Extra Credits: Horror Protagonists

This week, we talk about the importance of protagonists in the horror genre (and wear costumes).

Show Notes:

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Recent Comments:

  • You know what, Eternal Darkness really hit this one on the head. Somehow, they managed to, without being awkward about it, fit ALL of the mentioned protagonist types into the same game.

    I probably can't remember all of them off the top of my head but I'll mention the ones I do remember

    Protagonist who is the monster:

    Pious Augustus: This guy appears in the first chapter of the Tome, and is hunting for an artifact for his emperor when he is drawn to the temple housing the three artifacts of the elderich gods of the game. He is the only protagonist unable, or unwilling to notice the feeling of danger around the artifacts and avoid touching it directly. He ends up being corrupted by the power of the artifact and is the main villain for the rest of the series.

    Protagonist who fails:

    Anthony: He accidentally discovers a plot to murder Charlemagne when a scroll he peaks at curses him. He struggles through all the horrors presented to him, even while decaying more with every passing moment. He finally reaches the chamber with Charlemagne moments late, and then dies himself.

    Bianchi: He is captured and forced to survey a site for the tower of flesh. He is one of the slowest protagonists, which makes escape harder. As well, more humans are around in this level, as well as more possessed humans. He succeeds in his task of inspecting the foundation, but instead of being granted his freedom, he is thrown into the tower's foundation to be burried under layers of bodies and concrete.

    Protagonists who overcome

    Karim: Initially, he is off to find an artifact to convince the love of his life to marry him, He is one of the most combat ready of the protagonists, and even gets a halberd that would make even lesser guardians seem about as threatening as a shambling corpse. Near the end, he learns that his 'love' had not been so loyal, and had been murdered by a jealous wife. At the end, he decides to stay to guard the artifact he was after to protect it from the darkness.

    Luthur: This one stands out to me as overcoming even though he really doesn't accomplish anything and he does die. What he does overcome though is fear. He discovers a murder in the church; and as a priest this would be horrid enough, but he is then also accused of the murder, locked up, and is let out by a man claiming that there is something strange going on in the church.

    At first, if you go to the exit door (this being one of two areas out of the four that has an exit door) it says that leaving would be an admission of guilt and so he cannot leave yet. Luthur, being a priest is slow, frail, and not a particularly good fighter. Even shambling corpses are a serious threat to him.

    eventually though, he discovers the truth about this church's evil, and is given a dagger that you know how to use to get to the last part of the level to the end. In order to get there, you have to walk past the exit door. Most players on their first time through probably would not have even thought to leave. And if you did, the reason for not leaving changes to say that Luthur cannot leave before he puts an end to the heresy.

    This guy overcomes fear it's self in his story; and is one of a few who isn't traumatized and maddened by his experience. even if he does get a fast cutscene death to the newly summoned greater guardian when he does confront Pious.

    Alex: The main example of this; she reads the tome and you experience the stories of every person who has held the book before through her. With each new story she learns vital skills for finding new pages and getting deeper into the manor, eventually confronting, and destroying Pious, and his eltritch god.

  • Just a thought here,but I've noticed, or can at least imagine, a fourth type of horror protagonist, the one that overcomes "but at what cost?". I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to horror so I'm short on examples, but any story where the protagonist survives but at some cost, be it physical or emotional, would fall under this category. You survived with severe emotional trauma? You escaped but lost both your legs? You were forced to sacrifice a loved one to save yourself? etc etc. It's hardly uplifting but the character overcomes in the most basic sense. I suppose this could also just be argued as The Protagonist that Fails though.

    Definitely agree with this, though I'm not sure it isn't a different example of the third option protagonist is the horror. After all...with Frankenstein the doctor believed he was "doing the right thing", until he realized that he wasn't.

    I would argue that The Walking Dead's a drop dead amazing example of the protagonists as their own horror. Rick, while the show's clear protagonist, isn't above doing things that would have horrified him in the per-apocalypse world, things he justifies because civilization as they know it has disappeared. In the comics (without spoilers I promise) he's become increasingly willing to do whatever is necessary in the name of what he considers right. Killing people and zombies to him is no longer as "hard" a choice as it once was back in the beginning of either the comic or the TV show. It makes the show hundreds of times more interesting for it, but I'm not sure he's a character who "overcomes" (despite the fact that he's still alive in current episodes of both the comic and show) without some majorly uncomfortable questions for the audience to ask.

  • I firmly agree that Spec Ops: The Line fits very well in the definition of that third hero type with Captain Martin Walker, who now easily ranks in my top 10 list of favorite video game characters. I don't think that's even much of a spoiler, since even Yahtzee says in his review "Somewhere along the line you do something bad."

    I'm trying to think through how Amnesia: TDD fits. Your character has done some pretty horrible things before he lost his memory, but it could be said that with a fresh memory, you can make a fresh start. There is success in the end, though it's certainly not through any extreme effort of violence.

  • This is a bit of a late comment, but I'm just now catching up on Extra Credits episodes and I just finished The Walking Dead adventure game by Telltale, and I'm curious...which type of protagonist does Lee fit under? (Spoilers for the game follow, of course.)

    [spoiler:1sholyzn]On one hand, you could say that Lee is the protagonist that overcomes. His motivation--at least the way I played him--seems to be, first and foremost, to protect Clementine. Although she's just a stranger, he takes her under his wing and treats her like his own daughter, and as the story continues does his best to teach her how to survive in the new world created by the zombie apocalypse. Thanks to Chuck's advice, he teaches her how to protect herself during episode 3, which comes in handy in episodes 4 and 5 depending on the choices you make. And when she's kidnapped by the Stranger, he successfully fights his way through hordes of zombies to find her, stop her kidnapper, and gives her a chance to escape. In the end, Clementine, while traumatized, becomes a stronger person and gains enough skills that she, apparently, manages to escape the city all on her own. (This is based off of my playthrough, at least--I'm not sure how much the different choices can change things, but I've gotten the impression that they don't change *that* much.) So if you consider Lee's goal to be to protect and teach Clem (or maybe to redeem himself for the (possibly accidental?) murder of a state senator), then he's succeeded.

    On the other hand, in the end Lee is bitten by a [s:1sholyzn]zombie[/s:1sholyzn] walker and, no matter what you do, will either be mercy killed by Clem or left behind to turn into a walker himself. He might rescue Clem and give her a chance to escape, but she's now apparently all alone in a harsh, unforgiving world (unless the two people we see in the end are truly friendly and trustworthy and Clem attaches to them--I'm hoping it was Crista and Omid but considering this game's habit of tearing my soul apart I'm not holding out hope for it). The horror that he's battling in the games eventually does defeat and kill him, and he's left behind the one person he's been desperately trying to ensure the safety of. Clem's safe for now, but we don't know if she'll CONTINUE to be safe. So in that sense, Lee's the protagonist that's defeated.

    I guess you could also argue that, depending on his choices in the game, he could also be the protagonist that becomes the horror he's fighting against. That's a pretty common theme throughout the entire The Walking Dead franchise--humans being the "true" monsters, and not the walkers. Lee didn't end up that way in my playthrough since I tend to stick with idealistic choices when given the opportunity, but if I wanted to I could've had him kill several of his group (normally for justifiable reasons, although I think the way you can get Ben killed is a little harder to justify), make several selfish choices, and show several moments of homicidal rage that hint back to his backstory. Not to mention he can literally turn into the very monsters he's fighting against in the end--and the only way to prevent that is to get Clementine to kill him, which you could argue is itself sort of horrific.

    So...yeah, is this a case where the hero could be any of the three types, considering how you look at it, or is Lee still more of an example of one type over the other? If I had to argue for one, I'd probably vote for #2 since he ends up being a zombie at the end, but I still felt like the end was sort of still triumphant because I succeeded in making Clem as safe as I could (and...I'm still hoping the two people seen in the end are Christa and Omid).[/spoiler:1sholyzn]

  • This is a bit of a late comment, but I'm just now catching up on Extra Credits episodes and I just finished The Walking Dead adventure game by Telltale, and I'm curious...which type of protagonist does Lee fit under? (Spoilers for the game follow, of course.)

    I think the fact that he - no matter how you play - [spoiler:1hno4shk]Lee chooses to find and help Clem despite being bitten[/spoiler:1hno4shk] makes Lee in the "overcoming" category. Sure, there's a bit of the "becoming the horror" aspect (specifically the hardened survivors/bandits more than anything else). He is actively fighting to surpass the horrors he's involved with to help a little girl.

    Not to mention that the true horror - [spoiler:1hno4shk]the stalker - is just another survivor latching on to what he can to get on in this world.[/spoiler:1hno4shk]

    The end game to The Walking Dead doesn't seem to be about overcoming anything, but rather about how you go about things, and what's worth doing to survive.

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