Calzephyr (calzephyr77) wrote in thequestionclub,

Lately I have been watching a lot of cartoons where a villain goes from being the baddie to being among the heroes. The sentiment is interesting.

Do you have a real life example, perhaps historical, where someone changed completely?

How likely is it that a real person would discover that friendship is magic?

Do bad characters deserve redemption arcs and forgiveness?

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October 17 2020, 20:05:04 UTC 3 months ago Edited:  October 17 2020, 20:08:45 UTC

no, not changed. i think it's good to explore the idea that everyone is good and evil, and that different perspectives can change who is good and evil.

also, exploring the idea if the labels good and evil are applicable. was it just ignorance versus better choices through knowledge and experience? but, again, perspective will color the viewpoint.
I think it's more likely among children, which is the target audience for most of these cartoons. A lot of children who are seen by their peers as cruel, rude, angry, unpredictable, obsessive, unfeeling, etc, are products of abuse, trauma, or neglect themselves-- much like a villain with a "tragic backstory." Some may have unaddressed developmental, social, or mental health needs and so long as they are stuck in whatever exacerbating circumstance (parents in denial or unable to afford to address a child's mental illness, or who have untreated mental illness themselves; toxic family relationships; failures of school system, system of poverty and marginalization, etc) they will continue to struggle-- but just as many of these cartoon character arcs involve the former villain breaking away from whatever evil influence/mentor/mind control/"culture" and as they develop their own agency, realize they'd rather embrace healthier patterns of being, most children whose social and emotional needs aren't met in childhood eventually are able to heal and learn healthier emotional coping skills and relationship patterns as they grow up. And for a lot of kids indeed friendship is magic, and finding a solid group of friends may be the only light spot in an otherwise very challenging life, and they are at their best when they are with their "found family" even from a very young age.

With that perspective, I wonder if the goal of this story arc isn't so much to persuade the children who relate most to the heroes to be forgiving of evil and cruelty-- but to give the children who relate to the evil and cruel characters hope for themselves and in their own ability to transcend circumstances and make changes for themselves?
With that perspective, I wonder if the goal of this story arc isn't so much to persuade the children who relate most to the heroes to be forgiving of evil and cruelty-- but to give the children who relate to the evil and cruel characters hope for themselves and in their own ability to transcend circumstances and make changes for themselves?

Holy moly, thank you so much for commenting! I didn't consider this angle at all. In FIM, Starlight Glimmer enslaves a whole village and then goes on to discover friendship is magic after trying to beat Twilight Sparkle in a time travel showdown. I guess I was seeing it as too black and white an doesn't imagine someone with all the power giving it up easily. For example, Sauron thinking "Eh, this was a bad idea from the get go...I should try inviting Gandalf over for tea to settle our differences" :-D
Well, if you're watching the new MLP, their whole ARC of everything they DO in their new story is that friendship IS magic and that evil is just how... hurt people try to have control over their situation, and that they *usually* learn that it actually doesn't work and only hurts people and that helping helps.. more than hurting, since hurting hurts.

What about stories like Pete's Dragon where the dragon isn't evil,... but everyone THINKS it is, which makes the villagers attack it, so it defends itself and so confirms that it is evil to the villagers, but then all you gotta do is NOT attack it, and woah... dragon be nice and just waiting for friends. Like... that goodness can be hidden behind hurt feelings,... or bad behavior is hidden in feelings of self-defensiveness. These sorts of more subtle interplays of emotion without going for the pure anti-hero set-up (ie: lets care for/root for the villains, like Breaking Bad.. because we understand their motivations, even if they are doing evil) but showing that cruelty is kinda pointless and not everyone who has BEEN cruel is unforgiveable, shows room for growth and kindness on both sides of the false dichotomy of good v. evil.
The Pete's Dragon one is a great example! Poor communication and entrenched biases can be hard to change, especially if one has gone past the point where they are too proud to apologize as well!

We noticed when watching the new She-Ra that the baddies are not necessarily bad--just kind of misguided--but they eventually grow and change too.

It's such a stark contrast to when I watched cartoons as a kid. There was hardly room for shades of grey.
There is something about the 50s/60s/70s/80s where the push was to teach children a very strict Good v Evil story... where it was a powerful dichotomy and where you can only be one or the other. Goofus OR Gallant, sorta thinking.

I read a lot of children's books from the 1880s to the 1930s... and they are WILDLY diverse, complex, interesting, and are much less interested in trying to impress on kids that there is only one way to be... or that heroes are ALWAYS heroic and villains are ALWAYS villainous. One of my favorite stories is called "The Jester's Sword" about a hero/knight who is The Hero in all ways... he is tall, strong, handsome, young, brave, he is a prince who will be king, he is courageous and good natured and wants to help people, but is also ambitious and believes he is invincible... a Lancelot sorta character, almost.
Until he has an accident and he is crippled.
And most of the book is him trying to figure out what to do NOW... and how to tackle his pride and humble himself so he can stop feeling self-pity, stop being embarrassed of his new condition, and start living life again. Its like... 50 pages and was written in the 1890 I think and it is AMAZING and is probably written for children ages 8-12. It's way more complicated than many adult novels I've read.

My friend told me he was liking the new She-Ra which he was watching with his kids. That it was atmospheric and complicated and very interesting.
Beautifully said.
I don't believe in changing same persons in real life.
Not really?
I think that could happen, because I talk to a lot of people who are closed off to opening up to people, but once they have that opportunity, they find that it helps.