There are two articles I have always wanted to write, not for any kind of academic or educational purpose, but just because they’ll talk about situations highly prevalent in fiction that I’ve never seen anyone talk about. Maybe I’m mistaken and there’s a whole academic field dedicated to study it without my knowledge, but so far I’ve never seen even a single person point them out. One would be about how most situations in fiction could be resolved just by applying basic common sense, but authors choose to make their characters retards, so they have difficulty facing problems, and they can explain the solutions to the audience. The other one, which I’ll write in this case, is about how the reason fictional adventure/action stories are possible, is because they completely disregard the legal system. This article probably has no value beyond pointing out something about fiction you maybe never considered, that it’s not really negative, nor need changing, nor probably can be changed on a general rule. You’ll just come out knowing my opinion about a particularity of fiction while you lose some minutes. I’m the best at making people stay, I know.
Before I start, I’ll point out what should be obvious but always someone fails to grasp. This is a generalization. There are a lot of works of fiction where this doesn’t happen, and I’m talking mostly about the ones that have action, adventure, thriller, sci-fi, etc; if you go to romances, daily lifes, etc, this greatly drops; but overall, in my opinion, it happens more than it doesn’t.
I say this because there always will be some fanboy who read this, gets angry because their revered work of fiction doesn’t fit in my description (or they think it doesn’t), and goes full autistic on me because how I dare suggest that of his precious. And pointing out this will only serve to cut the number of those by half.
That said, what do I mean by disregard of the law? Well, I don’t know if “disregard” would be the correct word, because I’m a dirty Spaniard who learnt English playing videogames, so you can choose another word at your leisure after you read this. So, first, look at most fictional stories with action, adventure, sci fi (and I’ll from now refer to them as just “fiction” to not repeat myself), and tell me if they could happen if, at any point, the police, or the figures of authority in the story, decided to apply the law to the protagonists. I’ll set 2 examples to explain myself:
-The first one would be the typical kind of movie everyone has seen, because they tend to copy themselves: The protagonist who gets framed for a murder they didn’t commit, and escapes authority to prove their innocence. To do so, they go on a killing spree against the “bad guys” until they reach the boss and make them confess how it was all a set up. Finally the police/figures of authority arrive, arrest whoever they have to arrest, the protagonist meets again with their spouse/kids, happy ending. Except if they lived in a world where law would be applied, they would be put in jail for life for jail break and multiple murder. Because, you know, they escaped prison and killed a lot of people. For the spectator, those murders where not “murders”, because those where the “bad guys”. But from a real legal standpoint, that’s someone who decides to become judge and executor, goes into some people’s hideout, and decides to kill them all by their own hand. It doesn’t matter how bad you, as spectator, know those guys where, they still have rights, they still need to have a fair trial and be sentenced, and killing them just because you think they’re bad is still murder. Plus the jailbreak, in case you’re thinking about movies where the protagonist doesn’t kill anyone.
The only reason action movies are possible is because they ignore any kind of legal procedure in favor of “if the spectator knows they’re bad guys, killing them is not a crime”. This one was an example about a specific type of movie because it’s a very clear one, but you can apply it to most action movies. The protagonists kill people left and right and you’ll never hear about any consequence, legal procedure or investigation about it. They were bad guys, full stop. This is actually one detail I liked in the game Persona 5, where the police are trying to arrest the Phantom thieves because, even if they’re doing good deeds, they’re still breaking laws when doing so. That’s also a reason I always liked Spiderman, it was one of the few superhero comics where I saw them explain that the police wanted to arrest him because, even if was doing a lot of service for the city, he was still a civilian taking justice by his own hand and beating people, as opposed to comics like Batman, where he works with the police even if he breaks laws just by walking.
-The second example should been obvious to those who play RPG games, be it on videogames or tabletop. The only reason why these stories are possible is because the entire setting ignores the law when it comes to you. It doesn’t matter the situation, if you kill someone that the narrator or the game story has presented as “bad guy”, there’s absolutely no consequence. Of course, if you kill a neutral npc, you’ll have the entire town or the full force of the Amnian guard upon you, because somehow everyone magically detects when someone you killed was a “bad guy” or not on any place of the planet you were standing. Law only applies when you do bad stuff to good/neutral people, and everyone seems to know their alignment. You get reputation loss or trigger the guards if you steal from a villager, but those guys that stop you on the road and push you for some coins? Rip the spines of their bodies, it’s ok, they were probably chaotic neutral, but they were molesting or stopping the advance of the protagonist/pc players, which transforms them into bad guys.
Can you imagine playing a Dungeons & Dragons module and every time you kill someone you have to conspire to hide the bodies somewhere and hope nobody ever finds out? Or being arrested, put on trial and having to prove you did it on self-defense; or better, explain why you killed someone just because they were impeding your advance in your quest? Can you imagine if every time you kill someone in a videogame, no matter how vile they are, you get huge reputation losses and the full power of the guard behind you? Then change to an Ace attorney style of game where you try to get a lighter sentence by explaining the guy you killed was robbing people at the roads? Because, you know, even if they were robbing people at the roads, killing them is still a murder.
Try to apply this logic I’m talking about here to adventure and action works you know, you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about. Most of the time will be a point where they break the law and no shit happens because you, as spectator, know they’re doing it for a good cause, or doing it to bad people. Now think about what would happen if a police officer/guard is nearby and witness the act, or if they get taken to court. Think about superheroes killing Hydra agents, having to face the consequences of killing someone based just on their affiliation to a fascist group (which by the way, antifas, is still murder). Think about Han solo or Obi wan kenobi having to face the legal problems of shooting and cutting people over a bar fight (or in cold blood, if we think that Solo shoot first). Think about any fantasy game ever created; Witcher, Skyrim, Zelda, etc, think about Mass effect, think about all the times you kill people in those games for reasons like “they were blocking the path”, “they were robbing people”, “they are part of X group which the spectator knows they’re bad guys”, etc, all reasons that can be morally excusable, since we know the truth behind them, but are still illegal, because, you know, in reality is still illegal to kill a KKK member just because they’re affiliated to the KKK. They may be the scum of the earth, but they still have rights, and that’s still murder. Apply that to almost any fictional story. The story would be over right there. Unless you are watching the Judge Dreed movie.
And that would be actually a good comparison. Fictional stories work because all the protagonists are Judge Dreed. They are given by the setting the capacity to judge and apply punishment on the spot with no consequence, and spectators go with it because they have knowledge about the motivations of the villains and what they’ll do if they’re not stopped. Somehow we all decide to assume that the forces of law have the same knowledge as us, or that they will obtain it magically if the good guy beats the bad guys.
Of course, I’m not saying this is bad. In fact, what I’m saying is that if we didn’t willfully gave protagonists this immunity power to law, most stories couldn’t be done, or would be fucking boring! I guess my point is, that people apply the “rule of cool” a lot more than they realize, which is fine for a fantasy/manga cartoonist like me. I just cannot help to realize this every time I see a work of fiction, and it’s kind of an interesting touch when I see a work that has it into account in an intelligent way.
Mybe i’ll do a video about this, so even less people will understand it cause my english sucks.
Yeah i did video www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk-_cb…