Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Why "Save-the-World" Stories Are Usually Boring

   In all this craze of superhero movies, most of the movies we see nowadays are about saving the world. In fact, many, many, many books, movies, and TV shows are about this very subject: Lord of the Rings, Makilien Trilogy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2, Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, Thor: Ragnarok, Iron Man, Thor: The Dark World, The War of the Worlds, Independence DayStar Wars, Doctor Who: the Movie, Tomorrow Land, Harry Potter, Superman, Dreamlander, Armageddon, War Games (and almost every other Cold War movie), the Lunar Chronicles, the Ilyon Chronicles, Batman Begins, 24, Star Trek IV, Raiders of the Lost Ark, about half of the books in the Fantasy genre, and of course, many, many more. With all the diversity of fiction on this list, what is the most common theme between all save-the-world stories?
   Most of them are boring.
   Why, though? Shouldn't saving the world be something we all care about? After all, every one of us lives in the world. It should be the ultimate relatable story.
   Far from being the ultimate relatable story, however, save-the-world stories are often the ultimate unrelatable story. After all, few if none of us have ever been in a position where the entire world is in danger. All of us, however, have probably been in a situation where our country was in considerable danger, which marks the big difference between save-the-country stories and save-the-world stories.
   It's very easy to understand why a protagonist would want to save his country: because he loves it (or because he lives in it; you know, practicality and all that). Though there are some people that do not love their country, I'm willing to bet there are many more that do. Most protagonists of save-the-country stories attempt to save their country because they love it, they live in it, they desire to defend their home, or they just don't want them and their family or friends to die. Very relatable.
   However, most protagonists of save-the-world stories attempt to save the world "because it's the right thing to do."
   Excuse me?
   Exactly how many times have you done something simply because "it was the right thing to do"? That's right. Never. Even Christians don't do the right thing because "it's the right thing to do," but because we love the Lord. Right for right's sake has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it.
   This is why, even though I love Captain America, a lot of people think he's boring. Because everything he does is because it's "the right thing to do." (I contend that he does the right thing not for the sole virtue of "the Right", but because he loves freedom and his country and despises bullies, but that's neither here nor there.) Contrast this with the Guardians of the Galaxy:

   Guardians of the Galaxy was far from boring. In fact, it was wildly successful beyond Marvel's biggest expectations. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is definitely because someone was finally saving the galaxy for a relatable reason.
   **Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War ahead**
   Avengers: Infinity War is pretty much the ultimate save-the-world story. Thanos wants to destroy half the population of the universe and the universe's mightiest heroes do their level best. Yet none of the characters, superheroes no less, seem to be doing it because "it's the right thing to do." Thor tries to stop Thanos because Thanos murdered every one of his people (including his brother). Bruce Banner joins the fight to stop Thanos because he witnessed the murder of the Asgardian people and can't stand that happening to Earth. Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, and Spider-Man try to stop Thanos because their city is attacked by a giant alien spaceship. The Guardians try to stop Thanos because he's committed planet-wide murder in their galaxy for a long time, he's the stepfather of Gamora and she's learned all his plans, they came across the murder of the Asgardians and realized Thanos is fianlly trying to murder half the galaxy, and they have a healthy wish to not die.
   So if you want to write a save the world story people will actually care about...
   Make. It. Personal.