The Death Of A Character: Necessary Or Not?

People die, it’s a natural part of life, and apparently TV shows, movies and books are catching onto that fact, but should they be?

Entertainment, at its core is one of the most popular forms of escapism. Whether that’s a good practice or not is an argument for another time. That being said, in the world of screen the troubles never last for long, and the ending usually concludes happily.

As much as TV shows and movies are based on real life scenarios, such as a lawyer in a courtroom or a group of friends living in a huge city, their lives rarely reflect the reality of the actual world. No matter what happens, everything will be ok, the bad guy will be foiled and the good guy will live happily ever after.

In other words, we turn to TV shows, movies and books as a way to leave our world behind, and immerse ourselves in one where everyone miraculously survives a serious gunshot wound while somehow still managing to solve the mystery. Yes, it’s unrealistic, but that’s to be expected. If I wanted to watch something that mirrored my own life so exactly, I’d watch a home video.

Additionally, as consumers we enter each fictional world whether be through a TV show, movie or book with a set of expectations. The couple that we watch will end up together, the core group of characters will remain friends forever, and no permanent harm will come to our beloved characters.

Lately it seems that screenwriters are trying to be more realistic, especially when it comes to life and death situations. This recent TV season has seen the deaths of several beloved characters (here’s looking at you "How To Get Away With Murder" and "Jane The Virgin"), and people are not happy.

If you’re an avid "Game of Thrones" viewer, the death of a character is rarely shocking these days, in facts it’s expected. As George R. R. Martin explained in an interview, when he’s writing he seriously considers if the character could realistically escape death and if they can’t they die.

That’s "Game of Thrones" though, by this point if a character doesn’t die it’s almost a disappointment. Why then are other writers resorting to the same tactics.

There’s the age old excuse that the actor wanted out of their contracts, but there’s another reason. The world of TV is competitive, producers don’t want the same old story, even if it’s proven to sell well, they want something new and exciting, something that will increase their views and boost ratings. Enter killing off characters.

With the way social media works, when something shocking happens on a TV show, it becomes a trending topic, and suddenly everyone, regardless if they watch the show or not is intrigued. Hopefully intrigued enough to start watching the show themselves.

There’s very few reasons as to why it’s ok to kill off a character, and doing it for the sake of rating is a cheap and uncreative one. A character can be killed off if their death somehow moves the plot or arch forward or if they were destined to die since the beginning.

What writers need to understand is, character death is like death in the real world: it’s permanent, only so many characters can have an evil twin that no one has ever heard of because it’s some horrible secret.

As of now, it may be too soon to say if the death’s of recent characters were necessary towards moving the plot forward or if they were just for shock value. Regardless, in the end, if the character only died for shock value, the quality or lack thereof of the writer’s works will eventually be seen for what it is and all those unnecessary death scene will have been for nothing.
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