Why Do Some Leftists Love Fictional Villain Monarchs?

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vividgroovy
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05 Apr 2024, 11:15 pm

I wrote an entire post and the internet on my phone went off and took it away. Here's the short version:

Why do people on social media who use Leftist/"Progressive" terminology seem to love fictional villains who are absolute monarchs that never make any attempt to share any of their power with their people. Meanwhile they hate and vilify anyone who opposes those characters. I see comments like this constantly.

Some examples:

-- Daenerys Targaryen from "Game of Thrones"
-- Erik Killmonger from "Black Panther"
-- King Magnifico from Disney's "Wish"

I'm not talking about enjoying them as entertaining characters, which I totally get, or just saying that they have a point too, but viewing them as absolutely good and pure heroic role models and their rivals as pure evil villains. I don't get how that fits with their professed worldview.



Last edited by vividgroovy on 06 Apr 2024, 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

vividgroovy
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06 Apr 2024, 12:18 am

Accidental double post.



MaxE
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06 Apr 2024, 8:34 am

This may be a terrible thing to say, but I suppose some progressives wish for a sort of society that could only be maintained by some sort of benevolent dictatorship. Having said that, I'll confess to not being involved with that sort of social media, so it's possible I don't really know what you mean.


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06 Apr 2024, 12:03 pm

Lefties are usually somewhat anti-monarchist, and I would think many of them therefore like to see fictional monarchs portrayed as villains. I guess a fictional character's portrayed nature can influence people's opinion about the group the character represents, and the idea is that people will become a bit more left-wing.

I'm quite left-wing myself but I'm also an Aspie who isn't personally much influenced by fictional characters AFAIK, so although I understand the propaganda power of such things intellectually, my gut reaction is more "surely nobody's stupid enough to fall for that," though I sometimes have a bit of a feeling that the truth is somehow getting out about elitism with some of these things if they're done well.

I remember feeling that King John in "Robin Of Sherwood" was fairly credible as a lesson about the real nature of the British monarchy, but I was much younger and more hopeful then, and I now know that it didn't make the public any more left wing and that the nature of the monarchy is probably more complicated than that, though I'd still like massive hereditary wealth and power to be abolished.

Nasty little squirt, isn't he?



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06 Apr 2024, 4:17 pm

Most fictional monarchs are romanticized fantasies about how people like to think of monarchs . The only credible fictional British royal character I can think of is Edmund Black played by Rowan Atkinson.


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06 Apr 2024, 9:24 pm

I feel compelled to get this out of the way: You've found people who like King Magnifico? Where? Do such people exist? There are people who liked Wish?? I would have rolled my eyes at everything about that trainwreck when I was 9. I suppose theoretically there must be at least one person out there who considers themself a leftist yet is somehow dense or deluded or....something...to like King Magnifico.

It's sort of a matter of separating one's real world politics from the in-world politics. You don't even have to be a leftist. Leftists, liberals, conservatives, centrists--none of them monarchists, yet almost all of them were glad to see Aragorn in Lord of the Rings crowned king for example. If you were in the theater, and someone reacted to that scene with "But monarchy is undemocratic!", then everyone else in the audience would start laughing.

To go over the other examples:
Daenerys Targaryen (I am *not* going to talk about the nonsense of seasons 5-8) was popular with...almost everyone regardless of their opinion of monarchy. She stylized herself as The Breaker of Chains, trying to use her political power to end the slave trade on the continent of Essos. She genuinely cares about the everyday citizens she rules (even if she has no intention of giving them representation or suffrage). She is generally sympathetic given her horrible upbringing, her family being murdered, her being trapped as a glorified sex slave to Khal Drogo, etc. She is idealistic, but she has the power (ie: dragons) to back it up. She fulfills a kind of power fantasy of being able to call out society's rulers and them having to listen (or your dragons will roast them). Criticizing Danny for not being more democratic is kind of silly, because she does not have much in-world reason to believe in democracy. It would like being mad that no one in The Lord of the Rings is a feminist when feminism doesn't really exist (and there's like 2 women in the whole cast lol). Democracy is almost non-existent in the World of Ice and Fire. The Iron Island nobles elect their king at a kingsmoot, but everywhere else in Westeros is ruled by hereditary rulers. Essos is slightly more democratic, with many cities being ruled by princes or lords elected by wealthy and powerful citizens, but this still is a far cry from modern democracy, and Danny's experiences in those cities (except maybe Braavos) have not endeared her to their system of government. Danny would rather be an enlightened despot, but given how things are going in Meereen in the books, it is likely Danny will start down a dark path where she is more willing to use violence and less willing to compromise... Danny went down that dark path on the show in season 8 (I'm gonna nuke this helpless city with my dragons!)--something which cost her almost all of her fans overnight.

Killmonger is a little more straightforward. Killmonger is himself an anti-racist radical who is willing to use violence and work outside respectable channels to fight injustice. He wants to rule Wakanda as part of his plan to liberate the world's oppressed peoples with Wakanda's technological superiority--not so much because he likes the idea of being a dictator iirc (it's been a while since I've seen the film). Killmonger is one of those characters that is willing to say truth about the world that the protagonists do not want to hear.
This popularity can seem illogical given Killmonger's less savory behavior (eg: killing his girlfriend when she was being held hostage), but people chalk this up to poor writing more than anything else. Killmonger is one of many characters who fall into a very annoying villainous trope for me and a lot of other people: the villain who makes lots of good points but then does evil things for no apparent reason to try to make him unsympathetic. It's kind of like Ultron. He makes some good points, but the writers aren't prepared to address those points, so he starts using indiscriminate violence and the Avengers have to put him down. Good thing we don't have to worry about those uncomfortable points he was making, huh? That might cause us to write stories with messages that the US military wouldn't like.

Another example would be the manga Fullmetal Alchemist. Leftists *adore* this manga (like most people), but basically all of the cast is fine with being part of or being ruled by a military dictatorship. One of the most loved characters, Roy Mustang, has the goal of improving the country by becoming führer (yes that is what that position is actually called in all translations I know of).

It's about admiring a character's ideals more than how that character thinks is the best political way to further those ideals. It's not realistic to expect a character in a fictional, undemocratic world to share political beliefs with me. If I hated every character who supported monarchy, then I wouldn't be able to enjoy very much fantasy or sci-fi, would I?


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07 Apr 2024, 12:56 am

That all being said, there are just some self-identified leftists who are, in fact, too dense to acknowledge that no, that character in that fantasy series probably doesn't agree with you on politics.


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07 Apr 2024, 1:38 am

Popes and Monarchs were the epitome of the seven deadly sins. Centuries of violence and peasant deprivation gave rise to some absolute pathological monsters.Even fairy tales couldn't hide their gruesome nature.

Modern Disney villains are sanitised clowns.



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07 Apr 2024, 4:01 am

roronoa79 wrote:
I feel compelled to get this out of the way: You've found people who like King Magnifico? Where? Do such people exist? There are people who liked Wish?? I would have rolled my eyes at everything about that trainwreck when I was 9. I suppose theoretically there must be at least one person out there who considers themself a leftist yet is somehow dense or deluded or....something...to like King Magnifico.

It's sort of a matter of separating one's real world politics from the in-world politics. You don't even have to be a leftist. Leftists, liberals, conservatives, centrists--none of them monarchists, yet almost all of them were glad to see Aragorn in Lord of the Rings crowned king for example. If you were in the theater, and someone reacted to that scene with "But monarchy is undemocratic!", then everyone else in the audience would start laughing.

To go over the other examples:
Daenerys Targaryen (I am *not* going to talk about the nonsense of seasons 5-8) was popular with...almost everyone regardless of their opinion of monarchy. She stylized herself as The Breaker of Chains, trying to use her political power to end the slave trade on the continent of Essos. She genuinely cares about the everyday citizens she rules (even if she has no intention of giving them representation or suffrage). She is generally sympathetic given her horrible upbringing, her family being murdered, her being trapped as a glorified sex slave to Khal Drogo, etc. She is idealistic, but she has the power (ie: dragons) to back it up. She fulfills a kind of power fantasy of being able to call out society's rulers and them having to listen (or your dragons will roast them). Criticizing Danny for not being more democratic is kind of silly, because she does not have much in-world reason to believe in democracy. It would like being mad that no one in The Lord of the Rings is a feminist when feminism doesn't really exist (and there's like 2 women in the whole cast lol). Democracy is almost non-existent in the World of Ice and Fire. The Iron Island nobles elect their king at a kingsmoot, but everywhere else in Westeros is ruled by hereditary rulers. Essos is slightly more democratic, with many cities being ruled by princes or lords elected by wealthy and powerful citizens, but this still is a far cry from modern democracy, and Danny's experiences in those cities (except maybe Braavos) have not endeared her to their system of government. Danny would rather be an enlightened despot, but given how things are going in Meereen in the books, it is likely Danny will start down a dark path where she is more willing to use violence and less willing to compromise... Danny went down that dark path on the show in season 8 (I'm gonna nuke this helpless city with my dragons!)--something which cost her almost all of her fans overnight.

Killmonger is a little more straightforward. Killmonger is himself an anti-racist radical who is willing to use violence and work outside respectable channels to fight injustice. He wants to rule Wakanda as part of his plan to liberate the world's oppressed peoples with Wakanda's technological superiority--not so much because he likes the idea of being a dictator iirc (it's been a while since I've seen the film). Killmonger is one of those characters that is willing to say truth about the world that the protagonists do not want to hear.
This popularity can seem illogical given Killmonger's less savory behavior (eg: killing his girlfriend when she was being held hostage), but people chalk this up to poor writing more than anything else. Killmonger is one of many characters who fall into a very annoying villainous trope for me and a lot of other people: the villain who makes lots of good points but then does evil things for no apparent reason to try to make him unsympathetic. It's kind of like Ultron. He makes some good points, but the writers aren't prepared to address those points, so he starts using indiscriminate violence and the Avengers have to put him down. Good thing we don't have to worry about those uncomfortable points he was making, huh? That might cause us to write stories with messages that the US military wouldn't like.

Another example would be the manga Fullmetal Alchemist. Leftists *adore* this manga (like most people), but basically all of the cast is fine with being part of or being ruled by a military dictatorship. One of the most loved characters, Roy Mustang, has the goal of improving the country by becoming führer (yes that is what that position is actually called in all translations I know of).

It's about admiring a character's ideals more than how that character thinks is the best political way to further those ideals. It's not realistic to expect a character in a fictional, undemocratic world to share political beliefs with me. If I hated every character who supported monarchy, then I wouldn't be able to enjoy very much fantasy or sci-fi, would I?


Good point, like idk I really like super bad characters in sci fi and fantasy, not like I'd actually like them in real life...but like I am impressed when an actor or actress does a really good job of portraying an evil character. Doesn't mean I suddenly support monarchy or dictatorship just because I like a fantasy story in a setting with that kind of government. Just means I can enjoy a story even if its setting is a f****d up world. Idk. Cause I am quite left wing but I sitll appreciate a good written or acted evil villan character.


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07 Apr 2024, 4:13 am

Yeah liking an evil villain character has nothing to do with politics. More to do with personality.



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07 Apr 2024, 3:00 pm

roronoa has made good points.

The other thing to remember is that, historically, most leftist governments have been dictatorships. If you're already claiming to be a fan of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Tito, or whoever, as some leftists do, then the concentration of power in one person doesn't seem like an issue. Even some non-tankie leftists are much more sceptical of democracy than liberals and will accept the idea that we just need the "right dictator".

Unfortunately Lord Vetinari doesn't exist.



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07 Apr 2024, 5:12 pm

I've never understood the position of "our society concentrates too much power into the hands of too few, so let's switch to a system that concentrates far more power into the hands of even fewer".


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07 Apr 2024, 5:19 pm

Using the term "leftist" pretty much saps any actual standing one might have. There is no such thing as leftism and as such no leftists.

As far as the topic goes, the key word here is "fictional." There's all sorts of fictional things that people like that they wouldn't care for in real life.



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07 Apr 2024, 7:00 pm

The_Walrus wrote:
roronoa has made good points.

The other thing to remember is that, historically, most leftist governments have been dictatorships. If you're already claiming to be a fan of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Tito, or whoever, as some leftists do, then the concentration of power in one person doesn't seem like an issue. Even some non-tankie leftists are much more sceptical of democracy than liberals and will accept the idea that we just need the "right dictator".

In my experience, the leftists I meet in my day-to-day do not want some sort of strong man to act as figurehead for the revolution. Even if you actually think that concentrating that much power and influence in one person is moral or practical in the short term, it makes things politically top heavy and things can fall apart very quickly once Glorious Leader kicks the bucket. It's like putting all your eggs in one basket. Tito is a perfect example of this.

Most leftists I talk to believe that it is much better to operate without fixating on leaders at any level. If you cut off a snake's head, the snake will die, because the body cannot function without the head. But if you cut down a mushroom, the fungal colony underneath will be unharmed, because it does not need the mushroom to function. Don't strategize like a snake--strategize like a...uh...fungal colony! I guess!

It's easier to fixate on leaders in media, because individual characters more easily represent ideals to the audience than the faceless extras in the background.

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Unfortunately Lord Vetinari doesn't exist.

Sadly, I have not read any Pratchett. There's so much it's hard to know where to start :(

MatchboxVagabond wrote:
Using the term "leftist" pretty much saps any actual standing one might have. There is no such thing as leftism and as such no leftists.

Not sure what you mean by this. "Leftists" just describes anyone who ascribes to left-wing politics. "Leftism" is a vague term that refers to left wing politics as a whole based on shared beliefs between left-wing ideologies.


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Δυνατὰ δὲ οἱ προύχοντες πράσσουσι καὶ οἱ ἀσθενεῖς ξυγχωροῦσιν.
Those with power do what their power permits, and the weak can only acquiesce.

- Thucydides


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07 Apr 2024, 9:24 pm

MatchboxVagabond wrote:
Using the term "leftist" pretty much saps any actual standing one might have. There is no such thing as leftism and as such no leftists.

As far as the topic goes, the key word here is "fictional." There's all sorts of fictional things that people like that they wouldn't care for in real life.


Leftist has become a slur, especially on right wing media outlets



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08 Apr 2024, 1:20 am

Fantasy Fiction is a very romanticized version of Monarchy, where the primary characters are part of the elite and have power, or are abused the elite and able to take power over them, pretty much never part of the "normal" folks. Who doesn't want to have power and status? To dream you can "win" the "game" of the struggle for power? But fantasying about it doesn't mean you'd be willing to saddle the world with the real life costs that such a system tends to create.

Once you learn anything about history, you know that none of it was ever like the fantasy, it was never very kind or just, nor was it ever safe for the elites at the top, and its nice to know we don't live like that anymore.

Evolving is a good thing.

But humans will always have a type of nostalgia for the way things never were.



Also ... I do not like being called Leftist, but I will own "bleeding heart." I believe in Democracy, restrained capitalism, accepting people as they are, and that most people are good ... just that the ones who aren't manage to have outsized impacts.


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