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Jul
24th
2014

Superman taught me to kill · 12:16am Jul 24th, 2014

There are only two ways writers can fail to communicate: They either fail to make the reader understand the story, or they fail to understand it themselves. One way to guard against either sounds like "show, don't tell", but it's a little different: Depict key information physically, whether shown or summarized, but not just in dialogue or by making claims about abstract concepts.

Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman's book Nurture Shock describes an experiment to determine whether violent television shows made kindergartners act more violent. Psychologists observed the playtime behavior of children who had watched different types of television shows. They counted the number of times each child showed antisocial behavior, physical or verbal.

They found that children who watched violent TV shows acted a little more aggressive. But kids who watched educational TV shows acted a lot more aggressive.

They concluded that the kids didn't put the events together as a story with causal connections. If they watched an episode like "One Bad Apple", where the main character acts aggressively through most of the show and then learns to act better at the very end―a common plot in educational TV―then the kids spent most of their time acting like that character acted most of the time. (This was before MLP, but I'm using this episode as an example because we've all seen it.) When kids see Babs bully the CMC, Babs is having more fun than the CMC, so the kids imitate Babs, not the CMC. On seeing Babs apologize at the end, the kids don't go back and retroactively change how they interpreted her earlier behavior. Kids weren't learning what the writers wanted them to learn, because they didn't understand the story the writers wanted to tell.

The psychologists didn't say, but I suspect it may be partly because the writers told the crucial parts in dialogue, without showing change. This is Babs Seed's reformation:

Babs Seed: After I'd been so mean to ya... you saved me!
Apple Bloom: [sighs] About that...
Babs Seed: I don't get it! I saw it all happen! You pushed me out just when the float was about to head into the lake!

And that's it; character arc completed. Sure, she says she's sorry. But all I saw was Babs being mean, then stealing a parade wagon but not getting hurt, then not being mean anymore. Can a 4-year-old be blamed for not realizing anything important happened there? Or a 24-year-old, for that matter? (1)

Readers don't get the message the writer wants to convey when the writer tells one story, but accidentally shows another. For instance, the writers of Superman, Batman, and the other superhero shows and comics of my youth probably didn't realize that they were teaching me to kill.

Violent solutions have an appealing simplicity and effectiveness. If I'd been president in 1962, I doubt we would've gotten through the Cuban missile crisis so successfully. If I'd been a black man in Mississippi in the 1960s, it's hard to imagine how I could've gotten through the decade without getting a rifle and starting to shoot white people.

The allure of violence is widespread. Most political discourse in America doesn't make sense if you imagine it's intended to convince people of one view or another. It makes more sense if you assume that the only solution anyone on either side really believes in is to kill everybody on the other side.

Yet all through my youth I was carefully sheltered from violence—more so than my father's generation, who read EC comics and watched war movie after war movie, and were often encouraged by their parents to solve their differences with each other with their fists; and more than the present generation, which has probably seen more gore and violence on TV and in video games by the age of ten than I had when I went to college. Instead of John Wayne or Team Fortress 2, we had Batman, Spiderman, He-Man, and other do-gooders who fought bloodless battles with the same villains over and over again. Didn't this teach us that killing isn't the answer?

What I remember, when I think about it, is being more and more disgusted with Batman for not just dropping the Joker out a window, until I quit reading comics. They showed, over and over, that the merciful, bloodless code of Superman and Batman was a failure. They always sent the villains back to jail; they always escaped again; more innocent people always died again.

(It wasn’t just comics. I don’t suppose I’ve read more than thirty superhero comics in my life. It was the American formula for all entertainment for boys. It was like fluoride: in the water, unavoidable.)

The writers thought that they were teaching kids to be merciful, as Superman was merciful. They also thought they were teaching compassion towards the villains by showing that they weren't just interested in money, power, or thrills, but had tragic back-stories that made them hate the hero obsessively. But what they were really teaching kids was this:

1. Problems are made by evil, corrupted people who can never be reformed.
2. Evil people oppose you because they hate you and want to destroy everything you stand for.
3. Good always beats evil in a fair fight.
4. Superman should have dropped Lex Luthor from 30,000 feet in Action Comics #2.

Today's online first-person-shooters might make kids enjoy violence. I don't know. But at least these kids learn that violence has risks, and that it's easier to start a fight than to end it. Video games don't show kids over and over that the good guys are super-powerful and could easily solve everybody's problems without anybody innocent getting hurt if they just stopped being wimps and killed all the bad guys. Counterstrike might have lead to school shootings, but Superman led to the invasion of Iraq (2).

It's not hard to accidentally show the opposite of what you say. When I wrote Mortality Report, a key idea of the story was that immortality was a great prize, so giving it up voluntarily was an act of (literal) self-sacrifice. Celestia said she wanted to live forever. But what most people saw was that Celestia was thousands of years old, still unable to solve her own problems, and desperately unhappy; therefore, immortality is a curse, and giving it to someone else was an act of selfishness, changing the meaning of the story. The story I told didn't quite match the story I showed.

(And sometimes you embarrass yourself by actually telling the story you subconsciously wanted to tell, instead of the story you thought you wanted to tell. Fred Clark's reviews of Left Behind claim that the whole series is a continual exposure of the twisted psyches of its authors that would humiliate them if they weren't too stupid to recognize it. I realized long after writing "Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade" that it was a suspiciously-good allegory for something in my own life.)

Every time you warp your story world's reality one way for story purposes—villains are never reformed, or a super-intelligent, godlike entity thousands of years old obsessed with motherhood can't just adopt—everything connected to that change warps a little bit too, changing the story's meaning. It's like laying a warped sheet of linoleum. You can press on the bump in the center and flatten it out, but littler bumps will spread out in all directions.

The bumps will happen in places you didn't nail down by showing. Showing something makes it true in the story world. Having a character say something doesn't. If Batman just says that killing the Joker would be wrong, the kid reading doesn't know if it is or isn't, even within the story world. Maybe Batman is wrong.

Telling your readers something important is dangerous. It means you didn't show it, which means it might not be true even within your story.

That may be the main advantage of showing over telling. It isn't that body language is good and narrative is bad. It's that things shown are true within that world; things told could be lies.


[/hr]
(1) An alternate explanation is that kids don't learn things the way Babs was supposed to have learned not to bully. Babs learned because she bullied the CMC, and then they acted nice to her anyway. This can work in real life, but not on five-year-olds.

(2) Not that I'm gonna conclude, at this point in history, that the invasion of Iraq was a failure. But it sure didn't follow the script.

Report Bad Horse · 1,765 views · #writing #superhero
Comments ( 35 )

Saw this linked in Estee's thread. Truthfully the reason Supes is such a saint now in days was because he was all kinds of dick originally. So he's just biding his time before he snaps again.
http://www.cracked.com/article_20069_5-classic-superman-comics-that-prove-he-used-to-be-dick.html

As for Batman. http://www.cracked.com/article_20111_the-6-most-brutal-murders-committed-by-batman.html Dude, for a person whose moral code is to not take a life. He's taken a ton of lives. Some in ways that make a regular Joker murder scheme look like a humanitarian peace effort.

This is really awesome and thought out. I honestly with all kinds of shows and games I liked thrived on this untold background story. The dissonance did honestly make for some good lunch table discussions when I was in highschool. Funny how people complain about the kinda gory violence that kids are exposed to, but so far we seem to be more hesitant to go to war than the ones who grew up watching shows featuring violence with no consequences like Loony-Tunes or Popeye.

Superman taught me to kill as well...
img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120214194533/superman/images/c/c6/Supermans_Pal_Jimmy_Olsen_115.jpg
It was a tad more literal in my case.

But in every Elsewhere comic where Superman kills villains, he becomes evil. Or insane. Or a combination of the two WHERE HE BECOMES SANTA CLAUS AND GET'S GIANT GUNS TO KILL TWIN CLONES OF HITLER!
redshirt.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/supernazi8.jpg

So many artistic decisions are the result of desperate bargains with time--a deadline, the running time of a show, the author's mortality.

Babs' conversion was one such bargain: remember that the show is just a half-hour toy commercial (or, rather, a twenty-three minute commercial, because there needs to be time for commercials within the commercial).

So, I imagine, was Batman's decision to spare the Joker. Comics Code aside, the Joker was such a great villain that DC would've naturally wanted to keep him around. It was a deal for longevity.

And of course these decisions warp the story in unexpected ways. That, sometimes, is just what's needed to produce inspiration or get you past writer's block. I often find that if I don't know what to say or do next in a story, the act of just sitting down and writing--setting the clock ticking, so that I HAVE to make decisions without plotting out all the consequences--will get me past that blank patch.

The more I write the less I'm afraid of the disruptive effects of 11th-hour decision-making--even, say, the decision to tell rather than show. It brings in that bit of chaos necessary to the order of creation.

2310561
IT WAS YOUR FAULT

The psychologists didn't say, but I suspect it may be partly because the writers told the crucial parts in dialogue, without showing change.

Umm... umm... umm...
When I was a little, little kiddie, I didn't like watching dialog scenes. In fact, I just skipped over those talky parts by playing with my action figures. You know, so I could have pretend violence before the tv show started showing it again.

Going back and watching those shows when I was older made me realize that an absolute fuckton of stuff flew over my head, an absolutely hilarious amount. He-Man really comes to mind. I had to be like 4 or 5 when YTV was airing in the 90's. All those lessons at the end I never paid attention to...

Oh, and strangely a viewed things like super strength and feats of endurance to be rather normal when I was younger. Only when I got older did things like lifting someone up, hanging onto a ledge with one end, sword fighting, doing backflips and even pushing a car become a big deal for me. Y'know things that may require years of training. Like, I see a fight scene and I'll be impressed and actually try to see each individual move and try to analyze it, but back then when I was a kid, it was simply a fight scene. They happen all the time and watching them all the time was good.

Man, what the hell where my parents thinking?! They should've actually taught me some life lessons instead of me finding them out when I was 18 or whatever. Hooray for overprotective parents? Protect their child from the world, but not the magic picture box?

...I want to watch episodes of Rupert and Babar now.

And I had a severe lack of judgement as a kid. Good times(?)

On the other hand, Japanese serials tend to kill off villains fairly efficiently. If they return, they either are converted, redeemed, or they were more mischievous (and incompetent) than straight up evil. Japan's crime rate is also one of the lowest in the world.

However, most American superheroes are very popular around the world. I'm willing to bet that it isn't that Batman proved you that straight up murder is the best option, but that you are culturally conditioned to think that way, and that people in other cultures will see things very differently.

2310682 One of the arguments I had with the people who ran a White Wolf MORG that I spent a horrific amount of time on was their insistence that villains with Wyrm taint could never be redeemed. They said it would break the world's ethos if even one such villain was ever reformed. In which case, I said, it oughta be broken.

And sometimes you embarrass yourself by actually telling the story you subconsciously wanted to tell, instead of the story you thought you wanted to tell.

This pretty much sums up my fear of writing.

You posted this! I remember reading an early version of this essay ages ago. And it is brilliantly put together.

It's an interesting concept, to be sure. It's intriguing how many implicit lessons we are teaching while we think we are teaching something else entirely. And even more intriguing to think on what sort of lessons we can't help but teach given the constraints of also telling a story. The inevitability of teleology, say. Things happen for a reason and with a purpose and proceed with linearity and some semblance of causality. Or perhaps the most pernicious lesson of them all: that there is such a thing as a main character.

Hmmm.

I believe this goes hand in hand with what TV Tropes calls "Informed Attribute"; when the author, instead of showing through the story an attribute of the character, scenario, setting, etc, just tells what that attribute is.

That TV Tropes article points a further complication when this happens: it erodes the trust of the reader. To make a MLP example, if Applejack is told to be the holder of the element of Honesty but is shown to lie, why should the reader afterwards believe that the other elements holders are true to their elements? Or, to take an example from your own article, if a comic book tells that it's better to be good, but shows the bad guys being better off, why should the reader trust that any other moral told in the comic is true?

And, of course, there can be value dissonance between the writer and the reader. As a simple example, I abhor any kind of alcoholic beverage, and have done so since before I was of legal age to drink; any situation that shows alcoholic beverages as a reward, or else something positive, will likely cause a quite different reaction on me than what the author intended.

The bedrock of the issues lies within the the dissonance of organized stories again the flighty, meandering progression of real life. Fiction can be tailored and polished and structured to deliver a specific message, but the real world doesn't provide answers so readily. We carry our own interpretations of the events we encounter, and we're resilient to change. A story isn't likely to revolutionize someone's views - it's more apt to sway a hesitant, unsettled person one way or another. People are tricky like that.

This is a very good essay, but the footnotes are painful to use. Please, for the love of control-F, use the same format for footnotes at the reference and at the note itself. I wish I could say something that contributed more to this discussion, but the hour is late and my brain is fried and the footnote formatting is irritating and therefore attention-grabbing.

2311112 That's a good idea. Little usability details like that are more important than most people realize.

2311103 That's, like, my definition of "literature"--the kind of story that tries to be true that way.

2310704 So like, some horrible scaly growth between their legs?

Here are the four things I know.

1: You don't tug on Superman's cape.

2: You don't spit into the wind.

3: You don't pull the mask off the Lone Ranger.

4: You don't mess with Jim.

While I have no personal experience with the one and three, I learned in Boy Scouts that #2 is undeniably correct.

Also, I used to work with Jim, and I can say with certainty that #4 is good advice.

2311157

I actually wrote a blog post a while ago about how to do footnotes well. And, looking at it, I specifically called out the way you did the footnotes as (say it with me) derpicdn.net/img/2012/9/6/91188/full.gif

2311188 I don't understand what it is you're asking.

2310859
Your abominable lack of clear citation usage is showing again, Ghost[1].

2311326 2310859 Ghost has a unique relationship with footnotes, similar to AugieDog's relationship with colons. (Of the typographical kind.)

2311326
I'm sure I don't know what you are talking about.
:trollestia:
Sorry. I was editing the post and I got distracted.

2311338
2311326
See? Bad Horse understands me.

2311313 I just assumed Wyrm Taint is some sort of horrible skin disease one gets on the Perineum. Like an STD you get from shacking up with a dragon or something.

2311349 Terry Pratchett has programmed me from a young age to subconsciously enjoy footnotes and associate them with delayed humor in literature, so please keep them up!

They found that children who watched violent TV shows acted a little more aggressive. But kids who watched educational TV shows acted a lot more aggressive.

They concluded that the kids didn't put the events together as a story with causal connections. If they watched an episode like "One Bad Apple", where the main character acts aggressively through most of the show and then learns to act better at the very end―a common plot in educational TV―then the kids spent most of their time acting like that character acted most of the time. (This was before MLP, but I'm using this episode as an example because we've all seen it.) When kids see Babs bully the CMC, Babs is having more fun than the CMC, so the kids imitate Babs, not the CMC. On seeing Babs apologize at the end, the kids don't go back and retroactively change how they interpreted her earlier behavior. Kids weren't learning what the writers wanted them to learn, because they didn't understand the story the writers wanted to tell.

Er, might this not indicate something else entirely; i.e. that kids who watched educational TV shows were bored, and therefore acted more aggressively afterwards as an outlet for their energy, while the kids who watched violent TV shows spent most of their energy on the violent show?

This seems like an entirely plausible alternative hypothesis for this behavior, and in keeping with children's behavior - if they are bored, they tend to act out more to recieve attention/entertainment.

It's not hard to accidentally show the opposite of what you say. When I wrote Mortality Report, a key idea of the story was that immortality was a great prize, so giving it up voluntarily was an act of (literal) self-sacrifice. Celestia said she wanted to live forever. But what most people saw was that Celestia was thousands of years old, still unable to solve her own problems, and desperately unhappy; therefore, immortality is a curse, and giving it to someone else was an act of selfishness, changing the meaning of the story. The story I told didn't quite match the story I showed.

One other problem with this can lie in the audience itself, where the same story can have multiple different interpretations depending on the prediliction of the readers. Well, not necessarily a problem, this is a good thing in some cases, but can also lead to strangeness, where the same story tells two different things to people.

One example of this is Drinking Alone, Except With Two. People who go into it not understanding why Sparity is messed up or creepy come away thinking it has a happy ending, because the two are letting themselves be together.

People who go into it with more wisdom recognize the story as a tragedy - Spike and Rarity aren't getting together because they want to get together, but because Rarity is afraid of dying alone and Spike knows that Rarity is not interested in him but goes for it anyway because he has wanted to be with Rarity for a decade now and can't let go. It is a horrible idea and both of them know it, but the reader who doesn't recognize this (which isn't even subtext; it is pretty much explicitly there in the story) completely misses it and thinks it has a happy ending.

It doesn't.

And sometimes you embarrass yourself by actually telling the story you subconsciously wanted to tell, instead of the story you thought you wanted to tell.

Like when the ex-gay guy who wrote Mythequestria accidentally wrote a story about him being in a forbidden relationship he couldn't have children with, and that people would persecute and possibly kill him over?

Definitely no subtext there, no sir.

1. Problems are made by evil, corrupted people who can never be reformed.
2. Evil people oppose you because they hate you and want to destroy everything you stand for.
3. Good always beats evil in a fair fight.
4. Superman should have dropped Lex Luthor from 30,000 feet in Action Comics #2.

Ironically, I think showing the futility of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict might do much more to show kids that war is dumb, though #1 and 2 still hold. Its just that there are no good guys and killing everyone in both countries doesn't really solve the problem (okay, it actually kind of would, though not really - the goal is, after all, for them to stop being bad guys, and while killing them all will "end the conflict", it isn't really a success by any realistic measure).

Of course, on the other hand, I think that the civil rights movement is mythologized amongst the African American community, and they have the highest murder rate of anyone in the US, despite the fact that the movement worked precisely because it relied on making the bad guys expose their lack of humanity and getting everyone on the side of civil rights via non-violence. So obviously, showing that non-violence is the answer doesn't seem to always work. India and Pakistan still get into stupid fights as well, despite Ghandi's own actions.

The bumps will happen in places you didn't nail down by showing. Showing something makes it true in the story world. Having a character say something doesn't. If Batman just says that killing the Joker would be wrong, the kid reading doesn't know if it is or isn't, even within the story world. Maybe Batman is wrong.

To be fair, I think there are ways of showing Batman to be right in not killing people, and I think some mediums have managed to do that.

If Batman puts the Joker in jail, and he stays there, then it works.

If Batman puts the Riddler in jail, but he escapes and is just trying to mess with Batman rather than actually kill people, it works.

But when you try to make your world darker and grittier, a hero like Batman doesn't work, because his whole ethos becomes incredibly questionable. Killing the Joker in the comics universe would save lives; it is unethical NOT to, and given that he keeps trying to kill people, and keeps trying to kill Batman specifically, it is justified - and heck, in some cases, where the Joker is actively trying to kill Batman, it would be self defense.

Superman, I think, has the fundamental flaw that he is too flawless, and thus, there are only really two interesting stories about him, and one of them is about his code being tested (that is to say, that killing is never justified, and contrasting it with reality and him struggling to keep it, and why he actually even bothers).

Of course, if you don't view these stories as trying to teach a lesson at all, and merely being a story about something, I think this issue is lessened; I didn't have any complaints about Batman's behavior in Arkham Asylum, even though he didn't kill the Joker.

2311345
[1] Well, now there's no footnote for my comment to have referenced!

[2] You cad[2]!

I always wondered where the America's superiority complex (may every American reading this and feeling offended forgive me :twilightblush:) comes from. Who knows, perhaps it was taught to our generation by the super-heroes we saw in the comic books when we were little kidos, just like you described it...

For my part, I just eventually decided that every story was independent of every other story. They were only intertwined insofar as showing different sides of the same character. The Joker didn't escape a thousand times; he escaped maybe three times ever. Some stories were hypotheticals about before he escaped, some about after, some about after it happened again. This viewpoint is possible because I decided the comic book characters made no sense in a continuity, and stopped interpreting them as existing within one.

(I sometimes feel like I was smarter in second grade than I was in ninth.)

Superman and DC are the most cancerous shit ever, especially the movies, they're just literally poorly written fanfiction of poorly written original fiction animated by depressed art students.

2311368 No, it's a spiritual corruption.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, right? Stories have power to affect us deeply, to twist our emotions up into knots and convince us of ideas, whether they're really true or not, or good or not. But there's a lot more going on under the surface here with this particular topic.

For one, I agree with 2311370 that the results of the study aren't conclusive, and may very possibly have alternate interpretations which are equally valid. Though it's interesting, as your essay would seem to argue for the very strict codes animation companies (like Hasbro) have with their children's programming...which bronies in general think mlp is an example against (kids aren't as dumb as we think, see you can make a show with more mature writing/lessons that doesn't harm them yadda yadda yadda). Please note I'm neither agreeing or disagreeing with this; maybe kids aren't as intelligent as we think, maybe they are. I don't have kids, so I don't have direct experience with them.

The superhero thing is...complicated. There's a lot of factors in play here, which we need to recognize before judging them. For one, consider their structure as an ongoing series (in whatever format), where in order to keep creating conflicts, you face only a limited number of options. Always creating new villains, reusing many of the same villains, or rebooting the series over and over again. All of these have been used over the decades, and mind you, it's really only the long standing villains we think of when it comes to your argument--superman should've just killed Lex Luthor, or Batman the Joker...but not that punk he stopped from robbing the store last issue. And that's part of the problem right there; we think the ideals of mercy are foolish when it comes to Lex because we see his long career of evil. We think it justifies receiving the ultimate punishment.

And maybe it does. But when you say:

Superman should have dropped Lex Luthor from 30,000 feet in Action Comics #2

you're saying it in relation to Lex Luthor's long history; you're using that as justification. See all the bad things he ended up doing? Superman should've just killed him. But you can't justify the argument in this way, because once superman does kill him in Action Comics #2, that history is erased. You can only justify punishment by what's been done, not what will be done (because no one can know this), and here you're taking a judgement based on a history, yes, but then retroactively applying it before that history can even occur, so that you're killing lex for what he will do. See, what "lesson" would killing Lex in issue 2 have taught? That it's okay to off some criminal that was just only just introduced? Superman has superpowers, and he's a good guy, so clearly he has the sovereignty to decide whether someone keeps their life or not.

And so maybe in the right circumstances I would to.

So should superman have killed Lex in issue 2? No. But should he have killed him after stopping him one hundred times? Well...I still think no (though it's not a completely confidant no).

See, superman, and most other superheros, are representations of ideals. Now kids aren't the best at interpreting symbolism, but him not killing does illustrate an important moral--not just that mercy is always what you should do (because it's not), but that even superman, with all his abilities and "goodness" doesn't have the right to decide on his own when to take a life. And if superman doesn't, then neither do I. Because while an ideal person like superman doesn't exist in the real world, neither do super villains, who continually escape prison and are never sentenced to death for their heinous crimes. Superheros teach that you never have the right to decide on your own volition to take someone's life, even if you think you're perfectly justified.

Does this mean that Lex or the Joker should never be killed? No, but just not by Batman or Superman acting entirely on their own. Let them get the death penalty or something (which is its own can of worms).

Of course, you can still argue that it would be fine for superman or batman to kill their respective mortal enemies after they've returned so many times and done enough damage, because, at least in our culture, we do see the hero taking the life of his enemy, usually in one on one combat, and we think they're justified. Superheros are the outliers in this respect. And even I think endless mercy is foolish; there's a time for mercy, and a time for justice. But you must be very wise in determining when those times are.

However, what we're discussing here is teaching children lessons, and while I do agree that the endless cycle of death can make mercy seem pointless, that's not mercy's fault, it the fault of the fact that the writers won't let the villains die by anyone's hands. If superman chose not to kill Lex, showing superman doesn't have that right, but then Lex is handed over to the courts and sentenced to death and dies, then that prevents superman's choice from seeming foolish. And in the real world, people like Lex do get the death penalty, or life in prison. But in the comics, Lex just rots in prison until he escapes.

And yes, when it comes to show vs tell, you always, always want to show your theme, and not just say it. That, for me, is where show vs tell really applies. It's not in the prose itself, the descriptions on a scene by scene basis (don't say your character is angry, show them being angry, and other crap like that), but it's in the message or idea or impression of life that you're trying to communicate that you want to "show". This is because readers will remember events more so than how something was described or illustrated. You take the message from what happens. And for writers who are intelligent enough, (or just lucky enough) they both show and tell their themes; you draw meaning from what happens in the story, and the story itself comments on that meaning, compounding it more. Like in Eternal...you can clearly see the impact Twilight has on Celestia, and at the end Celestia herself comments on that impact in the final letter she writes. Writers telling their themes happens I think when they don't know how to communicate something through the structure of the story. So a fanfic writer just ends up talking about how Twilight has had an impact on Celestia, without also showing that happening, and so the reader isn't convinced. We feel like the author is trying to convince us, not that the story is trying to convince us.

Kids learn about the world and how to relate to it by testing the whole gamut from angelic good to vile evil.
Parents are the ones who are supposed to guide that, not media.

I've never enjoyed comics for this exact reason. Any reasonable person would look at the Joker's track record and agree that his death is the most moral outcome. I figured that out at age 7.

I fucking love these blog posts, and the comments they generate.

They concluded that the kids didn't put the events together as a story with causal connections. If they watched an episode like "One Bad Apple", where the main character acts aggressively through most of the show and then learns to act better at the very end―a common plot in educational TV―then the kids spent most of their time acting like that character acted most of the time.

Well, that doesn't explain comparison against violent shows: if Babs Seed's story may kinda be interpreted as "someone being aggressive for some time and rewarded for that in the end", violent shows are likely straight up that without "interpreted" part (although, kid may as well learn full behavior pattern of "be a dick until they're starting to be nice to you and then switch", it's that in real life trigger for switching never comes). I think that may have something to do with "violent shows" usually containing evil villain (who is getting violence applied to with beneficial outcome) standing between our protagonist and something that protagonist want --- circumstances that don't look like regular socialization. I wonder how watching different shows may influence behavior of kids engaging in some kind of competition. And if it means that kids imitating Babs Seed are trying to apply turbocharged method of making friends? :rainbowlaugh:

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