Seriously, it’s starting to get on my nerves. It’s cliche, and cliches bother me. Does it bother you too? No? Well, let’s see. The post is young yet! *sinister grin*
I give you exhibit A: Anakin Skywalker. The chief mistake they made with this one was telling him that he was the Chosen One. He was sweet in The Phantom Menace, but by the time Attack of the Clones came around, he was bratty, spoiled, disrespectful, and disobedient. Not to mention disgustingly and awkwardly lovesick. And in Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan’s gotten to the point where he’s just trying to hold things together, and Anakin’s not helping. And he turns to the Dark Side. We can blame Palpacreep for that, though. He cuts his son’s hand off, for goodness sake! Oh, and we (or at least, quite a few of us) love Obi-Wan better than him. 😛 Maybe it’s the inherent tragedy of Obi-Wan’s position, or that Obi-Wan is a shining example of what an “ordinary” person can be, but… we do. Perhaps it’s that Obi-Wan is even more human than Anakin and still succeeds where Anakin fails. (Oh, by the way. Ever notice how you rarely, if ever, see a poorly-written or grammatically incorrect fanfiction with a lame plot that stars Obi-Wan, but Anakin has lots of those? Not that Anakin-starring fanfictions are all bad, but… food for thought.)
Frankly, Anakin seems just… overrated at times. And it doesn’t help much that Obi-Wan and Luke are the true Christ figures of Star Wars. (Obi-Wan gets the title because he sacrificed his own life to save Luke and ultimately Anakin as well, and Luke gets it because… dun dun dun! he ultimately saved Anakin, in his own weakness. I love these beautiful paradoxes…)
And now for exhibit B: Harry Potter. Now, I’m fairly sure there wasn’t exactly a prophecy included here, but you know what I mean. (To whom it may concern: I have not read the Harry Potter books and have no intention of doing so. From what I understand, they can be violent and cast doubt on traditional values, not to mention that there are what seem to be veiled attacks against the Catholic Church, and there is no way I can condone that! See Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture, by Michael D. O’Brien. Bear in mind, though, that I am not attacking the author of the Harry Potter books or those that read them. I’m certain that the readers find the books good entertainment, and J.K. Rowling is a well-meaning lady. It’s simply that I object to the books, on religious and spiritual grounds.) Apparently this case is different; they didn’t start calling him that until what? The last two books or so? But from what I’ve heard, they don’t seem to fight the villain with integrity; more with whatever will give them victory. (Recurring theme here; Anakin thought the Jedi “inadequate” and to be “holding him back.”) This is in stark contrast with the way Gandalf, Frodo, Galadriel, and Elrond decide to fight the War of the Ring; they refuse to fight the Enemy with his own weapons. From the reports of the Harry Potter books, not only does Harry indulge in this general lawlessness, but so does everybody else. Yeah, they win in the end… but at what cost? As opposed to Star Wars, where the only victory is by doing the right thing. (I know I’m going to get shouted down for judging without reading, but I really do not need another obsession, or even just more clutter on my mental landscape.)
Exhibit C: Lloyd Garmadon. Despite the Eastern spiritualism perpetuated in the Lego Ninjago series, it really has quite a few redeeming thematic features. I can safely say that I think this is the best portrayal of a “Chosen One” in modern popular entertainment. Lloyd, the son of Garmadon, the supposed “Dark Lord”, is “destined” to “destroy evil” (though, predictably, that hasn’t happened yet or the series would be over!)
Lloyd struggles with his destiny, quite a bit. He is very human indeed (not to mention cute… shhh. 😛 ) He feels rather left out and there are times when he just wants to be normal. He struggles with self-control, and has times when he snaps under the pressure of training. There are days when he just fails. In short, he isn’t perfect, which is a common feature to all humans, and he realizes it, which is a redeeming feature. He realizes his errors and tries to become better. Ultimately, he ends up defeating evil by realizing his own weaknesses, and in the sequel (Ninjago Rebooted,) his powers actually become the team’s greatest weakness. This turn-about, added to the fact that the former Dark Lord, Garmadon, has been redeemed and is now the team’s main “Sensei” after Wu was captured, is nothing but pure brilliance. I’m not obsessed with this show, but I do love the way they suddenly whipped things around fast enough to make the watchers’ heads whirl.
But even without his powers, Lloyd would be quite the character in his own right. He’s mischievous at times, charming, kind, endearingly rascally, occasionally brash, and most of all, he recognizes his shortcomings. Even without the added abilities, Lloyd would have been a valiant defender of the people of Ninjago in his own right.
In my experience, Chosen Ones tend to be humans with a superhuman destiny. They have their own lives, free will, and fallibility, just like other humans. Only occasionally have I read a story in which the “Chosen One” is a supernatural or superhuman being, who has been sent especially to defeat evil, or for some other “mission.” Invariably these supernatural, “perfect” Chosen Ones are side characters, and for good reason. If they are infallible, they’re not loveable. They’re not human enough for human readers to get to like them. You simply can not write a story with a perfect protagonist, because if you do, then what? Nothing even happens. There is no point, no reason to fight. The protagonist must change with the story, they must defeat their inner demons and fight with their flaws. Occasionally, there won’t even be a fight because the Mary Sue takes out the bad guys, end of story. So what if it kicks behinds? It’s still just a fight scene, not a story.
So, what am I calling for?
- For the Chosen One (if human) to have to understand that their powers are not limitless, and that they are still fallible, and to accept that.
- For Chosen Ones to have to work at controlling their powers before they can actually use them.
- For humbler Chosen Ones, or at least for Chosen Ones whose lack of humility brings in bad results.
- For good mentors to work with the Chosen Ones, punishing them for disobedience or disrespect, basically knocking them into shape and making them accept the consequences of their actions, as well as providing emotional support. (Obi-Wan is the best, but fails partly due to his lack of practical experience.)
- For destiny not to be written in stone. In other words, the Chosen One must have the free will to deny his or her destiny. He or she must doubt destiny, and have the choice that they can make of their own free will to choose this road of destiny or to live a normal life instead (and those who decide not to choose destiny should be pitied, not judged.) They must have the chance to deny destiny. They must be fallible creatures.
- Most of all, I’m looking for Chosen One prophecies that are realistic. In other words, the Chosen One’s destiny is not to defeat evil, but to hold it back, or to make some vital stroke in the battle of good versus evil. (To refer to the Bible, Christ came to make a definitive blow against Satan, to open the gates of Heaven, to call on sinners to become saints. He did not come to destroy evil once and for all–that would destroy free will, and must wait for the day of Judgment–or to collect those who were already doing good, but to save all of us, to give our good actions true merit, and heal sinners.) After all, a perfect and absolute victory leaves no room for a sequel, now, does it?
These six points are the reason why Rowan, the protagonist of my novel Bound to the Flame, is not really a “Chosen One.” Yes, he is special. Yes, he is gifted. Yes, there may (or may not) be a prophecy about him. Yes, he probably will change the course of this alternate history he’s living in. But his role is really more of a protector and strategist, not the person who is supposed to single-handedly save the world. And if the story does change into him needing to do that… you’ll be the first to know, my dear readers. ;-P But seriously, if he does end up needing to save the world, you can trust that he’s going to do it by God’s strength, not his own. He’s going to find that out, anyway–he’s still learning the lesson of humility.
I think that should be the true message of a “Chosen One” story–you can only find true strength by realizing your weakness, and in some cases, by embracing it.
I’m pretty sure there are other books, movies, and series out there involving faulty portrayals of “Chosen Ones.” Which is your favorite? Which do you like to bash? Please, tell me! 🙂
Thanks for reading, and God Bless!