Jon Michael Galindo

~ writing, programming, art ~

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4 September 2015

Storylines: Dark Redemption

Until now, I have dealt exclusively with the my favorite storylines. The trend could not last, and I will now cover a story which does not, largely, appeal to me. A cousin to redemption and deliverer, “dark redemption” traces the path of a protagonist from weakness and insecurity to power and recognition. However, unlike its relatives, this storyline portrays sacrifice as either unnecessary or evil: That is to say, the protagonist may sacrifice something traditionally regarded as a virtue for the sake of glory.

Popular examples of this storyline abound, so my preferences here must be an exception, not a rule. In the ‘76 film “Rocky”, the protagonist of the same name invests time and energy, alienating his admittedly subpar friend, to become the first boxer to “go the distance” with a world-famous champion. I have never seen the sequels. In the 2008, 3-part series “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”, Dr. Horrible sacrifices love for the sake of fame. Apparently a follow-up episode appeared in 2012, but I have not seen it. In the 2011 film “Limitless”, the protagonist simply gains power through chance and a dark struggle. In the 2013 film “Man of Steel”, Superman sacrifices his father and eventually his conscience to become the planet’s savior. That one irked me. Really? Who thought Superman ought to become a dark redemption story?

Like deliverer, dark redemption will often deal with the protagonist’s rejection by former allies, but in these cases one almost feels the rejection is earned. In one sense this makes the protagonist more relatable; in another sense, it strips away hope and nobility, two of deliverer’s defining attributes.

Again, my perspective on this storyline may be flawed, since it seems to have garnered significant appeal. After all, its universality is unquestionable. Who wouldn’t want to become powerful and famous without significant sacrifice? Or, better yet, leave behind all that tiresome “goodness” stuff and just become a powerful villain; let people get on board or get out of the way. Why not? It’s not my style.

Nevertheless, when writing, bear in mind that sacrifice, even when evil, leaves a mark. Omit this feeling, and the image of your conquering protagonist will quickly fade from the reader’s mind. The best of these stories do involve sacrificed virtue, and the protagonist’s triumph at the end ought to be consequently clouded by the weight of his actions.

© Jon Michael Galindo 2015