Saturday, October 10, 2015

When Antagonists Have a Point

"Examine what is said not he who says it" - Arab Proverb

I've recently got my friends into watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra and I've been enjoying listening to their point of view of two of my most favorite shows. One of my friends while talking about Legend of Korra said he didn't think Amon was necessarily a bad guy. Clearly Republic City had no problems discriminating against non-benders. They are underrepresented in the council and the police force. And he saw what Amon was doing wasn't necessarily bad. It wasn't like he was killing people. One of my other friends responded with while all that is true, taking away someone's bending is like someone taking away her artistic ability. 

Equality for All!!
 By the end of the discussion, we could all agree that Republic City and in general the Avatar universe at large does have a non-bender bias. But this is why Korra enforced non-benders into the counsel after the events of the first season and why the police force became more mixed. In a sense, Korra realized that Amon did have a point. Not about taking away someone's bending but that non-benders aren't treated that well.

In my Dungeons and Dragons Episodes post, I talked about why I liked the ending of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons episode in Community. After Pierce spends he entire episode being a complete asshole because he wasn't invited to the game, Neil invites him to the next game. Pierce was mean and a lot of what he said is unforgivable but Neil acknowledges how Pierce was right to feel left out. His methods may have been horrible but it was unfair he was excluded. 

The first Percy Jackson series very much envelopes this idea. Spoilers for the first Percy Jackson series below. 

Ugh! I wanted the movies to be good. I wanted so bad!

Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series is about the idea that the Greek Gods are still around but have disguised themselves with the times and hide behind other ideas. They, true to themselves, still make nookie with mortals and beget demi-god children who they continue to use as pawns in their various agendas. These demi-gods go to camp on Long Island where they stay in cabins with their brothers and sisters or in the case in which their godly parent doesn't claim them -- the Hermes Cabin. Then, they train so they can protect themselves from monsters because the world is dangerous for demi-gods. 

I mean, they got a really good Luke

The main plot of the series has many different layers. The first layer antagonist is a demi-god of Hermes named Luke Castellan. He has a huge chip on his shoulder that can be tied back to issues with both his parents but in general, he's very out-going and kind of a joker like most Hermes kids are. Percy even regards him as an older brother type in the first book. But Luke is tired of being a pawn of the gods and wants to overthrow them so humans aren't privy to their whims any longer.

Luke forms a coalition with children of minor gods who weren't awarded their own cabin at Camp Halfblood and weren't given any respect and also a large group of demi-gods whose godly parent never claimed them. Together, Luke's army do questionable things and hurt many people.

To be fair, why Luke thought it was a good idea to trust someone who ate his children as opposed to having a dad who is just Nathan Fillion, I'll never know

Ironically, it turns out Luke, who was tired of being the gods' pawn, becomes the literal puppet of a titan -- specifically Kronos. It's kind of heart-breaking when he realizes this and there is no going back. Luke is not a bad person, not really. Yeah, he does questionable things and his methods aren't all that thought out but as they say, the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Luke was the Cabin Leader of the Hermes Cabin and had to see all these demi-gods get shafted by their godly parents or the minor god demi-gods get shafted by demi-gods of "higher parentage". Then there is someone like Ethan Nakamura whose mother, Nemesis took his EYE to give him power. Luke, who is a big brother type, must have really wanted to help these people.

Seriously, Luke's dad is Nathan Fillion and he trusts a guy who ate his kids over Mal from Firefly

After Percy hears about Luke's incredibly sad backstory-- I legit cried during it -- and saw Luke's big brother act was sincere, after Luke's death Percy makes the gods swear on the River Styx to claim their spawn on their arrival to Camp Halfblood. Also, minor god children were given their own cabins and recognized as equals among the other children of the big 12. 

In the end, Percy and his friends not only defeat the villain but also recognize that one of the antagonists had a point. Maybe his methods through the first three books were definitely villainy but Luke's grievances were STILL valid. And that is one of the strengths of the Percy Jackson books. Percy didn't defeat the bad guy and move on. No, he saw that hey maybe the antagonists had a point. The gods are haughty and don't own up to the responsibility of being parents. Every child deserves to be loved. 

I think the lesson of season 1 of Korra, Percy Jackson, and that one episode of community is often one that is overlooked. People too often focus on methods of their enemy without considering what is motivating them. Sure, some villains and antagonists' motivations are purely selfish. They want more land or more gold or more power etc. However, it takes a different kind of hero to look at the antagonists who don't and address those grievances -- not without consequence to the antagonists' choices of course. 

This is a lesson that I feel needs to be employed more often, especially in today's world. When, for instance, we see so many teenagers decide they want to live under the harsh regime of ISIS-- maybe start looking at the grievances they have that caused them to make those choices. Many are probably Luke Castellans -- angry at society and manipulated by a force with different plans. 
Now, to go back to reading Magnus Chase. Holy crap, it's so good.

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