Mindless Diversions Comment Rescue And Open Thread!

Kohole asks:

Your comment brings up a question: when did Good v Evil stories with the Good Guys Winning actually start (at least in the western tradition)? 

The bible and the myths ancient Greeks & Romans (and the plays of the Classical Greeks & Romans) are filled with not quite good people doing sometimes good things – but often not – and sometimes winning – but often losing.  Fast forwarding the Shakespeare, you see the same pattern.  In the fairy tale genre, Red Ridding Hood comes close to pure Good beating Evil,   but ‘the lumberjack’ is more of the deus ex machina and in any case not a ‘main’ character.  (and the rest of the Greater Grimm Metro Area collection is a very mixed bag for clearly defined Good and Evil)

Some of the answers we came up with after the cut… but leave your answer in comments!

Trumwill’s guess was:

I wonder to what extent this is an American thing? American optimism and such? I don’t consume a whole lot from elsewhere.

Mine was:

I’d go back to the Victorian Era. When children stopped dying when you looked at them the wrong way, suddenly, you could stop telling cautionary stories to children (don’t talk to strangers or you’ll die, don’t touch other people’s stuff or you’ll die, don’t get lost in the forest or you’ll die, don’t go above your station or you’ll die), you realized that you could (indeed, had to) start telling stories that had moral lessons above and beyond the “thou shalt nots”.

For that, you needed beatitudes. “Do this and you will get rewarded thusly.”

Much more uplifting. Indeed, they sold like hotcakes.

Glyph’s was:

You can’t discount the Christ story, since he’s the archetype for Supes himself.   Prior to the New Testament, even the best of the best and the biggest and baddest (Moses, David, Samson) screwed up royally, and paid dearly.

Are we on to something?

Spitball a guess in the comments. Or, hey, treat it like an open thread.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.

27 thoughts on “Mindless Diversions Comment Rescue And Open Thread!

  1. I have to disagree with Glyph. I don’t think that the New Testament does end with the Good Guys winning; in fact, it really ends with the bad guys winning. There’s a promise that come the next chapter, the good guys will prevail, but we’re made to wait for the last part.

    In fact, as I’m writing this I’m thinking that the NT is kind of like Christianity’s Empire Strikes Back.

    Everyone’s no waiting for Return of the Jedi to see the bad guys finally conquered.


    • Hey Tod, the question as I understood it wasn’t ‘happy ending’ per se, it was ‘Good guys winning’, emphasis on ‘Good’ guys…my point was just that Jesus was the first truly ‘good guy’ – like Supes, he never screwed up (well, in retrospect, hiring that Judas guy might have been a mistake).

      David had a man killed to hide the fact that he’d impregnated his wife; Samson basically let ‘little Samson’ do all the thinking for him, and squandered his potential; Moses wasn’t even allowed into the Holy Land, after years and years of listening to grumbling and eating frickin’ manna, again, breakfast lunch and dinner it’s manna.


  2. The Good Guys won all the time in the Greek plays and mythologies.

    Of course, in their stories, the Good Guys lived on Olympus.


  3. Well JC wasn’t the first super guy .There were other gods who has some similarities.

    What about Zeus? He won pretty darn good. Beat his parents and got to rule on Olympus until his great fall when he was played by Liam Neason almost got punked by Ralph Fiennes until he was saved by an animate chunk of wood. Of course the Greek gods has all sorts of drama.


      • Most definitely. The Z Dawg was…well its good to be a god i guess as Mel Brooks might say. Most of you are much more up to date on the bible then i am. However the old testament god was sort of capricious and testy. I know many people can offer complex readings of texts about why this story really means this and isn’t’ just about killing lots of heathens or God trying to get a dad to kill his kid. I’d offer that ancient greeks ( my people) had some sort of explanation for Zeus being a royal ahole that satisfied them.


    • Hey greginak, I am aware that JC is not totally sui generis (and again, I am referring to JC as literary ‘character’, not making any statements at all about JC as historical or religious figure).

      But again, as noted the Greek and Roman etc. gods were, to put it kindly, at best flawed (and even if you argue Yaweh was not capricious, He was at least was able to change his mind about things, see Noah and Jonah etc.) whereas JC is presented as completely flawless and free of doubt or caprice/change (Gethsemane aside) – he always did the right thing, from the start – and that seemed new to me.


  4. The oldest novel in English that I’ve read (that occurs to me at the moment, anyway) is Tom Jones, and it has a happy ending. That was published in 1749. I think Sir Walter Scott’s books also generally have happy endings, and they date from about 1810-1830.


  5. An (alleged) drunk crashed his car into the dorm I used to live in, shearing the natural gas line into the building, and forcing it to be evacuated. Fortunately, no one was injured, even the alleged drunk. As a friend of mine pointed out, it’s a good thing college dorms aren’t full of open flames.


  6. Definitely Gutenberg was a contributor.

    When the only book in most houses is the Bible, you don’t have money to spend on frivolous things. When books become more affordable, you can throw down on a book of lessons for the children.

    When money buys more printed pages, you can start to get into stories with nuance.


  7. Why is Beowulf a downer – just cuz he finally dies at the end after all of his exploits? Things go pretty darn fantastically well for him overall, and he has a fine superduperheroic end, and, if you don’t accept that, it’s gonna have to be no mead for you.

    The epic stories of a culture are of hero-founders doing amazing things, the best of them also receiving great rewards on Earth and in Paradise, even if from time to time bad things also happen to good people.


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