Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

When i was a child, and an avid comic reader, i theorized that super villains deliberately refrained from using logical and efficient ways to kill the heroes was to keep the comic writers in business. In exchange, the writers would get the villains out of jail and provide them with lots of gadgets.

Ununnilium: See, now that's an interesting idea.

Tabby: I would totally read that comic.

Roland: Question about the Dragonlance example. Isn't that logically flawed? It's not that the Church of Paladine itself suddenly became evil. It's more like those evil-inclined people were already -in- the Church and once the evil forces weren't around, were given free reign to rampage. So it's not that a Balance was violated by evil being wiped out; it's that one overt source of evil was sealed and another one ascended.

Come to think of it, that's a pretty basic flaw with this entire Balance thingy...

Sunder the Gold: You're right, Roland. The Dragonlance example is much more about the "Corrupt Church" trope. And the interplay of good and evil in the series is more about "Evil is Cool" and "Good Is Dumb" than about any rational balance. The gods of Good were just as powerful as the gods of Evil (and had much better teamwork). But the authors always had to allow the Evil gods (and dragons) to be proactive while forcing the Good gods (and dragons) to be entirely reactive, otherwise Evil would never get a leg up on Good in order to create "Save the World" situations.

This sort of lazy set-up is bad enough in children's Saturday morning cartoons, but is especially bad given the level of maturity the Dragonlance novels are written for, and bad because the philosophizing they use to cover this fallacy up with.

In the novels, one must suppose the Gods of Good spend the majority of their time fast asleep rather than providing the viligant protection one might expect from an unabashedly Good god, which these gods explicitly ARE. Meanwhile, the gods of Evil were always plotting and manuevering and backstabbing with impunity — stealing dragon eggs and providing dragon mounts when all dragons are supposed to be asleep; or revealing themselves to mortals and gaining clerics when the gods are supposed to stay away. Only when the evil gods have nearly dominated the world will the gods of Good finally wake up and DO something.

Some "balance." -spits-

Moonstone Spider: Is it worth adding that, even outside of Dragonlance, the Balance between Good and Evil never helps the heroes? Jackie Chan gets scolded for offing a baddie because it allows a greater evil into the world but you will never see his current arch-nemesis deciding to go easy on Jackie lest a more powerful good show up.

Roland: From what I understand, this trope has its origins in the Chinese philosophy of the Yin and the Yang. Yin and Yang are complementing elements; if one gets too far out of balance, the harmony of the world is destroyed and bad things start to happen. Only when the yin and the yang undergo a harmonious cycle- i.e. yin is stronger in certain parts of the year, but as long as the cycle is maintained it's fine- will the land be peaceful and prosperous.

The problem that spawns this idiotic trope is the notion that yin is good and yang is evil. In Chinese philosophy, neither Yin nor Yang is good or evil by themselves- they're simply elementary contrasting and complementary principles, such as male and female, hot and cold, light and dark, etc. "Evil" is what happens when the balance is disrupted, while "good" is what results from a harmonious balance. By definition Chinese philosophy encourages the harmonious balance of Yin and Yang- the very basis for this trope's existence is firmly against it!

Now law and chaos, that makes a little more sense...

HeartBurn Kid: Am I the only one who finds the Dragonlance example palatable? People like to toss out things like "Lawful Good doesn't mean Lawful Nice"... well, The Kingpriest and The Cataclysm he caused are the perfect examples of that very philosophy. He never did what he did out of any kind of quest for personal power; instead, all his horrific actions were meant to protect his people, and help them. The problem is that he never had any sense of proportion — he approached great evils, small evils, and merely perceived evils with the same determination to wipe it out completely. Think of him as the same sort of person that says that marijuana is a gateway drug, so we should throw all potheads in jail for life... and really means it. He's not nice; hell, he's barely rational by the end, but the whole time, he's serving what he sees as a greater good, and not in the least interested in personal power.

As for where the good gods were in the books, the whole point is that the good gods were gone... and the evil ones were supposed to be, too. After that little Cataclysm that the Kingpriest caused, both sides decided it'd be better if they weren't there at all. Or rather, the evil ones went along with the idea until the good ones were gone, and then started plotting, since that's what evil does. The one thing that can be blamed on the good gods here is that they weren't Genre Savvy enough to see that one coming.

Austin: About the Powers That Be, they aren't ever specifically said to refrain from helping due to the balance. Actually, since the heroes never directly contact them, we don't hear their excuse for not helping more. The agents of the Powers also don't directly use the Balance, they just treat the character's concerns as trivial.

Nornagest: Not a Star Wars fan, but I have to comment on the following:

Averted in Star Wars, where "balance in the force" does not mean "equality between the Light and Dark sides", but rather "no Dark Side users at all". Anakin Skywalker did this by turning back to the Light Side and killing Palpatine in The Return of the Jedi.

While accurate, this annoys the hell out of me. George Lucas had no business ignoring what "balance" implied in the context of the character. While it seems he was going for a variation on the old Prophecy Twist trick (assuming a charitable interpretation), it falls completely flat in execution; the "prophecy" is introduced with much fanfare, all the characters assume the less obvious meaning... and it turns out to be right. It's not even a red herring; there's never any indication that the alternative was even considered. In light of Lucas's comments on the subject, it's difficult to imagine what he was trying to do in the first place; it's either a failed Subverted Trope that ends up confusing and annoying his viewers, or it's a throwaway line that serves no purpose other than to establish the setting's pseudo-mystical bona fides. I'm not sure which would be worse.

(Rant Mode: Inactive)

Slow M: I've got some quibbles with the entry for Eve Forward's book Villains By Necessity. It seemed to me that the book was more of a subversion of the idea of Good and Evil - the Good people were stupid, self-righteous and fell heavily on the bad Order side of the Order Chaos scale but the (technically) evil people tended towards extreme pragmatism, individualism and selfishness. In contrast, Good people tended to try and do what was best for the world (as opposed to running roughshod over innocents for personal gain), and if it incidentally made them look like Big Damn Heroes and wowed an adoring populace, that was a price Good was willing to pay. I thought the point of the book was that ultimately the labels "Good" and "Evil" were meaningless because it mostly boils down to people being people. If you just call someone "Good" or "Evil," then you're oversimplifying their motivations, situational ethics, need for free will, Magnificent Bastardry, right to disagree, etc etc.

Anyway, the reason the world was in danger wasn't because the good side won, it was because the lack of conflict between Order and Chaos, embodied by "Good" and "Evil" was causing the stagnation of life, the universe and everything.

Nornagest: Yanked

**This Troper has read a very good essay on how the force was unbalanced pre-ROTJ because the Old Republic's Jedi Order were not truly light-side, but rather totally neutral due to the lack of emotion. The New Jedi Order are true light-siders, and so can balance the dark side of the force.
  • This Troper finds that notion silly (even by Star Wars prequel standards), because The Dark Side by its nature is eternal; as long as The Force exists, there will be people who will use it for their own selfish ends. And it's apparently quite easy for even well-intentioned Force users to fall to the Dark Side. Just killing off the Sith wouldn't make the Dark Side disappear.
**This troper finds that the problem was that there was actually an imbalance in FAVOR of the "Light" side. Way too many Jedi, who were killing themselves off, and not enough "Dark side". So, a neutral faction, brought the prophecy into play. Listen, if someone is talking about balance, and there are hundreds of "good" guys, and few if any "bad" guys... balance doesnt mean they get rid of the dark side. anakin helped get rid of the corrupt Jedi order, and then killed the emperor... and himself. Thus leaving the field open, and balanced. There were still a few force users out there, but it balanced it out by taking away all the heads, and making them start from the same level. The emperor of course came back, but well after the point he would have un-balanced the Force.
** Word of God states that to bring the Force into balance, evil has to be eradicated. Nothing is said about it being permanent. For all we know, this could be a constant last-resort failsafe of the Force. If it starts to look like the Jedi have no way of defeating the Sith (in this case, Palpatine was too well hidden for them to figure out who he was), the Force creates a Chosen One to move in, take the Sith out and basically wipe the slate clean. The basic idea is that using the Force for dark intentions somehow has a detrimental effect on the Force. [[This essay]] explains the concept nicely.
**This is probably because the "Light" and "Dark" of Star Wars are less influenced by the eastern style of thought, and more closely related to Plato's ideas of of the two, that being that darkness has no independent existence (darkness is just a lack of light), and is therefor inferior.

I'm tired of this debate. It's pretty clear that George Lucas made a serious misstep characterizing "balance" the way he did, but his intentions are equally clear — just, unfortunately, made clear from sources outside the actual media. There's really nothing else that can be said about it.

That aside, all of the above qualifies as natter.