The Importance of Character Choice in “Chosen One” Story Archetypes


So I've had lightbulb after lightbulb going off with story discussions since I've started researching my graphic novel that serves to spit in the face of "chosen one" tropes, focusing more on an oppressively bleak atmosphere where the characters' success is built on the backs of the less fortunate under their noses, so I've been doing research into tropes.

I was looking at writing tip videos when one video stated that they didn't want to see high schoolers turn down their chosen one identity because teenagers would always take the most interesting or culturally rebellious path, and with a drawn out sigh I closed the video.

Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance is a story revolving around two emotionally vulnerable kids, the main character and his brother who has an illness that renders his legs mostly useless who find an ancient book that transports them to the world of Final Fantasy. These four are the only ones who are really aware of their own existence in the world, making them the proverbial chosen ones for the setting. Yet, Marche, the main character, a teen who has everything lined up to produce any power fantasy he wants, is steadfast in his quest to return home.

By being in this world, his two friends' problems are permanently solved. Mewt's mother is still alive and his father has stopped drinking while Ritz is content knowing that her mother will never cry over her daughter's troubled peer relationships again.

Marche's brother, Donned, however, is more complicated. He isn't sick anymore, and he has become a mercenary for hire to protect Mewt's fantasy world.

The world of FFTA is Mewt's escapist fantasy dream that everyone was dragged into. Mewt is happy, Ritz is happy, Donned is happy, but its only because they are looking at the superficial fantasies before them instead of the implications of the world.

Chosen ones leave their families, their friends and their loved ones to go on a grand quest with no promise of an end, a reward or a reuniting because someone told them that only they could do it because "uhhhhh Mcguffin or something you have the keystone my guy". It is perfectly reasonable that a character at the beginning and middle stages of the bottom half of the hero cycle would be hesitant to continue, or may even try to quit. In some cases, like the one above, they're right. Marche is trying desperately to shatter the illusion of this power fantasy where he saves entire groups of people and sometimes even small governments from death by rogues. He wants to see his family again, he wants Donned to find his own self actualization outside of the dependence expected of him, he wants Ritz to come to terms with her self esteem and he wants Mewt to rise above his father.

My point with all of this is that characters are their own people, they aren't held down by a demographic and they can have unique reactions to situations that other people in that demographic wouldn't. Human beings aren't one note and a subversion of expectations in a character is only subversive if you deny the fluidity and complexity of humanity and morality. A character can choose not to be the chosen one, but then what? Death Note had Ryuk setting up the deaths of people who didn't meet his expectations, Voltron's chosen ones were character traits and multiple people could struggle over control of the Lions or even be rejected by them, and Devilman literally had the main character fail in the end because he thought he was chosen, but was really just another pawn.

This whole "unquestionable chosen one" thing seems to be more of a trope in western fantasy media and I think we need to start kicking it out.

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