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Are We Killing Our Heroes?

Hello and thank you for checking out my debut article for That’s Entertaining! While this is my first piece for the site, I’m no stranger to That’s Entertaining. I’ve been a two time guest on the That’s Entertaining podcast, way back when to discuss “Thor: The Dark World” and more recently to talk “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” I’m also a co-host on The League of Entertaining Gentlemen, an all things comics related podcast right here on this very site (if you like comics, go to the podcast section of the site and check out our previous episodes. If you’re interested in making your own comics, listen to the Thor: Dark World episode, I shared what I learned while creating my very own indie comic for the first time). With this post I plan on writing weekly-ish here on a variety of topics, from TV to movies to comics and more. The first thing I want to explore, though, is what we’re doing to our poor heroes.

A brief note, this article will contain spoilers for the original Star Wars trilogy, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, and both Full and Fuller House. Alright, let’s get started. Who here remembers “Last Action Hero”? Anyone? Anyone?! Crickets chirping in the corner? I bring up this old, not well received movie for a reason. In the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Jack Slater. The film’s other main character is Danny Madigan. Danny is a huge Schwarzenegger fan, particularly of the Jack Slater film series. Via a magic ticket, Danny is transported into the Jack Slater action movie world, where he is constantly pointing out the ridiculous rules of a 90’s action movie to an oblivious Slater. The villain of the movie eventually gets a hold of the magic ticket and uses it to come to our world (the “real world”) to kill the real Arnold Schwarzenegger, thus killing Jack Slater in the process. Naturally our heroes follow the villain to stop him. In the “real world”, Jack Slater meets Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold thinks that Slater is a lookalike hired for the premiere of the new Jack Slater movie and compliments his appearance. In reply, Slater says “Look, I don’t really like you, alright? You brought me nothing but pain.” See, through the course of the Slater film series, Slater’s had to avenge a different family member each movie, (his wife, his child, his second cousin, etc), which upon learning he’s just a movie character, he blames Arnold for, killing his family for the sake of selling movie tickets. That concept has stuck with me over the years.

For the most part, I think I identify with the main characters of stories the same as everyone else, we want a happy ending for them. I’m not opposed to an unhappy ending when it fits the story being told of course, but generally I like to see the heroes win and I think you all do too. Where I may differ is that I identify with the characters to the point that I want a lasting happiness for them, whereas our society just wants more from these characters, consequences be damned. My first example of this is the Star Wars franchise. In my mind, “Return of the Jedi” was the perfect end to the series. The good guys won, Luke and Vader were the happy version of “Cats in the Cradle”, Han and Leia got together, the Ewoks were dancing, there were fireworks, Obi-Wan and Anakin and Yoda were having a ghostly good time and so on and so forth. But the fans wanted more, which I want to point out I don’t blame you one bit for. I’m spoiled by such things as comic books and “The Simpsons”, with the former always finding ways to tell new stories with characters created as far back as the 30’s and the latter still finding stories to tell while closing in on thirty seasons. The more with Star Wars started with the prequels, which is a topic for another time. Then Disney came along…

Disney’s Star Wars involvement is seemingly the perfect example of business meeting pleasure. By giving the fans what they want (more Star Wars), Disney stands to make tons and tons of money – everybody wins! Except our beloved characters. Because the Star Wars franchise had to continue, the peace that the Rebel Alliance fought so hard for and finally attained in “Return of the Jedi” was all for naught. How long after the celebration at the end of “Jedi” was there actual peace? Years? Months? Weeks? Days? Minutes? The obvious argument against this is that without the new Star Wars movies we’d be denied such amazing new characters like Rey and Finn. I’m not going to argue with you, but I just want to point out that to get these characters a galaxy had to go back to war, Luke Skywalker had to become estranged from his family and friends, and Han Solo ended up being killed by his own son.

Shifting gears, let’s take a brief look at”Fuller House.” The Tanner family was created into tragedy – Danny’s wife passed away prior to the first episode of the series, and he brings in his brother-in-law and best friend to help him raise his three young daughters. While tragic, I can look past this as the Tanner family wouldn’t exist at all had they not been written with this backstory. So “Full House” aired for eight seasons full of cute comedy, zany antics, and very important lessons. Cut now to our “reboot everything” society and “Fuller House.” Redo “Full House” with three female leads this time? Great! Make a family friendly show with tons of tongue-in-cheek references for fans of the old show? Awesome! But how did the world of this show get created? DJ Tanner’s firefighter husband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her a widow and her three young children fatherless. I fully realize that these are fictional characters I am discussing, but because of my love for these fictional characters, I personally would rather live in a world without “Fuller House” and a world where DJ Tanner didn’t have to grow up without a mother only to lose her husband and have her kids grow up without a father, and I think the Tanner family would agree with me.

I’ll end with how I began – thank you so much for reading this! This has been on my mind for ages and it feels fantastic to finally share it with the world. How do you feel? Did I make any points or do I just identify way too much with fictional characters? Let me know in the comments! Now that I got this largely serious piece out of the way, stay tuned for funnier pieces in the future, as I tend to write comedy, although another piece or two like this may sneak in from time to time. If you just can’t wait till next time, check out, it’s a project my friend Lady Beaver and I started where we make improvised comics. She draws them first without me knowing what she’s going to draw, and I fill in the words without her knowing what I’m going to write. Until next time!

Steve Waldinger
I write comedy & comics! See also where I co-create live improvised comics, &, the podcast I co-host! Find me on Twitter and Instagram - @stevewaldinger

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