Subjective Characterizations, or are Bad Things Really Bad?
I'm writing in reference to the column by Lucy entitled "When Bad Things Happen to Good Characters".
I fail to argue point one since it states fact. As for point two, I begin:
Know this, I am self admitted h/c fan. Saying such, one angst fan to another, on some level you must realize that essentially our very capable characters (Obi-Wan, Iolaus, and yes to some extent Blair) must be portrayed in situations which, to quote a cliché, have overwhelming odds. Otherwise, our boys would be more than capable to take care of themselves leaving us the lovers, no outlet for our h/c desires.
That being said, I refute, to some extent, point two: "character is completely incapable of acting in his own defense in the slightest." Two out of three stories you referenced (I neglect to have read the third, but Hercules fan fic isn't my bag) have the characters actually taking a stand. Obi-Wan fights against rapers/captors and Blair...well...he actually shoots a man, which sets off the whole spiral. (Not to mention that while people or characters are under the influence they're not in the right to begin with.)
So is it a question not of lack of defense but of lack of defiance?
Moving on: point three, I'm inclined to agree. However, I think more focus needs to be put on the emotional angst of counterpart character. Going from cannon, Hercules' emotional angst was his sole motivation for doing good and opposingly it was his motivation in giving up the quest. As for Ellison, he never knows what he's got 'til it's gone. Therefore, one should never underestimate or depreciate the value of emotional angst. For characters such as these which burns deeper a wound in flesh or in the heart? I definitely think Jim does emotional angst than physical, see Tapu's "Heartbeat"
Point four. Guys can't cry? Sure they can't. Just keep telling yourself that. There is no fear, there is the force. I have a real problem with this one. Running away and leaving may oft fall hand in hand, but you can have the latter without the former.
As for making the same mistakes over again, it happens if you don't learn from it. If you don't believe it, then I can personally attest to the same reoccurring/continuing argument my mother and I have. It never gets resolved but always concludes with a hug.
Finally, the main point. Characterization. In this case, the fight or flight response. Avoidance and denial or confrontation and acceptance. Which will the character choose? Personally, in my mind, I can see Obi-Wan and Blair as suicidal under the right circumstances. I view Blair as more submissive, like he is in Sharon's Happy Families (#9 Uncertainty) than as him pulling a gun on his friend/misconstrued rapist in "The Devil You Know". Yet, the main problem dealing with all this is, there is no cannon for these states. Thus, subjective and open to interpretation. We are not in the characters head nor do we have enough cannon to back it up.
On a side note: most fan fic writers tend to stray from cannon slightly, thus the characters take on muted qualities that most people in the fandom desire. (Setting aside the whole genre of slash, except where obvious subtext has been established in cannon, the whole fandom is, essentially, wishful thinking or author interpretation.) Examples, Blair often gets too excited over many things, is portrayed too young, or weak. And I have yet to read one TPM story where Obi-Wan was not as cannon suggests, recovered from Qui-Gon's betrayal in the council chamber. (See the movie: he apologizes, and Terry Brook's novelization has lovely imagery concerning that rift.) Yet fic writers make than the his initial rejection his cross to bear. Never have I seen him fully recovered from it.
Not to mention that TS writers love have the bad guys take their revenge out on Blair. Quoting the Progression series here. Honestly, how many people know how important Blair is to Jim. Sure they can find out his residency, job, etc. But how often does one come exacting revenge actually on Jim? Yes, the argument can be made that it hurts Jim more to see Blair suffer. Yes, this is true. And proves my point about emotional angst.
Slightly back on track, ss for the purpose of suffering. In real life is there any? For the sake of the fandom, there must. Perhaps our bloke in distress isn't the character who gets the major change. Perhaps, it's Mr. Emotional Angst who learns the lesson. Going back to cannon: was Blair killed because (a) Alex is evil, (b) he betrayed (did he really?) Jim, (c) to get the series renewed, or (d) to get Jim to realize his worth. While the answer is (e) all of the above, if I had to chose, I'd go with (d). See my point?
I suggest that another's suffering is another's light. Gasp! Those poor dears are nothing but plot instruments not characters. How sad.
Perhaps, it's difference of opinion that causes you to disagree with the characterization and interpretations. Look at yourself, are you prone to yelling at the t.v., movie, or computer screen. Do you know people who while watching movies yell at the screen for the character to do, or not to do something? (Horror movies are of course the exception.) Get technical. Why didn't Obi-Wan force throw the destroyers and let Qui-Gon continue breaking into the council chambers? And to quote, either Mac or Waldo's sig line "Why didn't he take some chips?" quipped a student upon seeing the
upturned vending machine in TS: Siege.
And yes, I dare to venture, I'd comic books, why doesn't the good guy just let the bad guy die. It makes much more sense. At least to some. Yet, just cause it makes sense to us, doesn't mean that the characters like it.
As for the pit of vipers. Let's look at cannon: Obi-Wan is rejected in JA. He burns out his lightsaber in TPM. He continually falls during the fight with Maul. Is spurned again my his master. His master dies.
Blair, has been kidnapped too many times. Assaulted with poisonous spiders, stuck in lethal elevators, kidnapped by his next door neighbour, thrown out my his friend/roommate/partner/sentinel. Killed. Fallen prey to toxic water, beaten up by an international hit man, need I really continue. ('Is it just me or is Cascade the most dangerous city in America?')
Dare we talk about Iolaus, the man who has been dead in cannon, not once but twice, and resurrected/exorcised /freed by Hercules. He's been beaten up, sentenced to death, turned into something extremely weird by Ares, subjected to sleep depravation and brainwashing, poisoned, etc. He has an identical cousin who's a king, and that's in cannon!
If all this can happen, in cannon, why can't it happen in a series.
So in sum. Good/bad characterization is subjective. Comfort doesn't happen in the cannon, on screen. (Ex: TS: S2P2 "You still owe me a months rent.") And pointless suffering happens on screen.
Perhaps, it's overkill? Perhaps, the fact that the stories are linked in a temporal sequence of events? Perhaps, the plot and emotional angst, don't cut it for you? Perhaps, you need more comfort? Perhaps, you simply disagree with an author's interpretation of the characters you know and love? Is your definition of characterization based on opinion, or cannon? If so the former, ask yourself is the characterization really bad or just not your cup of tea.
P.S. I can provide specific fiction examples and episode titles if need be. And FYI, I'm not a cannon stickler, I write my Blair far from it. :)