Character assassination

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No, this is not an article about what people say about my fabulous life and how they blow my trips to the Caribbean and my relationships with unbelievably rich men all out of proportion. For one thing, I don’t have an interesting enough life for that kind of character assassination. No, my complaint goes much deeper.

When I protest character assassination, I am talking about the way all of these entertainment series kill off the characters on the shows that I love the best. How can they take perfectly wonderful, loveable people who are doing no more harm than your average mockingbird, and kill them off? (Didn’t get that reference? Read To Kill a Mockingbird; it’ll be good for your soul.)

Looking back, I realize that this began a long time ago, when I first began to read and enjoy books. Who could read Gone With the Wind and not cry buckets of tears when the beautiful-souled Melanie Hamilton Wilkes bowed out in the last pages? She should have lived forever, but did she? Oh, no, it was much more important that she perish, so we could all wonder, like Scarlett, how we would go on without her?

Early television shows understood the need to delicately balance evil and danger in the world with the lives of the main characters. After all, Marshall Dillon was a lawman in Dodge for 20 years and never did more than wince from a bullet through the shoulder. He never died in the line of duty. He never married Miss Kitty, either, but that’s a story for another time!

Oh sure, sometimes our favorite characters suffered a loss–for instance, it was always bad luck for a woman to fall in love with a Cartwright–but so what? They survived, buried the hapless woman, dried their tears and spent another week riding the range on the Ponderosa. They didn’t die themselves!

Today, however, for the sake of “realism”, characters in these programs must die. I say, why? It is not necessary for a long-running crime drama to have the sweet, understanding little wife of one of the main detectives die. What was the point of blowing her up in a helicopter–I liked her character better than the rest combined and I never saw it coming. I, like her devastated husband, didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.

It was a real shocker then, that I absolutely fell in love with the calm, down-to-earth heir to Downton Abbey, only to have the rug jerked out from under me only three seasons in. I could even see this one coming, as he climbed into that automobile and started driving, I was in front of the television screaming, “No, Matthew! Look out for that truck!” But he didn’t hear me and then he was gone.

It’s been a blood bath ever since. If I fall in love with a character on a show, of course they are going to die. The strong, big-hearted priest, who stepped in front of an arrow to save the young warrior devastated me nearly as much as it did the leader, but he could have been spared the grief if they had just left the poor man alive! And then there is the unconscionable murder of Han Solo by his own son. What are these people thinking????

The latest in this long line of assassinations is the story I have been following about a group of time travelers. I have really come to enjoy it, and I particularly was charmed by the young female time traveler who became the client, then the friend and then the lover of a man who was so sweet and gentle and accepting, that he supported and affirmed everything about the girl. He wasn’t a traveler, though, so two episodes from the end of the series found our young time traveler, sobbing into the lifeless body of the most perfect guy I’ve ever seen—who died being heroic, of course!

Now, someone’s bound to tell me that these character assassinations are due to actor decisions, budget constraints, and dramatic effect, and I will tell you that I simply do not care. They have taken away my trust and although I will continue on with other programs, I’m not sure that I can give my heart to any more of the wonderful characters, because I think the producers of these shows are in my head and they know just how to hurt me. So I say, give me my innocence back–stop the blood bath. And as a matter of safety for you all; never marry a Cartwright!

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