And so that got me thinking about how often revenge and revenge-deterrence is the main motive for our heroes in television and other forms of entertainment.
Batman saves people because Bruce couldn't save his parents. Batman's motive is revenge-deterrence, something bad happened to him and he doesn't want it to happen to anyone else.
John and Dean and Sam kill demons and ghosts and monsters because they couldn't save Mary from one. John's motive is revenge, something killed his wife and he wants to kill it back to avenge her. Dean's motive is avenge-deterrence, he is Batman. Sam's motive shifts between revenge, for his girlfriend who was killed by The Demon, and revenge-deterrence, upping his karma points by saving other people from the same fate as he and/or his girlfriend.
Why do all our heroes have the same motive? Are we not strong enough to handle someone who takes on bad guys just because they're bad guys? Do we have to justify it to ourselves? Why do the bad guys have to commit a bad act on the hero first? We know that people who kill people are bad, we don't need proof of it.
There is a saying I'm sure many of you have heard, "evil flourishes when good men sit idly by and do nothing." So why is it that all of our heroes must first sit by and let evil flourish before we can find ourselves comfortable cheering for them?
If Mary died during childbirth, or of a purely human sickness or in a car accident and then John raised Sam and Dean to hunt monsters and kill demons not because or revenge but just because he knew they existed would you feel different about the show? If there was no revenge plot, if Jess just broke up with Sam or was killed in a robbery or still lived, would you think differently of him?
Trudy, alive and well, Monk OCD as he is on the show, using his idiosyncrasies to catch criminals just because he's a cop and that's what he does. Still interesting, but maybe a little less.
Bruce Wayne, with parents alive and well, grows up, becomes a man and don's a Bat suit to punish criminals. No one he knows has ever been killed or hurt by them really badly so he has no personal stake in it, he just thinks that crime is overrunning his city. Yes, he's still putting The Joker away and still nabbing muggers, but now we probably think he's more insane than he is in the comics. In fact, we probably like him only a little more than the GCPD does, now.
John, Sam and Dean Winchester who go around stealing people's identities and lying to cops and the families of the dead because they're hunting demons. Just that. No one did anything to them, they have no reason personally, they're just doing it for other people.
John Winchester, widow to a wife who died of natural causes, grabs his kids and takes them cross-country for their childhoods to kill demons he knows for a fact exist. Maybe his Dad told him about them or he knew other hunters or whatever. He has no "personal" stake in it, he's just doing it for the good of mankind. You like him a little less now, don't you?
Or what about Dean? Dean Winchester, whose mother died of pneumonia when he was four, whose father raised him to hunt and kill monsters and demons and ghosts. Nothing tore his mother from his clutches violently except for a human illness. None of these things has ever tried to harm him or his family in any way unless they've tried to harm it first. He has no reason hunt down and kill these things other than that his Dad tells him to do it. How much do you love him now?
And then there's Sam. Sam Winchester, whose mother didn't die in a fire above his crib. Sam Winchester who has been trained to hunt and kill things that have done nothing to anyone he cares about. Sam Winchester who ran away and went to college and then ran away from college four years later when his brother appeared. Sam Winchester who left his girlfriend or whose girlfriend left him. Sam Winchester who might have psychic powers but has no one specific demon out for him personally. How does he make you feel?
And what if Mary doesn't die? What if John and her pick up their boys up early on and go on a preemptive war against all things supernatural? Maybe Missouri is a friend of Mary's and tells her about the demons and she tells John. Maybe Pastor Jim is an old marine buddy of John's and he passes on the word. Doesn't matter how, somehow they find out the existence of these things and decide to go kill them all.
Mary, John, Dean and Sam have never lost anyone they know to any kind of supernatural thing. They still hunt all things supernatural though.
It's still demons that they're killing. They're still saving people's lives and protecting the innocent. But you probably fell a little different about them, don't you?
Why is that?