!" culture.
I've noticed this trend growing both on BZP and off it for a long time now. You know me -- I watch S&T as much as I can. Lately that's maybe not as much as I'd like, but I'm reading at least half the topics, I'm watching the topic titles, I'm getting the gist of what's going on in discussion. When a Bionicle character dies, we get this "Lhikan dies!" proclamation everytime. I've seen it getting more and more feverish as time has gone on, to the point that people seem to leapfrog over each other in a mad dash to be the one that posts the topic first.
Now, I'm a moderator of S&T, a guy who eats up spoilers as much as I can when I'm "on-duty". I expect to run into spoilers like this, because I'm often the guy who has to remove/spoilertag them. But this time, I'm taking a break from my moderating duties for the most part due to college, so I'm not reading reports right now, I'm not trying to stay up on all the spoilers, and during this time I'm trying to feel what it's like to be a "normal" fan again.
As I speak, this comic has not reached my mailbox.
And yet I have known for days what happens on one certain page of it. "[Censored] dies!1!!!!!1!"
There's something wrong here. If it wasn't in the fifteen or so posts I saw in one day trumpeting the death of this character whether I wanted to know or not, it was in the banners that put an image of the character right in front of my eyes as I'm just trying to help approve some posts or look for some question I can help answer, etc. with something like "RIP" on it.
Come on! Do you guys really think people can't figure out that means they died?
Translation: Use spoiler tags.
What is Wrong With This
But it's a lot worse than just spoiling things -- it ignores what this is really supposed to be. A story. Life in fiction. This matters to someone like me, an aspiring author who wants to write serious fiction, even if it is for entertainment.
In stories and in life, people die sometimes. In both, they smile sometimes too. Where are the "OHMYGOSH DUMBLEDORE SMILES ON PAGE 107!11!" people? Most of the responses aren't that extreme -- many are just about whether it bothered you or not, but it's the same thing, isn't it? It seems odd, and somewhat disturbing, to single out death as the thing to object to, or say you don't object to -- it wasn't about that.
Now, I know, smiling isn't as sensational as a death, but what is a story about? It's not about whether the hero lives or dies, but about the hero as a character, as a person. It's about who they are. It's not about doing something that "bothers" you as a reader or not. It's about telling a story; it's about a "who". This character's "character", if you will, is now crystal clear.
But only if you read the story.
You don't get it from the "Heshe died!" topics or the "RIP, [Censored Identity]" banners. Just seems like a slap in the face to the author.
Memorialize the character? Great! That's taking it seriously. Make banners? Fine -- as long as you wait a long time before making them. Memorialize them in spoiler tags. Not topic titles. Fine -- that is taking the author's writing seriously. That is a compliment to the author and it takes herhis character seriously.
Emotions getting tangled up in this? I understand that perfectly. When a character you really liked dies, that's a strong emotional connection that you feel has been cut. I know several people that actually cry when they read a book with a character death. That's a healthy response -- if your grandmother died, you shouldn't go "Eh, doesn't bother me." I'm just saying, you wouldn't go "Grandma dies!!1!11!" either.
The character's death is just as important as the moment where this character smiles at a joke one of the other characters just told. It deserved the same respect, IMO.
A related pet peeve -- when a character dies, we say they were "killed off". As in, by the author.
Guys -- if your grandmother dies, do you go "Eh, she was killed off."? I know it's a popular cliche in our culture, and it's a psychological shield to avoid pain of death. But if you did it in real life, it would be disrespectful to her memory.
It's almost to the point where an author of a series can't even have a story that involves death if they want to touch on serious themes. Good authors do it anyways, so I'm very glad Greg did this -- but it's still a disturbing phenomena among some readers/viewers/fans.
I can almost -- aaaaaalmost understand it with a TV show with live actors. Generally they die in the story because the actor wanted off. But not always, and to just brush all TV live action death aside as "Killed Off" is demeaning to the writers, IMO.
But this isn't TV, and these aren't actors. Nobody's contract ran out. There's no such excuse to pretend this was done just to get rid of a character.
And even if it was an actor who wanted out -- why should that belittle the story being told? Why could we still not say "they died", and treat it with respect just like any other reason? Not all death is random and unscheduled, after all -- sometimes it's cancer that is known ahead of time to probably be lethal at a certain time range, or the like. That's a very comparable situation, except it's real instead of fictional.
What I'm NOT Saying
Now, again, I understand this is fiction, and entertainment. I'm not saying you guys should bawl your eyes out over this. Honestly, I wasn't that affected by it even after I saw scans of the page in question (though I haven't yet seen the whole comic). What I'm saying is, let's treat this storyline event with the same respect we would show for any other moment in the Bionicle storyline.
And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with giving death a unique notice, with the proper delay in discussion to avoid spoiling it for someone else. I am exaggerating about the smile thing. A little. I'm saying, why be so feverish about it?
I'm not saying I had anything against Greg announcing Mata Nui was going to die. Heck, if you scroll down in the Bones Blog far enough, you might find a joke about that. I'm also not saying there's anything wrong with memorial banners, or wishing the death hadn't been used in the story, or wishing the character could come back. All of that can be done respectfully, so there's nothing wrong with those things by themselves.
Nor am I making fun of poor spelling. I just think this needs to be emphasized.
In Other News
Gimmicks entry coming soon, and don't forget the Pet Peeve Contest is open till November 29.
Other news: My old bonesiii_topics website has been spiffed up a little to cut that hugo intro paragraph down and add contact info. (Plus the latest two topics.) That contact info is also now in the bones blog -- and you may notice my AIM name is now revealed there too. If you wanna talk to me that way (and for some strange reason I'm actually online), please feel free.
And if you missed this topic of mine: Post Counts Are Not What Count, check it out, because it was almost a blog entry at one point in planning.