Monday, May 13, 2013

Transformation Stories

Thanks Game of Thrones. Now it’s super awkward: I have to like/root for a character who pushed a little boy off the top of a tower without a second thought.

Is it possible that an actual human could change this much? To go from extreme selfish bastard to the kind of guy who’d jump, one-handed and unarmed, into a bear pit? This moment got me thinking about the way long running series tend to try to redeem the irredeemable character.
IRL, if someone rips the heart out of guy’s chest—like Damon on The Vampire Diaries—it’s not okay. But then again, there are no vampires—or werewolves—in real life. So maybe when you’re dealing with the supernatural, all bets are off. This rule would allow Game of Thrones to turn Jamie Lannister into a super nice guy. Or a white walker, or possibly even a dragon. The only really important rule in fantasy is that everyone must have some sort of accent, preferably British.

Actual people are a whole different story. A few years ago I was clearing out my old room, sifting through the detritus of my childhood: cassette tapes by the hundreds, an alarming number of stuffed animals—and then I found my fifth grade journal. Soon after finding it, I had no choice but to destroy the thing—because it was far too revealing of the fact that my personality from fifth grade to now is essentially the same. True, there are loads of surface changes. I can drive, I’m not freakishly shy. I’m much taller. But in essentials, I fear, I am very much as I was at ten.

Maybe people only change significantly when they go through something extremely drastic. Or when something gets chopped off. I did undergo a tragic perm my senior year of high school which led to a substantial amount of hair breakage, but that’s probably not the same thing. Characters in books and shows tend to have to deal with a lot worse than bad hair decisions. Maybe life-altering events can change the essential nature of a person. Or maybe not. But it sure does make for compelling TV. It’s also easier to forgive the cute ones, who always seem end up cast as the bastards with-a-secret-heart-of-gold. I, for one, fall for it every time. Even though I’ve stayed the same, I love a good transformation story.

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