After watching a movie recently, I was speaking to a friend of mine and in the conversation I mentioned how I didn't like that they killed off a certain character. His reply: "Someone had to die.'
Really? When did that become a rule? Where is it written? Who said that someone had to die for a story to be more effective?
It's become an increasing trend that stories/movies where someone dies, for whatever reason, are given automatic praise, while films where everyone survives to the end are deemed unrealistic and trite. (This is not counting horror/disaster movies where the point of the film is that everyone is going to die.)
I do not live in a bubble, I know that people die and have seen many deaths in my lifetime, up close and personal in some unfortunate instances, and I understand that this is a part of life: people live, people die. So why such a focus at the moment on death? Why is it that a character has to die in order to prove the severity of the situation? Why do heroes only become heroes after someone dies?
Isn't that rather... selfish?
What does it say about your hero if they will only rise up to the challenge of saving thousands of nameless strangers unless someone they know and care about is killed?
Granted, death is not always as petty as that, but increasingly this is the plot device of choice. Insert Character A and B. Kill Character B to get Character A to react thusly. Or worse, kill off Character B to prove that things are serious without actually having to do any work in building up the villain beyond 'hey, they killed someone, they must be a bad dude'.
The common argument I hear is 'it's more realistic' if a character dies.
For certain stories dealing with certain subjects, yes, I would be highly disappointed if death was just glossed over and ignored. But when you're talking about films or stories that are meant to simply entertain, to prove life lessons, or be self-affirming... life is just as realistic as death.
People survive the unimaginable every day. Through luck. Through shear force of will. Through the work of true heroes.
Why have we forgotten this?
Why do our writers/producers/etc now believe that if they are making a movie where the genre/subject matter doesn't automatically require everyone lives or people die, then the default should be to go ahead and kill people off cause 'that makes it more real'?
I have theories... but I'm not really qualified to say for certain.
All I know is that I can no longer get attached to characters because there is a better than even chance they will be killed off just to prove the story means business, instead of the writer taking the time to actually flesh out their characters and show that they are evil, demonstrous individuals, without taking a single life... which is a hell a lot scarier than any death could ever make me fear.