The modern era of storytelling has seen a new trend, a self-examining perspective that looks into the stories we tell and what they say about ourselves. This, of course, is the trend known as deconstruction.
Under the purview of deconstruction, what was once an unquestionable brand of heroism is now put to the test. The most pitiless villains are now shown a measure of sympathy and a chance to tell their side of the story. Glorious wars are now revealed as campaigns of bloodshed spurred by greed and prejudice. No authority is safe. No scriptures or structures left untouched or undemolished by the scrutiny of the New Critic or the modern audience.
It is because of deconstruction that the comical and light-hearted Batman of the Adam West era and the Golden Age of comics became the brooding and ruthless Batman of Frank Miller’s comics and Christopher Nolan’s films. It led to the darkening of the 2003 reimagining of Battlestar Galactica by Ron Moore et al. Peter Pan himself is no longer the whimsical fairy-boy taking children to Neverland, but, according to Brom’s novel The Child Thief, rather a fierce changeling who recruits abused and molested children to fight a war against ruthless God-fearing men known simply as “Flesh-eaters.”
This is just a small taste of what deconstruction manifests itself as within our culture. Yet as some have pointed out, there can be no permanent loss. That is broken down can also be rebuilt. And so we come to the flip-side of the coin, known as reconstruction.
In this world, sometimes the grim ending isn’t the only one. Sometimes the flaws can be embraced and the bright ending does happen. Having faced its own shadow, its own inner darkness, the hero stands up and does what he was born to do anyway.
Superman remains the Man of Steel and really can fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, despite being the last Kryptonian. The people of Gotham City can choose to reject the Joker’s madness and stand up for justice and dignity. Sometimes cowboys will be cowboys, pirates will be pirates, and not everything has to be cast as darker and edgier in order to still be appealing.
Such is the art of storytelling in the modern world. One can take a genre and break it down, and another can put it back together. There can be great skill in taking something apart, but there is also a certain wisdom in knowing what it can do when put together. So go out there, fellow writers and readers, dare to think and then dare to dream!
No reason you can’t do both.
This is the Scriptorium, signing off!