Let action movie characters live a little!

Image courtesy of CanStockPhoto.com

Rebecca Barkdoll, Opinion Editor

So, recently I started the third season of a superhero TV show that I’ve been meaning to watch for ages now. I loved the first season, but life got in the way and I only recently have been able to make time to continue it.

Anyway, even though I’m only a couple episodes in, I already love this season more than the previous ones. It was hard to pinpoint why for a bit, but then I realized that it was because I got to witness the heroes living life. No, I don’t mean like a sitcom or anything like that.

One might ask why the first two seasons weren’t also showing them living. After all, aren’t all characters living? Well, yes, they’re all alive (unless this is a creepy, otherworldly or sci-fi sort of story), but there is a difference between surviving and living.

I often see the first show up in action movies. It makes sense, after all. The Big Bad tends to be after something like world domination, world destruction, universe destruction (looking at you, Thanos) or some other horrible end to a human life (if not humanity as a whole). So, obviously, survival takes precedence.

But people can’t go forever just based on surviving. No matter the situation, people have found ways to create bits of happiness, creativity and other positive, non-essential-to-survival moments. It’s good for the psyche, especially since long-term stress is really bad for us. We need good, frivolous things in life.

But action movies and TV shows don’t show a lot of those moments. Partially because of time limitations, so they have to keep focusing on the plot. But also partially because people are there for the action, not for the “boring” stuff.

But I would argue that it’s the small moments where we get to see people happy or creative or whatever that lets us get attached to their survival. Yeah, we’re going to care whether or not the world’s ending. But we’re going to care more about someone we’ve gotten attached to. The caring is no longer abstract, it’s personal.

A lot of films try to add those human moments, but usually, it boils down to either flirting with a love interest or a few moments with a best friend who eventually dies. That’s pretty limited and pretty boring if that’s all we get.

Marvel did a pretty decent job shaking it up in a couple places, like Tony Stark and Peter Parker or Clint Barton and Natasha Romanov. Close teammates or a mentorship relationship are also important relationships that tend to get reduced to survival. But, I mean, would we have cared so much about the Marvel characters that died or got dusted if we didn’t see how their loved ones grieved? We got to see them happy so we cared when they got hurt.

But even Marvel is more focused on the plot than the characters’ lives (other than how they can advance the plot). This is great for the imagination in a way since it means that I can headcanon a lot of smaller details and not be wrong, but it also means that the only reason I’m as attached to these characters is because I’m reading things where they might not exist because the writers and directors don’t care enough about character development that doesn’t parallel the plot. Which might totally explain why some characters in shows and movies keep doing things that don’t fit with their characters. Because nobody cares. They’re only here for the plot and explosions.