Friday, October 29, 2021

Episode 33: Niceness, Apologies and PTSD

It’s time for a new episode of “The Secrets of Story Podcast”! (I love annoying James by putting the punctuation outside the quotations, where it belongs.) In this episode, we check back in on a prediction that James made four years ago back in episode 4 that stories would start getting nicer. As it turns out, “Ted Lasso” proves him right!


Friday said...

I just saw this and haven't listened yet, but I have an unapologetic childlike enthusiasm for Ted Lasso and am insanely excited for this episode of SoS!

James Kennedy said...

I like Ted Lasso too! Even though Season 2 was a bit of a mess, there was still lots to love in it, and I respected that they did some episodes that were way off the usual map (I loved the Coach Beard "After Hours" episode).

Jonathan Auxier said...

Just dipping in here to point out that the climax of BREAKING BAD is Walt finally confessing (apologizing) to Skyler that he did everything he did for himself. It happens in the final episode of the series very close to the end. And it and might help explain why "Ozymandias," which felt like an early climax to the series still wasn't the true ending (Matt, you and I have discussed this at length on the podcast).

Apologies are awesome. They just have to be earned.

Jesse Baruffi said...

I have lots of thoughts about this! A very interesting subject for sure.

One thing I will say about the psychiatrist debate is that the difference between the rabbi psychiatrist on the Sopranos and the one in the Pickle Rick episode is that the former is a character who makes a personal ethical decision that a reasonable human being might make. Even if you consider it objectively correct, it's not a decision that requires authorial knowledge to come to. Whereas the Susan Sarandon character was analyzing these characters at their first session like she'd known them for years and also could read their very souls. Doesn't ring true.

As far as the redemption vs. punishment angle in stories, I don't think it's fair to apply a one size fits all ideology to every story like that. If fiction is supposed to represent life, then sometimes you can (and should!) talk things out with people and sometimes you simply can't. Some people will take your kindness for weakness and try to destroy you, some will lie to betray you, and some simply have sincerely held beliefs that are irreconcilable with those of the protagonist and in all these cases, it's not that killing them is good, it's more that it's the only way. But you are right that more stories should at least try.

I think you're right on the money about Avatar, where Aang finds a third option against an irredeemable dude, but in Steven Universe I found the ending hollow. The redemption of the Diamonds feels a bit like a Chick tract where they simply hadn't considered not being evil before and immediately choose it once presented, coincidentally by someone they consider an equal.

I don't know if either of you are video game guys, but Undertale is known for being the popular example of a game where you don't have to kill anyone. It's done very well, and you get the best ending if you do that. But the game also presents a warning with this, suggesting that there are a lot of actually bad people in the world, and you can't fix all your problems with them just by being nice. What the game arrives at is that you shouldn't kill, but don't let yourself be killed either. I like that message, and find it more interesting than the idea that hugging solves all problems.

Anyway, sorry for the long ramble, but this was a good, thought-provoking episode!

Matt Bird said...

Glad you liked it!

The Steven Universe ending did feel a little forced, I agree. It's a very sweet-natured universe.

I haven't played a lot of video games, and I'm going to date myself a lot here, but Ultima IV, V, and VI are all fascinating examples of this. In IV, you start out just killing everybody until you gradually realize that you're actually on a spiritual journey and killing some people is wrong. In the end by being a good person you achieve enlightenment. In V, you return to the land, but now an enlightened person has taken over and decided to impose forced enlightenment on everybody else, and you have to rebel against that. In VI, another world is discovered filled with "demons" and eventually you have to figure out their language and figure out they're not evil after all. I never finished the game so I don't know how it ends! And then I basically stopped playing video games.

Anonymous said...

I actually had a smiliar problem with Steven universe future.

It makes all the adult charcters make look bad in retrospect.
It goes from "ofcourse the child charcter has a lot of agency and dangerous adventures, it's a cartoon for kids!" to "Steven is a child soldier and the gems and his dad are terrible parents".

Should Steven stayed at home the whole time, while the gems had adventures without him?
Realisticly, it's the responsible thing to do, but it also sucks out all of the fun of this whimsical, pastel animated show. RIP