Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


This Fodder Sure is Sweet

This was originally posted on August 10, 2011.

Most people were very surprised a few days ago when they discovered that I was a fan of the new My Little Pony cartoon.  Well, actually, it was more like a few people were surprised, others were grateful that I’d get more references from them and everyone else didn’t give a crap.  The reason I bring this up is because last night, I woke up at 3 in the morning from a legitimate nightmare, which are very rare for me, in which MLP was crossed with, of all things, Human Centipede.

I won’t go into too much detail, partially because it’s not important to the topic and mostly because I actually don’t remember the specifics, possibly because I’m subconsciously blocking them out.  The jiffy is that the sweetest and shyest of the ponies was about to be subjected to a torturous and horrific experiment, a notion that disturbing me so much, that I snapped myself awake.  The rest of the dream when I went back to sleep involved getting together a group formed of friends, family, Avatar characters and other fictional wonders to stop this whole thing, but I won’t go into that because it tangented and I woke up before anything actually happened.  Also, this isn’t going to be a deconstruction of Human Centipede; I haven’t seen it, I have no desire to see, and from everything I’ve heard and read, it’s a shock-and-gore film that’s trying to pass itself off as an artistic statement.  If you want to know the details, look it up yourself and be prepared to lose your appetite.

No, I instead want to talk about something I was mulling over in the aftermath: the tendency in stories to use the cute, sweet and innocent characters as fodder for horrible events to drive the plot or the characters.  I’m sure you’ve come across this before, when the main character finds their carefree friend in a broken and bloodied pile when stumbling on the villain’s lair or when said character is tortured and left whimpering in the corner.  Some people love it, some people hate it, and it personally ticks me off when it’s done wrong.  The sad thing is, it’s done wrong a lot.

This is done for numerous reasons, but the main ones are: 1) to show how crummy the world is, 2) to use as character development to reinvision the character as someone darker and 3) to show how dangerous a situation or villain really is and how no one is really safe.  It’s effective (most of the time), it’s simple (kind of), but of all, it’s EASY.  Easy in that it’s a quick way to gain audience sympathy and give everything a serious vibe.  But easy is a tricky road and can quickly lead to a story being taken down several notches in quality.

And that’s because, no matter the reason, it can be really unpleasant to sit through.  If we really love these characters, and chances are we do, then being forced to watch them being tortured is torture in and of itself.  We’re powerless to stop any of it, being readers and viewers, so this feels like a total betrayal when it happens.  And when it’s out of place in a story or characterization (this bit is more to do with reason number two), then the sparks really start to fly.

And that right there is why I’m not doing a breakdown of each reason mentioned above; it all boils down to the same simple rule: if it makes sense in the context of the story and isn’t too gratuitous or out of character, then it can be pulled off correctly.  But there’s a fine line one has to walk between gratuitous and just good enough, and taking normally bright, shiny and joyous character and giving them a shotgun and a hate-the-world attitude is tripping that hard and landing on your face.  Yes, it can be effective to show how dire something is, but if you’re sacrificing a shining example of joy to usher in more bleakness, you risk making your world an unpleasant place to think about.  If you’re going to put a sweet character through tribulations, fine, but don’t butcher them for the sake of butchering them.

I feel like I’ve rambled on for a page or so and truth be told, I’m not sure if this accomplished anything.  Maybe this was a cautionary tale to all future writers.  Maybe this was some elaborate cry for help or a hug or a psychiatrist.  Maybe this was just me expressing that a view of everything needing to be bleak and dark is even more immature than the view of everything being cupcakes and flowers.  I don’t know, I was just mulling it over for a good chunk of the day.

All I know is that I had one messed up dream.  And it still gives me the willies.

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