Redemption stories - real life vs. fiction

Bengraven

Member
Oct 26, 2017
1,751
Do we let fictional characters off the hook for their past actions more than we do real humans? Is it because their actions were fake. "Oh yeah, you killed some children and destroyed your religion, but you saved your son and now you're dying and none of those Rebels on the Blockade Runner were real, so we love you again". There are people cheering on Kylo Ren becoming a good guy, but he fucking killed tons of Resistance, Max Von Syndow, and fucking Han fucking Solo. We love a thief in a film, we love assassins.

Recently we've seen the pictures of Ellen with Bush and right now there's old videos of Elizabeth Warren attacking progressives and saying some bullshit about "purity". We've had actors or sports stars who have commited some minor PR gaf and will probably live with it the rest of their lives. Most of these people did not do things as heinous as a major villain. I like to believe that people grow over time and sometimes we do forgive them. Sometimes.

Am I just tired?

Am I overthinking this?

Do we not believe in second chances anymore for real people, who have real stories, and actual character growth that we can see via news outlets?
 
Oct 26, 2017
7,971
It's easier to forgive characters in fiction because we just about never see the full extent of the horrors they've committed and how it affects the world around them. Media simply can't match the exposure of their villain's atrocities to the exposure we get in the real world. If it could, we would never forgive Darth Vader, or Kylo, or Sasuke. In the real world, we can hardly go a day in the last 10+ years without getting a reminder of how bad Bush and his goons fucked up the Middle East.
 

sunnpeace

The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
996
We tend to have more insight into the thoughts of fictional characters because of how they're written or portrayed, we can tell if they express genuine remorse and a desire to change. In many instances we're straight up told by an author that yes, a character deserves redemption because they feel real remorse and rehabilitating them will have a good impact. There's a certainty there that doesn't occur in real life.

A lot of thieves or assassins in media are also Robin Hood / underdog types and are more sympathetic as a result.

In real life we do not have this insight, plenty of people get away with shit and have people believe in them because they're articulate enough to express remorse but not feel it. There are plenty of examples of individuals who have put in the effort and have undergone growth, but talk is cheap.

In general our justice systems should focus on rehabilitation and preventing recidivism. We should have enough faith in people to allow them to lead productive and happy lives after they've committed a crime. I don't know what to think about your example of George Bush and actors / movie stars though. They would need to do a lot more to make up for their actions due to the power and privilege they hold.
 

BDS

Member
Oct 25, 2017
9,311
We would never forgive someone like Darth Vader in real life. We forgive fictional characters because the world they live in and the way they interact with others are metaphorical constructs for different things in our own lives. It's the same reason we don't care that nobody is ever seen going to the bathroom. It's not real and we know it's not real and whether they pee or not isn't important.

Also, in fiction we often (but not always) have a more concrete understanding of a character's thought process, unlike real life where we can never really know if someone is contrite or what they're thinking.
 

Z-Beat

Member
Oct 25, 2017
14,866
We would never forgive someone like Darth Vader in real life. We forgive fictional characters because the world they live in and the way they interact with others are metaphorical constructs for different things in our own lives. It's the same reason we don't care that nobody is ever seen going to the bathroom. It's not real and we know it's not real and whether they pee or not isn't important.

Also, in fiction we often (but not always) have a more concrete understanding of a character's thought process, unlike real life where we can never really know if someone is contrite or what they're thinking.
Also the less realistic the crime, the more inclined we are to forgive.
 
Oct 26, 2017
7,971
We tend to have more insight into the thoughts of fictional characters because of how they're written or portrayed, we can tell if they express genuine remorse and a desire to change. In many instances we're straight up told by an author that yes, a character deserves redemption because they feel real remorse and rehabilitating them will have a good impact. There's a certainty there that doesn't occur in real life.
I think this is a really good point too. It is hard to forgive someone in real life when we are left wondering if they are truly remorseful. More than not, I lean towards being pessimistic and assuming a person is simply remorseful because they were caught, or have the spotlight on them for a shitty incident that threatens their power.
 

BossAttack

Member
Oct 27, 2017
17,190
We tend to have more insight into the thoughts of fictional characters because of how they're written or portrayed, we can tell if they express genuine remorse and a desire to change. In many instances we're straight up told by an author that yes, a character deserves redemption because they feel real remorse and rehabilitating them will have a good impact. There's a certainty there that doesn't occur in real life.

A lot of thieves or assassins in media are also Robin Hood / underdog types and are more sympathetic as a result.

In real life we do not have this insight, plenty of people get away with shit and have people believe in them because they're articulate enough to express remorse but not feel it. There are plenty of examples of individuals who have put in the effort and have undergone growth, but talk is cheap.

In general our justice systems should focus on rehabilitation and preventing recidivism. We should have enough faith in people to allow them to lead productive and happy lives after they've committed a crime. I don't know what to think about your example of George Bush and actors / movie stars though. They would need to do a lot more to make up for their actions due to the power and privilege they hold.
All of this plus in fiction their redemptive acts can be SUPER, to help cancel out their previous bad acts. If a one-time villain switches to help save the planet or even the entire universe, you can swallow their past mistakes. But in real life problematic individuals are rarely able to accomplish such a similar feat, the best they can do is apologize and show remorse, maybe donate some money. They can't literally save the universe from annihilation.
 

BDS

Member
Oct 25, 2017
9,311
Also I maintain that if ROTJ came out today people would have serious issues with the idea of Vader being redeemed (along with many other aspects of the movie). It's definitely a third-act asspull that has no real precedent in the story beforehand and people would complain about it if they weren't kids when they saw it.
 
Oct 26, 2017
7,971
Also I maintain that if ROTJ came out today people would have serious issues with the idea of Vader being redeemed (along with many other aspects of the movie). It's definitely a third-act asspull that has no real precedent in the story beforehand and people would complain about it if they weren't kids when they saw it.
I thiiink I would be fine because I still don't see him as fully redeemed. In my opinion, the bigger failing was the prequel trilogy dipping way too quick into Anakin being evil and filled with hate before first building him up as a hero. We needed to see a great man full of goodness in his heart to make his downfall that much stronger. Then when Luke reaches out to this good in him and succeeds, we would appreciate it even more because we would recognize the old hero finding an old piece of himself.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,548
We would never forgive someone like Darth Vader in real life. We forgive fictional characters because the world they live in and the way they interact with others are metaphorical constructs for different things in our own lives. It's the same reason we don't care that nobody is ever seen going to the bathroom. It's not real and we know it's not real and whether they pee or not isn't important.

Also, in fiction we often (but not always) have a more concrete understanding of a character's thought process, unlike real life where we can never really know if someone is contrite or what they're thinking.
All of this plus in fiction their redemptive acts can be SUPER, to help cancel out their previous bad acts. If a one-time villain switches to help save the planet or even the entire universe, you can swallow their past mistakes. But in real life problematic individuals are rarely able to accomplish such a similar feat, the best they can do is apologize and show remorse, maybe donate some money. They can't literally save the universe from annihilation.
These are good points.
To add I'd also say in movies we are limited by perspective as we only follow a small amount of characters. To continue using Vader he may have redeemed himself in the eyes of Luke but I doubt Joe Schmoe in the rebellion whose buddy was choked to death on Leias ship is thinking that Vader was actually an OK guy in the end
 

Mekanos

Member
Oct 17, 2018
10,445
Vegeta slaughtered god knows how many planets under Freeza and even killed some Namekian villagers after breaking it off with ol' Freezypop.

He then killed himself to try to stop a universe-threatening gumball monster, coming to terms with the crimes he's committed his entire life, knowing he would be sent to hell and reincarnated, losing all of his memories. Let's see ol' Dubya do that! (It didn't work, but hey, he tried.)

Also I maintain that if ROTJ came out today people would have serious issues with the idea of Vader being redeemed (along with many other aspects of the movie). It's definitely a third-act asspull that has no real precedent in the story beforehand and people would complain about it if they weren't kids when they saw it.
I know I do!
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,391
Also I maintain that if ROTJ came out today people would have serious issues with the idea of Vader being redeemed (along with many other aspects of the movie). It's definitely a third-act asspull that has no real precedent in the story beforehand and people would complain about it if they weren't kids when they saw it.
eh... that's how I've always felt about the movie since the 90's??

And I'm pretty sure everyone else noticed it too, but back then Vader wasn't a straight maniacal murderer (ANH's Vader doesn't even kill anyone, I think?) and Luke of course immediately realizes that his quest of 'finding daddy' has been a failure, by immediately rejecting Vader's offer and letting himself fall instead.

There was never a direct redemption story in there, since most of the actual murdery stuff is done by the emperor, with Vader mostly just following his lead. And his 'redemption' is death, btw, not going on to live happily ever after.


also: aside from the twist, Empire is a bad movie, and y'all need to start seeing that at some point. Boom.

edit: it became a really, really BAD redemption story with the prequels though. That Vader can go eat a dick. ... and then you get to Rogue One. Oh boy.
 

Mekanos

Member
Oct 17, 2018
10,445
All of this plus in fiction their redemptive acts can be SUPER, to help cancel out their previous bad acts. If a one-time villain switches to help save the planet or even the entire universe, you can swallow their past mistakes. But in real life problematic individuals are rarely able to accomplish such a similar feat, the best they can do is apologize and show remorse, maybe donate some money. They can't literally save the universe from annihilation.
This makes me think of the scene in the Avengers where Iron Man takes the nuke into the wormhole to his assumed death. Iron Man made his fortune on war. Let's entertain the ridiculous scenario that a nuke was coming to America and Bush singlehandedly averted it and died in the process. Obviously it would never happen - but are there any examples of famous public figures who died in the name of saving innocent lives that were known as murderers, criminals, etc.?
 

Mulciber

Member
Aug 22, 2018
3,437
Also I maintain that if ROTJ came out today people would have serious issues with the idea of Vader being redeemed (along with many other aspects of the movie). It's definitely a third-act asspull that has no real precedent in the story beforehand and people would complain about it if they weren't kids when they saw it.
Also keep in mind that in SW, you have the Dark Side which corrupts and seduces people. One of the through-lines of ROTJ was Luke insisting there was still "Good" inside Darth, which is why he just lets himself get captured and go with Vader. His entire mission is to turn Vader back. It's not entirely just pulled out of nowhere at the end. Even the "seduced by the Dark Side" thing was brought up in earlier films.

Not that Lucas was going for it, but we literally have that in real life still in 2019. People believe that humans can be possessed by demons, and have exorcists "remove" the demons. People readily forgive church leaders who say they were led astray by Satan but have now been forgiven by Jesus. And all that's just belief. In SW, the Force is demonstrably real. Vader saves his son and kills the Emperor (well...until the new film?) and becoming capital-G Good is basically like flipping a light switch, like casting out a demon.
 
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Bengraven

Bengraven

Member
Oct 26, 2017
1,751
One of my favorite films of all time is Leon. I wonder how many times Leon killed a man who owed the mob money, not just pieces of shit druggie assholes in penthouses. Some guy way over his head, a few kids at home, a loving wife, and he realized he had no choice but to sell the house to pay off Tony. And the day he put the house on the market, Leon shows up and two in the head, the man is gone. For what is the essentially the highest interest a man can pay on a loan.

But we love Leon. He's child-like, almost innocent in his love of milk and old film. We love that he raises Matilda - badly, mind you, but he's protective of her to the highest limits his maturity level allows. No women, no kids. A couple guys who pissed off Tony because they were playing some music too loud? That's not an issue.

If this happened in real life, other than the obvious investigation of suspected sexual abuse, he would be vilified by many people who otherwise may have loved him in the film (sure, he would still be a hero to many, because I chose a bad example in regards to sympathizing with a villain).