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At the clean up thread, there's been a ton of debate over whether or not characters who cross the MEH need to be irredeemable, or at least never redeemed, within the work itself. To prevent more tangents, I've decided this should be discussed here.
The crux of the issue is that the description says one thing and thread consensus said another.
It may be productive to split the topic into a moral event horizon according to the rules set forth in the work's own world-building, and a YMMV moral event horizon for those tropers unhappy that the work's creater(s) disregarded the tropers' moral principles in allowing (or disallowing) a character's redemption.
It actually made me sad we couldn't keep Moral Event Horizon as an objective trope rather than an audience reaction. Because there are ways of objectively pointing out specific moments where a character stepped over a line from noble intentions to unforgivable evil, typically because the narrative frames it or characters talk about it in such a way. Likewise, even if a character reaches an "unforgivable" stage there is a possibility years later that they might find some semblance of redemption. While we might be able to see a long-form character arc when all is done, it should not be obvious in the moment.
So that's my general thoughts. As is, though, being ymmv makes it more difficult to curate examples and so you need more concrete rules, otherwise it will grow unchecked. Bare minimum, if there is redemption it should be Redemption Equals Death because that marks the end of the character.
My take is, there's two equally valid ways to look at it:
Event Horizon means point of no return so it kind of is the point of no redemption. That's what makes it a significant point in the character arc of a villain.
Edited by CryptidProductions on Aug 25th 2019 at 2:15:19 AM
The point of a Moral Event Horizon is that it can only be crossed once, and cannot be returned from. If a character is forgiven or redeemed for their actions In-Universe, then by definition they did not cross the MEH. This means that the trope can always be rescinded up until a character's story is completed, and is why MEH can often only be determined retroactively.
And that is the weird conundrum behind the trope, any given example is merely theoretical because they are proposed before the conclusion of the work. The trope can literally be rendered non-existent due to new information. Add in the ymmv element and it just heightens the "this might qualify" vagueness the trope is built around.
Admittedly, I did once propose a "retcon trope" as a new Playing with a Trope type, where a trope is assumed to be in play but is undercut by new information (ie All Just a Dream invalidates a Tomato in the Mirror) but the trope still exists.
The thing is, if this trope is about acts that are so horrible that in-universe no one will forgive them, then it's covered under the objective trope This Is Unforgivable!. In that case, I don't see the need for a separate, YMMV trope.
However, if this is about audience reactions, then there's the retroactive problem. The audience can forgive a character despite claiming they never would, and then what do we do?
Edited by Discar on Aug 23rd 2019 at 9:39:01 AM
And, if it's about audience reactions, does it really change anything if, say, a scumbag child murderer suddenly becomes good before he dies- if the audience still sees the character as irredeemable?
Quoting the trope definition:
Note the word irredeemably. It is a demonstration of permanent evil: the moment which confirms that this character will always be a bad person.
If they ever stop being a bad person, then they cannot have been made irredeemably evil. The fundamental criteria for the trope do not exist, and therefore there is no example. It doesn't matter whether the audience thinks they're "insufficiently redeemed".
MEH is YMMV because people may disagree about what constitutes the "first evil deed to prove a particular character to be irredeemably evil", not whether the character is in fact irredeemably evil.
Edited by Fighteer on Aug 23rd 2019 at 12:57:48 PM
Also quoting the definition:
The bold part says that a character can be redeemed after crossing the MEH.
Personally, I wouldn't be opposed to removing that part of the definition.
Right, that's where the confusion is coming from. The description allows for both interpretations, and combined with this being subjective, it's only natural people will want to include, say, Anakin's child massacre.
Edited by WarJay77 on Aug 23rd 2019 at 1:28:56 PM
I would cut that bolded part.
It seems to be clashing with the entire rest of the definition.
Copy-pasting from here:
Other comments I found interesting:
Honestly, I can think of at least two cases where the MEH is crossed at perhaps different points:
Granted, I'm the type of person that believes that even the worst of actions can, in theory, be forgiven if the person manages to show sincere remorse for their actions and works towards fixing the damage they caused. That said, I do not want or need Moral Event Horizon to be clogged with a bunch of moments that make us look like overly judgmental jerks with no concept of redemption or forgiveness whatsoever, lest it fester into the same pits that make us look like extreme skeptics with respect to works of fiction where anything can happen or easily-frightened cowards.
The description suffers from being overly long. My reading of the paragraph about Forgiven, but Not Forgotten seems to imply that the MEH no longer applies, but I can see how it might be confusing.
Kick the Dog is a moment wherein a villain (or occasionally anti-hero) does something unnecessarily and wantonly cruel, to prove to the other characters (or the audience) how evil they are. It may be an MEH crossing or it may not. Often times a villain who is already irredeemable will drown some puppies just to remind the audience, and at other times a character will strangle multiple kittens prior to crossing the line to full-on villainy. There is no direct correlation between the two tropes.
As an example, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn has a scene in which the main villain literally crushes a puppy beneath his boot, right in front of the protagonist. This character is already far, far beyond redemption, but it serves as a kind of In-Universe Establishing Character Moment. There is no defining place in the story where they cross from "Diet Coke evil" to "puppy murder evil"; it's just showing off.
Edited by Fighteer on Aug 23rd 2019 at 2:25:47 PM
I guess the issue is that the concept of irredeemability is hard to agree on as it is- and it's something that can only be determined after the work is complete (even some dead villains can be redeemed).
I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better for this to be the moment the character proved themselves evil in-universe, without making statements on whether or not the character can still be sympathetic, well-intentioned, and of course, redeemed.
It's much easier to determine the point when a character has cemented themselves as being an evil bastard, is all...
Yeah, but the title Moral Event Horizon implies an uncrossable line, and that's going to cause issues with changing the definition any way you slice it.
If we're going off of that, then I have to question examples of Despair Event Horizon where the characters regain hope. If it means anything, it was renamed from Morale Event Horizon, a snowclone of Moral Event Horizon.
The problem with snowclones. I think people like the "Event Horizon" portion because it is witty and memorable, even if the resulting titles aren't perfectly indicative.
If we want to redefine MEH so it is about the moment when a character definitively proves themselves to be evil, regardless of redemption, then fine, but it needs the full TRS procedure, and we'll have to contrast it with Face–Heel Turn.
Edited by Fighteer on Aug 23rd 2019 at 3:36:41 PM
The name used to be "Rape the Dog", right? From Kick the Dog I can tell that MEH is about a moment - where the guy does something so bad that makes them irredeemable in the audience's eyes.
And I don't think anyone answered Fighteer's question yet - "what if the guy who crossed the MEH becomes good/redeemable In-Universe?" I want to know the answer too.
That's the exact problem we're having- some think that any in-universe redemption is automatic disqualification for the MEH, others disagree.
I know some pages use this trope to specifically point out when a series will try to redeem a character, and the audience will be like "what, no, he literally ate babies, we don't want him to get redeemed." For example, Once Upon a Time was famous for this. MEH got its own tab for that series, and to quote the very first line:
I'm just trying to demonstrate how I've seen the trope used across the wiki.
"Fans disagree with canon" is a thing that we have, right?
Well, MoralEventHorizon.Once Upon A Time is quite lengthy, and contains two examples so far that have "arguably" in them.
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How well does it match the trope?