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Media Essays: Discussing A Trope I Don't Like

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Written by The Wandering Fox


Well hello everyone, I’m back, and during my wandering, I did some long thoughts of certain tropes I don’t like, be it the will they or won’t They, which grinds my gears a lot. But if there is a story trope I hate as of late, it's the whole idea of the hero turning evil because their lover died. But why is it I do? I’m Wandering Fox and here’s what I have to say.


Where To Begin?

Injustice Superman

This story trope has been told in many through the years though its only recently, in the rise of pop culture and multiverses, that this trope has become much more prominent. If you ask me in my opinion, this began with Injustice, the DC fighting game released over a decade ago.


For context, Injustice is about an alternate Superman who turns evil after he’s tricked into killing Lois Lane and Metropolis is destroyed thanks to a deadly scheme by the Joker, with Superman killing him. Obviously we don’t see the full descent into villainy in the game, but in the game the Injustice Superman is nothing like his heroic self, he’s become a controlling, scheming, manipulative, cold hearted man who’s come to view himself as a god, calling humans children.


If you thought those were bad, he kills his universe’s Billy Batson for simply bringing up how Lois wouldn’t have wanted this. Theres how he also intends to bring the main Lois Lane to his universe. Even after he’s defeated, he’s still stuck in his ways in the sequel with him not understanding why Kara would be afraid of him.


I will say the comics did give us some insight into his downfall which was a neat idea, for Superman retreated to the Fortress of Solitude to grieve, he tries to keep himself together though his anger does get the better of him, he was further influenced by how Wonder Woman was including Sinestro.


But the comic was flawed in how it portrayed characters like Batman, who didn’t help because as soon as Joker was killed, Batman became frightened of Superman, hiding in the BatCave. Superman tried approaching him but Bruce gave him the silent treatment, which left Superman to say Bruce cared more about Joker than he did his friend. Batman’s response to this? He punches Superman.


Then there’s how Superman nearly killed Conner Kent then forced him and the Titans in the Phantom Zone. Injustice drags Raven into this story trope for its hinted she turned evil because Beast Boy was killed.


But those aren’t my main problems with this story trope. My main problems are what it does to the hero, his friends and love interest.


What Is The Main Problem?


For starters the problem is how it narrows down the hero’s beliefs and values to the love of their life, like their love interest is the be all and end all of the character’s overall goodness, as if the love and compassion they have for others don’t matter. Superman likes to help people because he wants to give everyone hope, not just to Lois, but to Martha, Jonathan, Jimmy, Perry, Conner, Kara, John Henry, to everyone out there. In the comics once, Superman saved a boy from his abusive father, why? Because he cares, he wants to help people, he didn’t go in there for Lois, he went in there to help the kid. Did Superman kill the abusive father? No. He called the police, had him arrested, told the boy violence wasn’t always the answer, then chewed out the police for not noticing a crime they themselves could’ve easily stopped.


The other problem is the love interest. This turns him or her into a trophy or idolised object who just serves as the lover who the hero wants to marry and have kids with, not treating the love interests as their own character.


In fact, DC proved TWICE this doesn’t work on Superman. In Kingdom Come, Joker killed Lois, but the divergence follows Magog killing the Joker before his trial, with a jury finding Magog not guilty and embrace him as a hero. Stunned by this, Superman did retreat to the Fortress to grieve for Lois and his friends and was unsure of helping humanity for embracing a killer as a hero, and stayed in exile for years. Then he came back to help others and to stop the rise of brutal vigilantes. He did end up making mistakes in his comeback, such as imprisoning violent heroes and this led to him fighting Batman, but they came together and stopped their fight. He did find love in Wonder Woman, though I’m not a fan of the pairing, it at least showed Clark was willing to move on.


Or how in the comics Manchester Black tried to break Superman by tricking him in thinking he killed Lois. Superman didn’t break, he knew it’d be horrible if he did. You see? Superman’s belief in justice, compassion and doing the smart and right thing is what holds him as a character and his friendship with others.


Annoyingly, the DCEU almost went down this route with Zack Snyder’s original plans in which Darkseid would’ve killed Lois then make Superman his slave, with Superman holding some twisted memory of Lois, since it’d be revealed Lois slept with Bruce while he was dead, hence the whole “She was my world, and you took her from me” which obviously references the afair and Clark blames Bruce for Lois’s death. This would end with this Superman killing Batman but is then erased from the universe once Barry changes the past.


Lastly, we come to the friends of the heroes. It makes them seem less than the love interest, like their friendship doesn’t matter to the hero.


I’m going to use a different example. Lets say in The Dragon Prince, if Claudia killed Rayla, would Callum go apeshit over the death of his girlfriend? He’d maybe beat Claudia to a bloody pulp or kill her, given he would’ve beaten Finnegrin up for torturing his love, but would he become a psychotic c*** who throws aside Ezran, Soren, Amaya and Corvus? No.

Callum vs. Finnegrin

The series itself proved while Callum feared Rayla was dead, he continued on, focussing on Ezran. Yes, he did scare Soren a little, but would Callum have thrown off the castle wall? No. Callum valued Ezran a lot and was there for him, then there’s how he’s determined to keep everyone safe from Aaravos, even thinking of committing suicide. I give The Dragon Prince lots of criticism for how its handled the Mystery of Aaravos, but at least our lead guy didn’t turn into a evil guy.


The friends we make matter to us just as much, hence the friends should be enough to stop the hero from turning evil because they want their friend to recover, to live their life.


Like I said, the rise in multiverses has let writers do this more and more, mostly as an excuse to turn a hero evil either because they despise said hero or are just lazy.


I will say though the trope for me has only worked one time.


How Did It Work?


I’m looking to Star Wars as such an example. You know who it is I’m talking of, Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader.

Darth Vader

Yes, the prequel's quality is often discussed, but you did understand what made Anakin into the man he became, he wanted to be a Jedi to save those who were enslaved, to save his mum. Yet being raised in a order which didn’t wholly trust him, then there’s his mother’s death by the Tusken Raiders hands, left Anakin’s faith in the Jedi begin to falter, including him killing the Tusken Raiders in his rage. Having lost his mum, he felt all he had left was those he trusted in the Order like Obi Wan and Ahsoka, then there’s his wife Padme or his “friend” Palpatine. Yet his faith continued to spiral, with Obi Wan faking his death and not telling Anakin under the Jedi’s orders, or how Ahsoka was easily ditched by the Jedi once she was framed, this left Anakin more and more isolated with Palpatine holding more influence over him.


With his nightmares of Padme’s death, including his kid, the Jedi still not trusting him just drove Anakin to Palpatine and his fears took hold of him, these fears and darkness slowly giving Darth Vader the chance to take over Anakin, with Anakin pretty much dead once he helped kill Mace. However, while Darth Vader did do horrible things like slaughter the Jedi Younglings and the Separatists, I think he knew Padme would still be in danger if Palpatine was still kicking, hence he suggested they kill Palpatine then they’d rule the galaxy, believing in doing so they wouldn’t have to run away and hide anymore. Though obviously throughout Revenge of the Sith Anakin’s trust in Obi Wan fell for the Jedi trusted him to handle Grevious more than him, and him secretly meeting with Padme only left him paranoid to the point once he saw Obi Wan coming out of the ship, he believed Padme betrayed him, hence he choked her with the Force. What finally drove him over was Palpatine telling Darth Vader he killed Padme. With this, Darth Vader just did what he could, serve the Emperor.


Yet look who brought him back to the light? Luke. His son. Just learning Luke was his son was enough to have Anakin begin to come back. By the end Anakin came back to save his son. He died knowing he made peace with his kid.


This worked because there was a plan formed to have Anakin develop distrust towards certain characters and he wasn’t fully redeemed in the end, for he still did lots of horrid things, but he saved his kid, that's what mattered to him in the end.


Overall


This story trope can work but very rarely does it, hence I’d rather its just not even written. I’m the Wandering Fox, chat to you later.



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Yeah, in hindsight Injustice's Superman wasn't as well written as we thought. Sure, the plot was an excuse to have a fighting game but...it has become really prominent by the second game and Supes and Wondie's portryal became uncomfortable

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Doesn't help he really popularised this trope and in order for him to turn evil you had to make Wonder Woman a crazy egotistical human hating bitch and Batman to be a idiot who doesn't offer Clark help in recovering from his trauma.

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