Good fictional characters tend to win. A lot. Yugi Muto? He just happens to have the right card in his Deck, if not his opening hand. Erza Scarlet VS her freakishly strong Dragon mother? No problem, mom’s had a change of heart, she’s dead, Erza wins. Harry needs to kill a noseless Hitler? Here, we’ll just have your archrival get the master of all wands while you disarm him later on. You get the picture.
This phenomenon is affectionately called ‘plot armor’, and it frustrates many fans of various fantasy stories. Indeed, in many cases, I too have felt the need to shout “THEY ARE DEAD” at my screen and then sigh in disbelief as the characters make it out alive. Or when the clue was ”in front of them all along” and a random phrase triggers the character’s brain into overdrive (looking at you, Dr. House and Mr. Holmes). Why is it that the good ones nearly always find a way?
One: it is what we expect from them. Seriously, would you even watch a series in which the main character had his ass handed to them every single episode? Or a series in which the person who is supposed to be saving lives administers the wrong drug due to working an 18-hour shift? No, this is real life. In real life, you don’t always win. There’s no magic, no super-brains the size of planets, nothing. It’s you and your skills VS the world. Don’t get me wrong, characters have to face adversities and build up their skills too. But, in all honesty, would you rather read all the precise hand movements required to master “Aguamenti”? I know some of you would, in order to score high in your N.E.W.Ts or join some Mage guild or something. Seriously though, that is not necessary for the plot to progress. On the contrary, it would just drag the story needlessly longer.
Two: why wouldn’t they? Heroes are supposed to win! Justice is supposed to prevail, peace is supposed to be wanted by everyone! The villain’s motives are always clear: destruction, domination, revenge, riches. None of them are noble (revenge may be, but when you justify the good guys, you have to do so for the bad guys too), none of them are examples to be followed. You might say “how would you know how the world would be after the ‘bad guys’ won? It could be all better, for all we can know!”. Well… would you live in the Galactic Empire? Don’t get me wrong, there are no wars and everything seems to be progressing just fine… until the Emperor dies. If Vader had taken over, would his rule be a peaceful and prosperous one? Don’t forget, he might have redeemed himself, but before that he’d go around choking people to death, just because they disagreed with him. Imagine him as your Emperor.
All in all, the ‘plot armor’ might be a convenient means to an end, but I can respect it. I want my heroes to grow, live and suffer just like us. But, in the end, I want them to prove that we are capable of making things better. That’s, of course, just my opinion, nothing more. I’m sure you’ve got your own views on the matter, and I would love to discuss with you. Next time, maybe with a cup of coffee! See ya!