by Alison Janssen
First: Happy National Grammar Day!
Now: What is it about a guy who will do anything to protect the woman he loves? What is it about that guy that he can't love or forgive himself? What is it about that guy that leads to tragedy? And why do we love those guys so much?
So, this week's episode of LOST.* (spoilers, highlight to read) SAYID! Oh my god, you poor, poor man. You're not good enough for Nadia, but you LOVE HER SO MUCH, but you're such a bad man! You marry her to your weaselly** brother and then are force to kill (something you desperately don't want to do anymore!) in order to protect her and the kids! MY HEART BREAKS FOR YOU, SAYID. But you are a classic example of that dude in fiction who hates himself so much that it makes everyone love him. Why does that work so well?! Sidenote: I love how Team Flockeness Monster could also be called Team Grieving Man. They've got Sawyer and Sayid. But good thing Penny still seems to be ok, because Grieving Desmond, I'm convinced, would DESTROY THE WORLD WITH HIS CRUSHING GRIEF. But oh my god, this just occurred to me: The only way for Jin to get on that team would be for Sun to die. Or vice-versa. Nooooo!
Besides this past week's episode of LOST (And the one a couple weeks ago, "The Substitute," which was all sad-Sawyer-wants-ANSWERS), I recently rewatched some Star Wars (Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Revenge of the Sith), and was reminded of that greatest of great characters, Darth Vader.***
Poor Vader, right? All he wants to do is protect his lady love! He will perform various atrocities -- including killing a room full of younglings -- to ensure that his one. true. love. lives through childbirth. And really, he's got to be thinking, if she does die during childbirth, that's his fault, right? Seeing as how, well, it was her love for him that led to her death? And he's got to be wondering how in the hell he's worthy of her love in the first place, being all a nobody slave kid, and her being LITERALLY A QUEEN.
This whole "path to the dark side being paved with 'justified' honorable intentions" is what gets Batman in trouble, too. Because poor Bruce Wayne! He was born into privilege but then a random, senseless act of violence deprived him of his parents and now he's out to ensure safety for an entire city! And, you know, he's got to sacrifice greatly of himself in order to make sure Gotham is ok! And no one appreciates him! But it's cool, HE'S BATMAN! But inside he's so tortured!
And I love Darth Vader, and I love Batman. I mourn for the pieces of themselves that they must kill, suppress, or sacrifice in order to do what they feel they must -- and I agree that protecting one's love and one's city are good, honorable goals. But the cost! The inner sadness! The INEVITABLE TRAGIC RESULTS.
But I also kind of hate them. Because really, Anakin Skywalker? You are so immature and hotheaded and down on yourself that you can't stop for one minute and realize that yeah, everyone dies, and it sucks that your love might, but it's maybe not worth becoming the CLEARLY EVIL Emporer's apprentice? That man can shoot purple force lightning out of his fingertips! RED FLAG, ANAKIN! And Batman, your goals are noble, but in many cases, you're helping create the monsters you then must fight. Bruce, you are literally being haunted by your own demons! And also Killer Croc!
Dudes, you're bringing this on yourselves!
Which is what makes the tragic hero so delicious, and so despicable. But what do you guys think? Do you like a good tragic hero?
* p.s. If you're a fan of LOST and aren't already reading the recaps, Tracie's at Jezebel and Jeff Jensen's at EW are SO GREAT. I stay away from Lostpedia because I don't want to risk spoilers (or, you know, losing my job due to constant reading of Lostpedia), but I do love some good LOST speculation the day after watching the episode.
** Wow, this totally doesn't feel like it should be spelled with two Ls.
*** I consider it a real challenge to future generations of Star Wars first-timers that the movies are numbered the way that they are. Because yes, I know, the numbers make numerical sense, but if you've never seen them before you would be doing yourself a real disservice if you watched them in any but their original release order (4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3). The genius of the story is that you don't even know it's totally been all about Vader's arc until the end of 6, really, and being introduced to him as supreme badass telekinetic throat-crusher and left with him as broken, burned, lost-everything-forced-to-live-in-a-scary-outfit is SO WONDERFUL. Seriously, it is our job to make sure that the kids of the future watch them 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3.