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How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win?
This has been kicking around in my head for a bit after someone on the Discord posted a link to another forum where members were talking about comic book/cartoon characters and whether or not they could defeat the archai (a topic that apparently never gets old in some quarters).

OAs insistence that transapients and archai can virtually always defeat human level beings (and apparently baseline humans in particular) seems to really hit a nerve with some people and trigger a reaction that almost sums up as 'Heresy!!!'.

This got me thinking about the way that most SF (and Fantasy and to a lesser extent Drama) treats human beings (or the story protagonists in general) in conflict with various aliens, AI, magical forces, etc. and why they win so much that a lot of the SF community seems to take it as a given that of course humans must always win. Note that the below primarily applies to TV and film rather than literature (although it's in play a lot there as well).

The main conclusions I think I've reached are:

1) Humans/protagonists win because - at its core - the plot (or even the genre) demands it. At least if the story is to be classed as 'science fiction' (or whatever) rather than 'horror' - which is the one genre where the antagonist (often non-human) can win by the end of the story and everyone is generally 'happy' about it.

There are also issues - particularly in TV and film - of needing to keep the protagonists alive for future episodes or sequels. While there are a few exceptions to this, usually when an actor is leaving a show or if the writers/director are feeling like being particularly adventurous/dramatic, by and large you can go into most shows/films with the expectation that the heroes will all still be around by the end. The trick in most cases is to get the audience to forget (or at least not focus on) that for the duration of the show/film. And we the audience are usually willing to do that.

2) Most shows/films rely on a few tropes to accomplish '1' above (using the terminology from TV

a) Conservation of Ninjutsu - The antagonist(s) may beat up on the heroes in early/initial encounters, but somewhere along the line is suddenly going to become much less effective, often for no clear reason. They may all suddenly graduate from the Stormtrooper School of Aiming, or seem to forget they have abilities they used earlier, or something else. But they will be less effective than initially depicted one way or another. Unless of course they are Star Wars Imperial Stormtroopers in which case they won't be able to hit the broad side of a barn from the start. Tongue

b) Juggling the Idiot Ball (often combined with Bond Villain Stupidity) - This covers everything from the traditional 'the antagonist exposits their plan all over the place before setting up an overly elaborate way of killing the heroes' to the antagonists being too clever or arrogant for their own good (e.g, in SG-1 when the Ori try to manipulate humanity and the Jaffa into powering up their world crushing force field for them instead of just sending through the needed energy sources using the stargate - something they demonstrated themselves perfectly able to do in a later episode.). Details vary, but in the end this lets the heroes (usually human) prevail when they otherwise wouldn't have.

c) Deus Ex Machina - For no apparent reason, or strictly as a matter of coincidence, the antagonist will suddenly be revealed to have a weakness or limitation that has apparently never been encountered before (by the antogonist or anyone it has ever encountered before) and the protagonists will be able to use this to defeat the 'Big Bad'. It may be a disease, a bug in the system, an invention one of the protagonists just happens to come up with, or whatever. But it will hit the antagonist(s) out of left field and they will have no real defense or even idea of what could be happening to them in most cases - even if they are explicitly stated to have been engaging in combat with other races for thousands of years. Apparently only humanity had ever figured out Thing X - even if Thing X is fairly obvious as something worth exploring.

For all of the above - and the variants and combinations - OA explicitly tries to avoid this kind of thing. Which puts us at odds with how most SF presents things and what most people are used to - at least outside of a horror genre (and sometimes even there). So it seems likely that OA is creating a certain degree of cognitive dissonance (which some find painful) in how it does things. But in and of itself that doesn't invalidate how OA does things, nor does it really justify people believing that 'humans always win' is a real or viable thing vs a dramatic device. But apparently a lot of people do it anyway.

Anyway - just wanted to get this off my chest. So may or may not qualify as more of a rant than much else.



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How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - by Drashner1 - 04-26-2021, 12:03 AM

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