Catherine Nichols argues that pop culture has polarized good and evil whereas the characters of old folk tales were a more complex mix. I’m not sure I agree. Characters like Deadpool and the moral mix-ups in Star Trek: Discovery and the sleeper hit Vikings make me wonder if things are changing to the more complex.
Nichols mentions Wonder Woman. True, in an idealistic moment Wonder Woman feels for humanity. But she also kicks ass and is no saint. Another reviewer on the web saw Wonder Woman as a paradox. Gal Gadot herself says she loves the fact that Wonder Woman is not perfect.
I think that because she’s not perfect, she’s more interesting.¹
As for Darth Vader, whom quite a bit of ink is devoted to, Nichols misses the whole point. When push comes to shove, Vader sacrificially saves Luke and does not let him die. By doing so he is redeemed in the afterlife.²
So who’s polarizing here? Pop culture creators or Nichols herself?
I’d reproduce her article in its entirety but unlike that last post from AEON, this one is not Creative Commons. Funny how the one that’s paid for is not as intellectually flexible as the free one.
[A little later…]
Another point that came to mind after a nap, of all things, was the medieval morality play. These made a pretty clear line between good and evil. Often one religious formation demonizing another.
So if Nichols wants to cherry pick a few old folk tales but ignore the greater ‘pop culture’ of that era, that’s one thing. But her comparison to today’s pop culture is a faulty one due to her selectivity.