When I originally proposed Moral Event Horizon, it was specifically to supply a request for an event-driven trope so that Complete Monster could be allowed to die in its inevitible death, and so Rape the Dog could be scrubbed from the indexes as an unsavory naming scheme and metaphor. It was never intended to be subjective. The whole point was to step away from rating "how bad" a particular act is, and focus on one specific thing: did a specific act clearly indicate that a character has become or has been revealed as unforgiveably evil? This is neither subjective nor wholly in-universe, but specifically an examination of how the character's actions are treated by the creator (who, as I will point out, is central to TV Tropes
.org, as everything else but authorship on this site is trivia). This means that identifying the trope requires some level of analysis. There is just no getting around that.
Arguing whether "Darth Vader" embodies this trope is mistaken. First of all, Darth Vader is a character. MEH was specifically created not to be a characterization trope. We should be talking about whether this occurs with Darth Vader in a work. Well, "Darth Vader" is a character present in six works, two trilogies, and one saga, so depending on how you slice it, you are going to get different answers. It is perfectly okay for Darth Vader to get a shot at "redemption" in Return of the Jedi because, first of all, we don't have to accept he is redeemed (that's really open to interpretation; a spiritual redemption is not necessarily the same thing as paying your dues from life). Second, each movie can be considered separately. Thirdly, invoking MEH does not dictate to the author how it is going to be used or played with. In fact, I think it's pretty clear MEH is deliberately invoked in Revenge of the Sith, as well as Empire and Rot J
. Simply invoking the trope does not mean it is true. It is not necessary for a trope to be "true" to be present. You can even argue about whether the Vader in Sith is really the same character as the one in Jedi, considering the time and events that separate them. Lucas addresses the thesis of the possibility of redemption in a world in which we are confronted with a MEH... once Anakin starts killing kids, there's no just saying, "I'm sorry."
Over time, MEH has gradually evolved to be both a lot harder than when I originally codified based on our discussions, since the metaphor of the blackhole has encouraged a level of absolutism I don't believe in. After all, there are plenty of stories were people escape from black holes.... But it has also gotten softer, because over time it has migrated back to the ___ the Dog crap of talking about how bad characters are.
It really needs cleanup. The basic format for a MEH example, as originally conceived is this:
Before, we knew the character was X (good bad, indifferent, whatevever). After event Y, it was clear they had passed the boundaries of moral understanding.
It simply does not matter whether a character is sympathic, unsympathetic, a Complete Monster
, Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds
, or whatever. It's sufficient that a specific act marks them as evil, as having taken an act of perdition. The MEH is a godlike moment, the perfect opposite to a moment of pure heroic sacrifice or mercy. This is not simply a reaction to a specific act, but an act that clearly signals the moral state of the character. In works lacking moral realism or other objective moral pillars, this is the moment that is simply unforgivable. It is probably not useful to point out that Luke can forgive Vader, because there are plenty of other characters that can't or won't, and Vader was forgiven by his stormtroopers all the time. The MEH is probably not present in works were characters are able to learn to live with their misdeeds. Mass genocide, child rape, and the like are neither sufficient nor necessary for MEH; what is required is an act of moral awareness and spiritual darkness.
In the case were Redemption Equals Death
and Moral Event Horizon
seem to collide, I don't think there is an inherent contradiction. I think you can invoke MEH first, and then invoke R=D. I don't think it's dishonest in a work to do so. What is not possible in life may be possible in death. It is up to the author to say whether, in their work, death allows you to pay such a debt on your soul.
I think part of the problem is that the article does not make a clear distinction between a) the trope, and b) the narrative arc typically associated with the trope.
Edit: And as far as Complete Monster
goes, the Joker undoubtedly had a MEH event somewhere in his past, but we don't know what it was. By the time we meet him, what transpires in The Killing Joke simply establishes his CM cred. It does not constitute new information about his moral capabilities.
edited 11th Jun '12 11:52:16 PM by pawsplay