The other day as I sat watching the final scenes of Titanic with my mum and sister, I couldn’t help but think, “Did Jack really have to die?” It has been proven on Mythbusters that, technically, Jack could’ve survived, that both he and Rose could’ve fitted quite easily on that wooden board. When I voiced my indignation (amid tears, mind you), my mother said, “Well, it’s what the director wanted.” Or rather… it was written in the script that Jack dies, so I guess it’s what the writer wanted.
I’m not averse to being mean to fictional characters, but I do feel strongly about unnecessary killings. Jack’s death is arguably necessary; since the movie mostly revolves around Rose, and how her love for Jack saved her first on the ship and then throughout her life, even if he wasn’t there to see it. It’s rather bittersweet, and I suppose it does make some sense… but it’s more than I can say for other movies and books.
Before I go any further, this post may contain spoilers for Harry Potter, One Day by David Nicholls, Swamplandia! by Karen Russel, Armageddon and King Kong.
I love Harry Potter, but even so, I still can’t understand why she had to kill Fred Weasley… or Lupin or Tonks for that matter. It didn’t do anything to the plot or set off a chain of events; I thought it was completely pointless. I recently read One Day, which tells the story of two people who knew (and secretly loved) each other for many years before they finally got married, only to have one of them die suddenly and for no logical reason. I was left staring at the pages in shock. Karen Russel didn’t kill anybody in her book; however, she did subject her main character (a small girl) to rape for no logical reason, and to add insult to injury, she didn’t even do the scene justice.
As far as I’m concerned, these things only added a “shock factor” but nothing more. They were just unnecessary plot devices meant to stir emotions in the reader, but did not always achieve the desired effect. Some might say that death in real life is unnecessary and happens suddenly as well, but I don’t think fiction truly mirrors real life, and if the author was going to aimlessly go on a killing spree, then they shouldn’t have written the book to begin with. At least this way readers/viewers wouldn’t end up feeling cheated.
Take movies like King Kong and Armageddon. While it is true that major characters were killed there, their deaths did work in the context of the story, and I thought they were very emotional and touching. They did not die in vain, and they did not make me want to smash the TV or throw the book against the room.
How do you feel about unnecessary character deaths? Would you prefer if the author avoided killing their characters altogether, or are some killings acceptable?