A nasty story pattern


Here is a story pattern that is depressingly common. The most recent example of it I have encountered is the new seasons of Doctor Who, however it is omnipresent and cross-cultural.

1. Young women have special moral insight and judgement due to their innocence, expressed in the form of strong emotions.

2. In their innocence they might do things that endanger themselves. Therefore they must be protected from this, against their will.

Satisfying stories put their main characters to ultimate tests, in order to demonstrate their good qualities. Here, part one is the good quality, and part two allows it to be tested without actually destroying the young woman in question. It also generally gives a gentleman a chance to prove his character (possibly after having been shown the path of rightness by said young woman). So this gives an appealing story structure.

So. Both parts of this are actively evil. Part one is encourages women to be kept innocent, which might lead them to take actions with consequences counter to their expectations. It also denies moral insight to men and older women. Part two argues for overriding someone's preferences. There are rare cases where this is justified, however it is so open to abuse it must be viewed with great suspicion as to the true motives of the person doing the overriding. It's the kind of thing which people are rarely honest about even to themselves.

There is also the monstrously stupid notion that the most morally perfect people are so suicidal as to need protection from themselves. No, you can not both have and eat your cake. Morality is all about hard decisions, and the innocent are the least suited to making these. Innocence is not a praiseworthy state.

I don't know that I have this entirely right. But it's everywhere, and starting to bug me.

I note an interesting counter pattern in some recent anime, roughly corresponding to the story of the rabbit and dragon in the Chinese zodiac. Not entirely sure this is an improvement, but possibly different enough to throw a spanner in the works.

Update 17/7/07: I just watched an episode of a TV series in which an innocent young woman:

Suicidal: check. Moral innocent: check. Man seeking moral guide: check. Torchwood episode one is a perfect example.

[1] The rapist then, unaccountably, fails to suffer a horrible painful death.