I’m at The Tablet (UK):
I think I first noticed it when the Star Wars sequels were coming out. Fans had strong opinions, as fans will, about the character Kylo Ren, a son of two heroes who turns to the Dark Side. But they expressed their hopes and fears in strikingly similar language, as if what had once been an array of diverse authorial choices was hardening into a trope: “I hope they don’t redeem Kylo.” “C’mon, they’re clearly setting him up for a redemption arc.”
I love stories of personal change: the cracking of a carapace of wrongdoing, guilt, complicity, despair. I love stories where wrongdoers learn a good, hard lesson; I love traitors to the bad side; I love penitents; I love careening disasters who somehow become indispensable; I love ambivalent change punctuated by relapse and change so extreme it scares or annoys the people who once begged you to get your act together. I love what the wrestling world calls “heel-face turns” in all forms. So why did this language of the “redemption arc” feel so wrong?