Thursday, June 30, 2011


This is kind of a rant, so- you’re forewarned. And yeah, I’m again probably going back over some things I’ve touched on before. So sue me. Anyway:

Why is it that a lot of people seem to equate ‘maturity’ of subject matter with ‘darkness’? In this case, I define ‘darkness’ as: violence, grim/gritty situations, pessimism, hopeless efforts, etc.

It is a trend I have seen in various mediums- usually an ‘updating’ of a subject/setting from years ago (the childhood era of my generation) to a modern day setting. Comic books are probably the best example of this, though movies and even video games play into this as well.

A lot of the notions prevalent in the entertainment of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were quite simplistic and even ‘kiddified’. I began to notice the trend towards ‘maturity’ during the late 80’s and early 90’s with comics. New ‘dark’ heroes emerged and older, established heroes all seemed to take on a ‘darker’ tone. The Watchmen were a prime example of this- a ‘what if Super Heroes existed in the real world’ thing. But then, I wouldn’t call Alan Moore’s deranged concept of the world ‘real’. Same goes for Frank Miller. In any case, the general idea was that things were horrible and heroes had to be horrible in order to deal with them. Notions of right and wrong (a la Superman) were just foolish and ‘childish’. The idea was that by recognizing how bad the world sucked, heroes were ‘growing up’.

Now, in some ways, I understand the appeal of the growing ‘maturity’ of entertainment subject matter. People who grew up with heroes (or settings) liked to see those heroes (or settings) growing up with them. They wanted stories that had more complexity and nuance. I understand this desire- and have it, myself. There is also the appeal of the ‘shock’ value of re-imagining something ‘kiddiefied’ as suddenly dark and dangerous. Take the death of Robin in the Batman comics for instance. Not only is this shocking to people who grew up with certain ‘rules’ in their comics, there is the whole appeal of being a ‘rebel’- of bucking established trends. That is also part of growing up. I understand that, too.

What I do not understand (or agree with) is the trend in many creators and consumers of entertainment media that equates mature with dark. For instance, I purchased a Thundercats Graphic novel- based partly on the fact I used to like the cartoon and partly on the fact that the artwork was really well done. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that during the time between the TV cartoon and the novel the villain had conquered the world and enslaved or murdered the Thundercats. I am not opposed to this plot-twist in and of itself, but the details of it just kept getting darker and darker. I mean, seriously- they implied (and even partially showed) that one of the Thundercats, Cheetara had been raped by the mutants. And one of the younger female Thundercats is insinuated as having been a sex-slave to the main villain- the undead Mum-raa. Seriously? I mean seriously? Did you HAVE to go this far? It’s like the authors were beating you over the head and screaming: “THIS ISN’T A KIDS CARTOON ANYMORE! IT IS MATURE AND SERIOUS! SEE!? HORRIBLE THINGS HAPPEN! THAT’S SERIOUS! SO WE ARE TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS CREATORS!”

Well you know what? It didn’t make me take them seriously, it disgusted me. The authors took a cherished childhood memory and crapped all over it in an attempt to shock people and show how ‘mature’ their subject was now. They completely lost all sense of what the source material ‘felt like’. They didn’t have to do that. Overall, the plot-line was complex enough to be interesting. I didn’t mind that it was a little darker: i.e. the bad guys were in control. That just meant the heroes had to face a lot more challenges. But when you throw sexual assault into the mix (aimed solely at the female characters, it seems) then you’ve gone too far- at least for the subject matter you’ve chosen. Thundercats WAS a kids cartoon- why does it have to be the exact opposite of that to be ‘mature’ in content. Why not just deepen the characterizations of the various leads. Why not rely on more complex storylines and even some morally ‘grey’ areas. You could keep the excitement and adventure of the original source material and just add to it. Instead, the authors in this case went for the ‘cheap’ method of shocking their readers.

The above wasn’t the first example of mature = dark. There were plenty of others (Watchmen, Dark Knight, etc.). Some (the Watchmen) were done quite a bit better than the Thundercats example above. But even so, I never really bought into the whole notion. Yes. The real world sucks at times. Yes, Heroes in the vein of comic book/movie types don’t exist in real life. But the IDEA of them has a lot of appeal and stories about those kind of people aren’t ‘immature’ just because they aren’t ‘realistic’. Most entertainment media is escapism and you know, sometimes I just like my stories to be entertaining- not dreary descents into how terrible things ‘really’ are.

And how does any of this relate to Star Wars? Well the thing that got me thinking about the subject actually was the whole Star Wars: Legacy setting. It is dark and gritty and (therefore) much more 'mature' than its Source Material. Right? Yeah. Right. It doesn't even feel like Star Wars to me. Like so much of the Expanded Universe. Star Wars doesn't need to 'grow up'. It was plenty 'mature' despite its seemingly black and white outlook. Well. That's my opinion anyway.

Rant over.


  1. I had a similar complaint with the new Battlestar Galactica. Sure, it had plenty of drama and cool effects, but it was nothing like the show I watched as a kid. With all of the sexual situations, violence, torture, rape, and bitterly angry characters, the show lost me as a viewer right after the Pegasus arrived with its vicious unscrupulous bastards.

    The new Batman and Superman movies are in a similar boat, as well as DC's New 52 and J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, too. The reason we hold our heroes, fictional or otherwise, up to such high standards is they have a quality that rises passed typical human responses to crisis. While many would run, cower, or take advantage of others, heroes fly into danger because they feel an obligation to save as many lives as possible and will forfeit their own if that's what it takes. They have strong morals and ethics and equally strong wills, allowing them to defeat staggering ordeals--usually without killing. I don't see any of the new DC stuff as heroes, just imposters. At least the Marvel Movie Universe has got the hero thing right.

    And I definitely prefer my Star Wars more wholesome. The original trilogy had heroes, dammit! The EU and prequels...not so much.

  2. I strongly agree. It's like my wife often says, "Why is it that someone usually says 'we're all adults, here' before talking about something really childish or immature?"

    People seem to think that darker and grittier are the way to go in the 'post 9/11' world that is so often referred to- but I think it's when the world is darkest that we need a little light and hope and wholesomeness; uplifting, uncomplicated, and FUN stories instead of brutal tales of morally ambiguous protagonists being battered and bloodied halfway to hell and back before finally, exhaustively triumphing, at great cost.

    And the content that we label as 'mature' content (because children ought not to be exposed to it) is indeed far from maturity, as is the ongoing fascination and overindulgence in it.