Learning From Fantasy

Deborah Venable



Some of the very best morality lessons written into modern literature and even TV and movie scripts can be found in space fantasy.  That may sound strange coming from an old person, but I assure you that the synapses are still firing.  I had just as soon watch a good space fantasy show as just about anything else on the tube these days.  They have everything from lessons on military honor and duty, to tough decisions on life and death, to dealing with vast differences in behavior of humans and other species – not to mention a sprinkling of freedom vs. slavery and God vs. the universe.  Evil is always pitted against good, heroes are always portrayed as exceptional, and love is a valuable incentive.  What more could you want?


They all have a resident super intelligent character or characters able to figure out answers at the last possible second and act on them, some John Wayne military types who perform almost beyond humanly possible feats of courage and strength, a brilliant medical character, who anyone in this modern world would love to have as his personal physician, alien and human foes that just reek of evil, and they tie the whole thing up with a big bow (usually) of also having to battle some political problem or other. 


See what I mean?  Just like real life minus the aliens, but then not really because in today’s world, don’t we sometimes treat each other like aliens from another species?


Collaborating writers who work on space fantasy scripts probably have a ball though.  Some of their backgrounds may even include having cut their teeth on political speech writing.  I don’t know that to be a fact, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  Material for both careers could be drawn from the same research databases I would think.


To a real space fantasy buff, though, it’s the characters that can hold onto an audience or lose it, and the actors playing the parts may have little or nothing to do with that.  Just like politics should be, actors are probably the least valued component.  Give me good characters any day and I’ll watch a story with unknown actors. 


This is where my comparison starts to get fuzzy.  Politics should be played with character counting a heck of a lot more than it does, but what do we hear from the analysts of politics?  Name recognition gets a much higher score on the electability analysis and character goes by the wayside.  He or she who is deemed “electable” is far more likely to garner enough support to get elected than an “unknown” of impeccable character.


Back to space fantasy, though, oftentimes we will find our main hero type character has a dark past.  Usually having to do with some socially or politically unacceptable offense, our hero has been maligned, tested and failed to measure up in the past.  Fast forward to the present and he does something spectacularly unselfish or otherwise “heroic” to catapult him into the role of respected leader, thus bringing honor upon his proven positive character.  That is what gets remembered.  Occasionally he may have setbacks where his character is once again impugned – but seldom does he fail again after achieving earned respect. 


So, in modern American politics, does character really matter or not?


In a close second behind name recognition, and probably intricately related, is the question of the contents of the “war chest.”  Not necessarily where the contents come from, mind you, but rather how much money, power, and influence does that chest contain?  Many a political campaign has been derailed when the money ran out.  That’s all it takes.  Sink the money ship and send that “questionable” character packing.  Buying votes is an age-old component in successful political campaigns and everyone knows it, even as they decry the practice with mock indignation.


Bottom line on this little interlude into space fantasy and political campaigns is that the writers of the former have learned what those of the latter never will.  While power and influence may definitely be bought and sold, respect and justice must be earned – and thus, character matters much more than the actor playing the part.    



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