One comment on “Episode 44: Scud: The Disposable Assassin

  1. I found the fridging discussion the most interesting part of the episode — but wanted to throw in a few additional considerations.

    1 – Our own society is very weak when it comes to motivating characters through altruistic reasons, so it tends to fall back on revenge. This first struck me with the 1991 Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie, where they had him come back to England to find his castle burned and his father murdered rather than just noticing the peasants were getting screwed over and wanting to do something about it. So that trope exists independently of sexism — though it also plays into it.

    2 – I’m also reminded of the arguments that went on about the sitcom Thirtysomething (also c. 1990) when they decided it would improve the comedy to give one of the characters a life-threatening disease — and that even though the producers insisted they’d just pulled a name out of the hat, fans were very aware that it just happened to be the most dynamic of the female characters. I wasn’t a viewer of the show, so I can’t confirm that they were right, but it did seem like this was a case of “kill off the strong woman” syndrome.

    3 – Whatever sexism is involved in killing off female characters now, it was probably worse a generation or two ago. It was an early 20th century pulp trope (that also made its way into movies) to have the hero in love with both a “bad girl” and a “good girl” and to kill off the more interesting one (often by having her take a bullet meant for the hero) so that he could ride off into the sunset with the insipid but virginal blond. That happily faded by the 1950s, but it was replaced by a tendency to end one movie with the hero getting the girl and start the sequel by killing her off so that he could be freed up to go out on more adventures.

    4 – In story terms, there are actually very few legitimate reasons for killing off major characters, and it almost always has to do with what can only be referred to in such archaic terms as “sacrifice” and “the expiation of sin.” A character who has committed great crimes may redeem themself by dying nobly — or may be redeemed by somebody else dying in their stead. In other cases, an aging warrior may get one last chance at a heroic death (eg, Theoden) or someone whose life has become hollow and meaningless may sacrifice themself to save those with more to live for.. And that about exhausts the list. Anything else is likely to be merely sentimental and exploitative.

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