I remember back in 1981 or so, when I was addicted to a cheesy BBC sci-fi series, Blake's 7. I looked forward to each episode as these courageous freedom fighters battled against impossible odds in a totalitarian universe. Then, incredibly, in the final show of the series, all the heroes were gunned down by the evil galactic federation. The camera panned all the dead bodies and....fade out. End of story.
Apparently, the series ran out of money and inspiration. So everyone was killed off. Nice going, guys. I was outraged then, and thinking about it now, I'm still outraged.
I can't say exactly why this sort of thing bothers me so much. It is probably because I look to art in all its incarnations to inspire me and give me the emotional fuel to carry on through all the trials, tribulations and setbacks of life. I stated my thoughts on the subject in this post:
...art is a critical part of life and through it one can can become aware of all the potential of what life can be. It is a way for humans to bring real, concrete meaning to abstract concept. As a selective recreation of reality, art uniquely captures and presents an idea or emotion in a way that can be grasped and understood by an observer. It provides, in other words, a "sense of life" --an instinctual fuel--that can inspire and motivate the perceiver--or, it can have the opposite effect.
I certainly don't need art to remind me that sometimes things are hopeless or that there is a price to pay in life. In my profession I am reminded of that most every day. I don't need art to selectively recreate death, despair, and the triumph of evil.
Of course there is always a price that the hero must pay to vanquish evil. But if the price is his own death, then what kind of hope or chance is there for the rest of us who are trying to stand up to the darkness? The only way such a sacrifice can be meaningful--in fiction anyway--is if the hero's death is moral; and the flame of his life inspires the heroic in others.
In a post titled "Dedicated to Darkness" where I explore some of these issues, I wrote:
And then you could go on to explore the literature of the last 20+ years; the movies and culture that are dedicated to the "darkness" to which Dr. Seligman refers. I am very very familiar with it. It is why I turned to science fiction and fantasy, where there are still moral universes to get lost in. It is why books like Harry Potter have achieved phenomenal success and why Lord of the Rings was so profoundly successful. They were bright, glittering stars in the midst of a cultural black hole that was sucking all the joy, hope and love from life.
Call me a romantic, but in fiction I desperately need for Good to triumph over Evil. I know it doesn't always happen in the real world--but that is precisely why I need it in a fictional one -- a place where virtue, well-being, nobility, happiness, and meaning are all within the realm of human possibility, and where life is not just unmitigated tragedy, violence, and meaninglessness.
Without art's emotional fuel to sustain the vision of the Good, how would we ever be able to carry on?
Please, Jo--don't give into the darkness.