Fantasy and a Christian Worldview, Part 16

I guess it is appropriate to extend the discussion of evil to today—6/6/06. This date has created quite a stir on the news. Ironic that secular society seems so caught up, albeit superstitiously so, in a Biblical symbol.

Last night one newscast highlighted a town called Hell where they are selling devil tee shirts—for $6.66. They interviewed a coupld of the people, and they said that today would be a day to do whatever they wanted

Fitting, I thought. Hedonism is the appropriate reaction when Man glorifies himself.

Along with this date, of course, is the release of the remade movie The Omen. I never saw the first version and don’t intend to see this one either, but the commercials give you a flavor.

So, this discussion of evil seems apropos. More comments from Gregory Maguire in his article in The Writers Guide to Fantasy Literature. He states that, as a children’s writer, he’s led creative writing seminars and seen a shift in children’s writing to include more violence.

I’ve learned all about Freddie Krueger and the Terminator and Cujo and Hannibal the Cannibal … But the stories I saw last year are different. The villains are no longer the monsters with clicking razor-blade fingers, or the slime-bag oozing from the deep. The monsters are pictured as ordinary folk. Parents, plumbers, teachers, neighbors, even babysitters.

Maguire’s conclusion about this was that children are writing about death as “an object of art, worthy of being praised for its own value alone.” So in his seminars, he would not allow students to end a story with the death of a victim. There had to be at least one paragraph of resolution:

No more anonymous victims. No more freezing the frame at the juiciest point. If you want me to care that he or she is dead, I tell my students, you must make me care that he or she was alive first…

I chose to write about the Wicked Witch of the West because I wanted to know the context of her death. When she cried, “What a world, what a world,” what was she saying? Perhaps it was not all irony, despair, rage. Perhaps she was looking on the face of all that was great and terrible as she died.

At any rate, in my novel, Wicked, we learn something about her context, so we may never again merely laugh at her death.

So, we counter rising violence by putting an evil character’s life into context—a nice way of saying we find out what made them tick. Was that Wicked Witch abandoned as a baby witch? Bullied by older witches? Unfairly treated by the Wizard? When we see that her wickedness has a cause outside herself, we will no longer laugh at her death.

Methinks the “laugh” was put in as one of those loaded words that exaggerates a point. I don’t think I ever heard people laugh when the Wicked Witch died. Cheer, maybe. But if I understand Maguire, he doesn’t want us to experience that sense of justice when evil has been stopped and good released from its clutches.

So if we just understood Satan in context of what he had to endure as second to God …

And he wonders why children are writing more about death!

Published in: on June 6, 2006 at 12:06 pm  Comments (11)  
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