Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Damn, That's One Whacked Out Chick

 Like Jack Chick, I don't understand the youth culture of the 1970s.

 Unlike Jack Chick, I have the excuse of not having existed.

 So, who's Jack Chick?

 Well, you've probably heard of him if you move in one of two circles: fundamentalist Christians (subsection: Evangelicals) or vocal atheists.

 If you're part of category one, you probably don't want to read the rest of this post.

 On the other hand, if you haven't heard of him because you're neither an Evangelical or a vocal atheist, an explanation is required.

 Jack Chick is a publisher of Christian evangelical (small 'e', this time) media.

 He's most well known for his small comic books known as 'Chick Tracts'.

 You may very well know of at least one of these if you're in yet another circle: D&D players.

 Oh yes, he's responsible for this:

  Now, I've played D&D, and you are not kicked out if your character dies.

  Your character generally gets replaced by a new character with the same stats.

 It's a communal activity, the entire point is to have fun with your friends! They covered this in the Dragon Strike VHS for Christ's sake!

 Also, doesn't usually involve witchcraft.

 Most of the people in our D&D group were secularists of one sort or another.

 Atheists love dragons.

 It's the second thing you learn when you become an atheist. One, you don't believe in god, two, you bloody love dragons.

 You're probably wondering how this is really relevant to writing.

 Well, I do have a reason.

 The reason is story arc.

 Also, characterisation.

 Story arcs are a big problem in Chick tracts, people are generally converted in about five minutes in a single conversation.

 Now, I get that he doesn't have a whole bunch of space, but this is not a compelling story arc in the slightest.

 Another problem in terms of story arc is that people tend to convert to his flavour of Christianity largely through being threatened with hell. Even tiny children.

 Which is a terrible way to present one's heroes. Think about it, if the hero of a story threatens and scares the antagonist into doing what they want, then they're not really very heroic, are they?

 Oh, that's a low blow.

 Also, a terrible example.

 Because the whole 'I am vengeance, I am the night' routine doesn't actually work. He still has to get into fights and he still has to do detective work. He still has to try, and he often fails.

 Jack Chick's heroes threaten people and it actually works. Minimum amount of effort required.

 Characterisation suffers because of this lack of effort on the part of heroes.

 Also, because Jack Chick and his cohorts don't understand why people aren't Christian.

 If you're going to present antagonists in your story who are part of a group you do not agree with for whatever reason, make sure that you actually know what it is that they actually believe and why they believe it.

 Let me make this really clear.

 Atheists aren't atheists because we're mad at god. We just don't believe in god because the arguments aren't compelling to us.

 If you aren't accurately representing your enemies, you're presenting what is known as a strawman argument. It's a logical fallacy and it's associated with having no real arguments. Also, being a dick.

 Of course, it's not just us. He clearly doesn't understand D&D, Catholicism, fascism, communism, Masonry, Islam, homosexuality and LGBT rights, secularism, evolution and science in general, paganism, Wicca, ancient British druidic religions, the origins of Thanksgiving, the religious make up of the United States, the origins of Halloween, or even his own religion and holy book.

 Pro-tip: Do Your Research

 But most of all, he doesn't understand basic storytelling.

 Which becomes incredibly obvious in the Chick Tract Humbug!

 He's stripped the entire story of A Christmas Carol of its themes of redemption, charity, personal growth and love in order to turn it into a story of an atheist in Victorian times who learns the ways of the lord and changes his ways because he's terrified of burning in hell and god told him to.

 Yes, not because it's the right thing to do, but because he's scared.

 At least, I assume Scrooge is meant to be an atheist in this tract. He doesn't appear to know anything about Jesus despite being born and raised in a highly, and even strictly, Christian society.

 Which shows another thing that Jack Chick doesn't understand, that being an atheist could get you imprisoned in the Victorian era.

 Basically, what I'm driving at here, is that you can take Chick Tracts as a great example of what not to do in story telling.

 Also, animation.

 Just look at it.

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