I've been reading a lot (or at least a few) fantasy books lately for girls and now I have feelings about Girls Who Are Special. I’m not dismissing them all with a "Mary Sue" label because they're not always written badly or as overly perfect. But there is a related wish fulfillment idea there. But I just never really related to that particular wish-fulfillment fantasy. I think, in fact, that I'm probably sometimes more forgiving about this with male characters, perhaps because I relate to them a little differently. There's a slight remove that isn't there with a female character. But regardless of the gender,

I've always preferred non-Chosen Ones.

I think I've said this before, using Star Wars as an example. One of the many reasons I prefer the original trilogy is that the Chosen One thing really takes over in the prequels. In fact, it sort of goes against the whole feeling of the original trilogy, in which a shaggy group of misfits takes down a Death Star. No fate involved. ANH starts out with a coincidence, but it's not an annoying one, imo. If Uncle Owen didn't happen to buy Threepio and Artoo Luke probably would have been drawn in anyway, because it wasn't a coincidence that the droids were brought into his orbit. They were on Tatooine because they were looking for Obi-Wan, who lived near to Luke because he knew who Luke was. In the end, Luke wasn't the person who saved Vader because of destiny or because Luke was fated to do so, but because Luke tried to save Vader because he was his father at a time when Vader was having second thoughts because he found out he had a son. Both of them are, to me, far more interesting than Anakin of the Great Destiny even when he's 8.

I think that's why my favorite characters were always Han and Artoo, because they were the characters who got involved because they kept choosing to be involved. It's like how in HP, when it comes to the fight with Voldemort, I tend to be less interested in the idea of the Chosen One grappling with a destiny that demands things that feel too great to handle (Harry) than someone who gets involved because she sees something must be done and is too much of a control freak to leave it up to someone else (Hermione). In a way, Harry’s status as the Chosen One sometimes keeps him from himself choosing to get involved. I think this is why he often seems more proactive in earlier books.

Anyway, this has been on my mind lately, first because I've been reading so many stories of teenage girls who desperately want to know who they are (meaning what their special powers are and what a secret society wants them to do with it and why monsters are trying to kill them). One thing that was really frustrating about the one I just read was that as a reader I spent the whole book 10 steps ahead of her and even felt like I saw her friends more clearly than she did. Everyone was very clear about the fact that the main character was special, but very vague about why. They were similarly vague about what bad things would happen if she did the bone-headed thing she was clearly going to do. Even when she was clearly not accepting the danger, everyone refused to get specific.

I was also thinking about it because in the NuDCU Nightwing comics they're doing a story where Dick's old circus is suddenly possible not What It Seems. Like maybe Dick's heir to some secret assassin society or something. Grant Morrison's Batman stories are often big on this too. Not only did he create Damian who's a hero because his dad is, but there was the whole mythology with the bat demon attached to the Waynes. I don’t much like these kinds of stories. I like the fact that all the Bats except perhaps Damian, are people who made a choice to do what they do. I like that aspect of it. Bruce didn’t have to become Batman because he saw his parents murdered. He did it because he’s Bruce and Bruce is weird that way. It wasn't destiny. He created it all himself. The funny thing about attaching big mythologies to Bruce is that the Bat demon story is only really interesting because it's about Batman. So the mythology on one hand relies on Batman to be important, but also shoves Batman into a supporting role, a more passive pawn of fate. I’m less amused by Bruce being chosen by the gods than Bruce making himself a god because it seemed to be necessary to him.

I guess it's just subjective which story you prefer. Obviously many people are drawn to the idea of fate. Part of it might be that try as I might I just can't ever imagine myself being the special one. I don't mean that in a moany, mopey way. It's not a self-esteem issue. I just can't imagine it or relate to it. If I was ever going to be involved in anything important, I think it would have to be because I either was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because I put myself into it for some reason.
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

I do relate to the chosen one trope, probably because my parents spent so much time telling me how special I was (when they weren't being utter shits) and then after all that, nothing at all fated happened, which was vastly disillusioning, and well, lol @ me I guess. What I find horribly annoying and frustrating about all those books (and this is probably because as an adult I'm so frustrated about all the things adults never taught me to do when I was a kid because I was GIFTED and that meant I should have been able to figure them out on my own I guess) is that there are all these people standing around knowing all sorts of things and they also know the Chosen One is SO CRUCIAL to the fate of their universe, but for some fuckass reason they don't just cut the crap and tell the Chosen One what they know. They believe it's important for the Chosen One to figure it out on their own, which, I don't even...kids are KIDS. It's not like an author can't have a hero's mentors give them all the information they have and still have there be something that wasn't known or make the challenge HARD or create suspense in some other way.

You can probably guess that this is only one of the things that plays into my vast and unassuageable loathing for Albus Dumbledore. I'm not such a big Obi-Wan fan either, especially not in the prequels. I've often thought that Anakin (like me and TMR) is exactly the sort of person you don't want to tell "shut up, keep your head down and do as you're told". Even if the answer IS "I'm sorry, but you have to practise and work a lot more before you will be able to understand the answer, but when you have a grounding in the theory I will tell you then, and I will help you get to there as much as I can," that's better than simply saying, "you're a kid/learner/apprentice, shut up and do as you're told--you have an important role to play in the future, but there's no reason at all for you to think about that right now, chop wood, carry water."
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

Hm, a lot of people I like like Avatar. I'd avoided it because I didn't want to be in another fandom where liking the wrong ship or something made you a pariah.

Teenagers are frustrated enough by their own biology.
neotoma: Neotoma albigula, the white-throated woodrat! [default icon] (Default)

From: [personal profile] neotoma

If you haven't read Digger yet, I suggest you do. Digger specifically can't be The Chosen One because her family is magically protected from that kind of Destiny, but that doesn't stop her from getting involved because the work needs doing.

I’m less amused by Bruce being chosen by the gods than Bruce making himself a god because it seemed to be necessary to him.

Bruce, at least in most of the versions I'm familiar with, would be deeply suspicious of anyone trying to claim he had a Destiny.
Edited Date: 2012-01-21 10:59 pm (UTC)
salinea: (Default)

From: [personal profile] salinea

I very much relate with your thoughts on the subject. (too tired to elaborate, but it often feels like overuse of fate cheapens character development and choices and agency of course and all sort of stuff like that. Not that one can't use fate in interesting ways in stories either, but, too often, it's that sort of cookie cutter way of making things important and worthwhile without having to build up a reason for them to be in an organic way.

although the subject title ttly made me think of Mawaru Penguindrum.


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