Current Events: Writing Rewards

Like many of us, I am Very Disappointed in what comes out of Hollywood these days. So instead of turning on the TV I poke through YouTube for subtitled foreign shows with settings of interest and languages I’m trying to pick up bits of; generally Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Which is how I stumbled onto a neat show from 1978, “The Yoshimune Chronicle: Abarenbo Shogun”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unfettered_Shogun

I can only find two eps on YouTube, drat. The show itself ran for about thirty years. The first ep is a good show, though you can definitely tell it’s from the 70s by the music and shot style, not to mention the general lack of blood shown. This is not a bad thing.

But what’s really interesting is that it’s one of an entire genre I’d never heard of before.

“Like many other jidaigeki, it falls in the category of kanzen-chōaku, loosely, “rewarding good and punishing evil”.”

Think of that. A whole category of filmmaking devoted to upholding the basic foundations of a civilized society: do what is morally right and just, even when it’s hard, and it will help you. Do what is evil, and you will get consequences. Death, disgrace, your sword before you to commit seppuku if you still have any honor.

I’m trying to think of recent movies out of Tinseltown that send that message; the newest one I recall that comes close is The Meg. I’ve also seen this message in some of the better alien romance novels I’ve read recently. But too many new fantasy books lean more toward utterly crushing the main character at the start, and then having them grow in power and crush their enemies in turn. Goodness has nothing to do with it.

If modern Western filmmaking isn’t cutting it, we need to go back to basics. Look to the past, see what worked, and try to bring those elements into new stories.

This is not the same as remakes.

(A fact that escapes most of Hollywood, unfortunately.)

Being good is hard. Stories should include that, because it’s real. Actively trying to do the right thing is usually hard work, and often hazardous. But if we want a critical mass of people to keep our culture going and love reading our stories, we need to show that being good does get you somewhere. And that being evil is a dead end. Emphasis on “dead”.

Make stories with Good Samaritans, sure. But even more I think we need stories with like-minded people finding each other by trying to do the right thing, and building a community together.

…And if part of that community is a shogun in disguise as an Average Guy out saving people and having drinks with the local firefighters, even better!

The Yoshimune Cronicle: Abarenbo Shogun (Episode 1)

28 thoughts on “Current Events: Writing Rewards

  1. The lack of anything good from Hollywood is dusappointing, yes…

    havent seen a good new movie that wasnt a remake of something, particularly from marvel or DC or another old frenchise, in what feels like too long…

    i marathoned the leiu Yong case files series, ands it was interesting, with some cool ideas (i loved how the MC is mastermind and super clever, but not a fighter, and rellies on others to deal with violence).

    all taht talk of eastern films, really made me also remember Shogun – now THAT is super old, but also super awesome TV series!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have to agree. I think it’s the lasting vestiges of the “grim dark” and “gritty realism” urges of too many Hollywood writers (and all too often when they have deeply good people they are also deeply stupid)
    The best I’ve gotten lately out of Hollywood is “bittersweet”.

    I think alot of folks forgot what fairy tales are for.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Indeed. As someone on Tumblr commented, you bring oil for the gate and food for the dog and cleaning rags for the oven, and then when the bad guys are after you the gate unlocks, the dog won’t hunt you, and the oven roasts the witch…. Doing good things counts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are civil to the old man/woman on the road to know that.* Or else you listen to the things themselves on the way.

        *If you are in Slavonic fairy tale, you CAN blow by them, realize it, turn around and go back to apologize for your rudeness, but why risk it?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “But too many new fantasy books lean more toward utterly crushing the main character at the start, and then having them grow in power and crush their enemies in turn. Goodness has nothing to do with it.”

    Ugh, yes! I am *SO FED UP* with that pattern of storytelling. For one, that’s not healthy for *the reader.* For another, that’s *not* how a civilization stays healthy. I am so tired of seeing that idea repeat and repeat throughout the fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative genres. It’s *isolating,* and I’m TIRED of being told “the world is dark, and selfish, and cruel. And if it finds a single ray of light, it destroys it.” (quote from *Tangled*, for the curious)

    Yeah, the world is full of darkness, selfishness, and cruelty. I think every child of four knows that very well. What they and the rest of us need to be reminded of is that “dragons can be killed.”

    That’s why I :cough: have an anthology full of sci-fi and fantasy stories currently available which adheres to the healthy fantasy pattern rather than the unhealthy one. Presently working on putting together the next collection in the series, too, along with other projects. 😀 :thumbsup:

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Part of it might be the “pure altruism” storytellers like to present.

    If a Good Person does the Right Thing, then they don’t need to be rewarded because they are a Good Person.

    If the people they helped come back and help them later, then they might be perceived as manipulative.

    And if someone is Powerful and Independent, then they obviously don’t need help…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Remember that the reward of virtue should not be the arbitrary favoritism of the universe. Helping a little old lady should not win great rewards unless she turns out to be one of the Fair Folk.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. “What is better? To be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?” ~ Paarthurnax, Skyrim

    We really need more characters like this.

    I personally like characters who, instead of the story starting right when they’re being crushed or a little before it (think nearly every isekai or revenge story ever!), are instead characters who had a rough spot sometime in the past but have made a reasonable and honest effort to put it behind them and live their life as best they can.

    And if the past comes back? Well, I hope the character has healed enough to say, “I’ve moved on.”

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Off topic, so on the current Girl Genius arc, I got to thinking about the chick in all white. I’ve never really thought I understood what her deal was for sure.

    I’ve just looked her up on the wiki, and she does have an established background. https://girlgenius.fandom.com/wiki/Vidonia_Orkalina

    But, one thought I had, with her coloration, was ‘couldn’t she be the offspring of a Geister and a Jager?’

    I’ve now realized, Barry could have had some Jagermonsters show up to help on his mission to recover Agatha. And, given what we know now about the complexities of the Geister politics, there could have been a different faction split off from them.

    Timeline does not work out nicely to have had the jagers and geisters get together immediately. Nor would they have children Agatha’s age or older without additional time travel shenanigans.

    This is still a notion that feels like it could be plugged into some sort of GG fic.

    Kids from the hidden village of Jagers and Geister, caught up in shenanigans somehow, and out trying to find their way unseen in Europa.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think part of Hollywood’s issue is that they can’t recognize that good exists.

    There’s just… patterns. To play with.

    It’s like a colorblind photographer– he can’t tell that the bluejay against the red holly berries is striking, although he can see every other aspect. Take a colorblind photographer’s work, make it grayscale, and it will still be striking because he’s not looking at color, he’s looking at all the other parts. (My uncle is a colorblind photographer, I picked up enough to mostly follow what was going on in Count Taki. 😀 )

    Unlike the pictures, though, the morality-blind stuff has drama, but it’s missing something. Like if someone turned things black and white and couldn’t notice.

    They can’t say that stuff is truly good or bad, and it hurts stuff.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m pretty sure that creativity is pattern matching, learned perception, and a trainable skill that can be very specific to medium, and to application within the medium.

      You apprentice under other artists in that medium, and they set you to basic foundational exercises that can eventually result in you being able to look at more than simple final result, and break it down into ‘basic parts’. You’ve made a place in your brain that lets you understand and manipulate those ‘basic parts’, and predict a result of moving this element there, or replacing it with a different element. Your understanding may not be an understanding that you can map into words. Or, maybe you can only use words that are jargon, that only your fellow artists understand.

      Past a certain point, if you don’t have the skill of ‘see the important bits’ for what you are looking at, the human mind can’t cope. It is just a blob that you do not entirely perceive, and which tends to lose most of the details when you look away.

      And, the human mind has a budget for how much of the world you can imagine changing. You tend to trade off being able to imagine one sort of change for not being able to imagine another, although this may partly be personality, and time available for training in all the arts, etc. Folks can be very flexible some ways, very rigid others, and it is pretty individual.

      And, Hollywood and goodness in story has at least three different mindsets.

      One, good and evil is a philosophy, and also a learnable skill of perception. Practice of Christianity, forex, involves increasingly skilled attempts to perceive good and evil. The whole point of Christianity is that Christ’s willing sacrifice did something wrt Sin, and this would not feel true to a Christian, unless they perceived themselves as a sinner. At the same time, there exist people who seem to never believe that anything that they have done, or could do, has any possibility of being evil. (That perception may be learned, but in the other direction.)

      Then, you have story. Which is maybe more than one skillset of perception, but I don’t need to expand on the perception of story for this.

      Then, you have a theory of manipulating reality by use of symbols, aligned with ‘arrow of history’ theory. This magical theory can perceive the current or past status quo as having been caused by previous symbol magic embedded in older stories, or ‘in the language itself’. Such a perceiver is going to analyze older stories for magical applications of symbolism, and build their own ‘stories’ by duplicating the ‘magical formula’, but redesigned for the outcomes the perceiver desires. (Additionally, good and evil types can be very individual focused, and the symbol perception types tend to focus on aggregates.) If you never cared about the symbol manipulation in the first place, a symbol manipulator who is unskilled in story is going to tell a story that seems to have nothing working; Not character, not plot, not setting, nor even pacing. If you can see the eye for good and evil that some of the old stories have, it will be missing from the work of a symbol manipulator who does not care, or will be obviously wrong when that is what they want to invert.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For example: see the current Rings of Power debacle on Amazon. Or don’t, save yourself the time and Braincells. Five hours into an eight hour show: nothing has happened except Durin stealing a table from the elves, and the good characters are actually pretty damn evil. Galadriel attempts to leave one of her men behind in a snow storm (episode 1), and in episode five emotionally manipulates a man of o allow her to keep using him directly on the heels of apologizing for using him. And the cast and crew interviews make it clear that they perceive that as a good thing. Disparu over on YouTube has summaries of what isn’t actually happening in each episode.

        I came across another video, by a woman, who talks about what’s wrong with the ‘feminist’ shows and movies coming out of Hollywood lately. It boils down to making a woman look smart by making all the men around her stupid isn’t going to help. And if you could quit turning out ‘girlboss with resting bitchface that never changes throughout the movie’ that would be wonderful. No one wants to see it, not because they are all misogynistic trash, but because it’s bad writing and utterly uninteresting. Personally I also notice the moral decay that seems to accompany the shift from good writing to utter homogenous drivel.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. :nodding:
        You need to understand the rules to break them is a thing we’re all familiar with… pushing it a bit more, some folks are going to see the result of breaking the rules, without even realizing there were rules, or how to do the thing that caused a strong reaction.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hmm. Got a character getting utterly crushed in the opening of a WIP. But life gets very complicated after.

    On reflecting on this, I think at the climax, he has to protect the innocent bystanders and let someone else crush the villain.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dungeon Keeper Ami fits in an odd combination of the two ways you describe stories as going. It starts out with the MC getting in trouble and everything going wrong, and it regularly adds yet more trouble for the MC, while the MC constantly works to gain more power to fight back… but at the same time, the MC is constantly trying to do good (even when it’s the more difficult and costly path, and no one expects it of her), and it is regularly only because she is actually good that she succeeds in the end. In the most recent bit, literally so, as she’s temporarily trapped within a box made of a material that’s essentially invulnerable/immutable, unless you are able to pass judgement as good _and_ that your attempt to work the material is for good. Unfortunately, it’s been over a year since the last update.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks in 2015 is pretty good, (The 1962 exchange between the USSR and America of Powers, Pryor, and Abel) it shows that the Cold War was terrible, that the Communists were morally corrupt and Communism doesn’t work as a positive thing, but it doesn’t go grim dark. It shows that if you behave honorably you will enjoy the consequences. As one man says, “It doesn’t matter what they think, you know what you’ve done.”

    Like

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