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Non-violent heroic moments

Discussion in 'Fiction Discussion' started by Aleph, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. Aleph

    Aleph Magical Girl Moderator-chan Moderator

    Luke Skywalker using the Force to fire that critical missile into the Death Star's core. The Avengers suiting up and defending Manhattan from a horde of alien invaders. Harry Potter duelling Voldemort in a ruined Hogwarts after the destruction of his final Horcrux. The Fellowship challenging Sauron and throwing the Ring into Mt Doom.

    The general standard for action stories is that you finish with a big climactic fight scene, and in such things the plot usually gets resolved by punching. Okay, sometimes it's shooting or blasting or ramming or stabbing or whatever, but the basic principle essentially boils down to, in the paraphrased words of Kara Danvers, "punching the bad guy real hard until they fall down".

    But sometimes that's not what happens. Sometimes you get climaxes where the plot is ultimately resolved by talking. By communicating. By trusting, or diplomacy or giving a second chance. And I really, really, really like those moments and the moral they carry. So this is a thread to collect them. Spoilers obviously apply. Submissions must meet these key traits:
    • The character doesn't solve their problem with violent action. However, the potential to fight is there - a film without any violence in it in the first place doesn't count. Nor is a cop-out like a Disney Death where the villain conveniently self-disposes so that the character need not kill them.
    • The theme of the action is an idealistic one. It need not necessarily succeed - a character who does something genuinely heroic that fails is still heroic - but they must be trying to trust in people's better angels, to communicate and negotiate and approach things peacefully, etc.
    • The character can take action against someone if the foe is one who can't be reasoned with peacefully, but it mustn't be physically violent. Again, pacifist resistance carries the day; ways to fight back against evil or cruelty that aren't based on just having a bigger stick or being better at punching.
    • Fundamentally, the theme is here is "winning through compassion, rather than violence". Talking someone into suicide doesn't qualify just because you didn't physically hurt them (that would be a cop-out), you need to use kindness or morals in place of sticks and stones.
    There's some nuance here, of course. But in general, what I'm looking for here is the moment where a character stops in or before combat and goes "no, I'm not going to fight you". Luke Skywalker throwing away his lightsaber on the bridge of the second Death Star and refusing to battle his father. Especially those moments where they look at the villain; their enemy, and go "I believe you're better than that; we don't need to do this".

    So! Examples! Spoilers obviously apply.

    What did Anna do when Elsa all but attacked several people and fled her coronation ceremony? When she froze the whole kingdom in her wake? When the people decried her as a sorceress and a monster? Why, she saddled up and went after her - not to fight, but to talk. Because she believed in her sister, and that they could solve it if they worked together. Sure, it didn't work quite as planned, but she still definitely qualifies - especially given that she did it despite how Esla had shut her out for most of their childhood, giving her little evidence for her faith in her sister and little reason to believe she wasn't bad.
    I have so many feelings about Moana telling the ocean to let Te Ka through, then slow-mo walking across the seabed to meet the giant lava monster clawing its way towards her. There's no fear in her, no flinching, no attempt to defend herself as it rears up over her. She just says "this is not who you are" and trusts it. Know Who You Are is totes the high point of the film IMO - and "I know your name" the high point of the song.
    Honestly, the scene where Emmet stops and offers his hand to Lord Business and says that he is the Special and can fix everything - with the beautiful parallel of the kid and his dad in the real world - is probably the prime example of what I'm talking about here. And it worked perfectly. And it was amazing. It was one of the best parts of that film for me, and one of the reasons I forgave it several of its other flaws, because that was such a good moral.
    The only words I really need here are these: “I am making sure that whatever you do to me and my family, you’re not able to do to anyone else's.”
    Kubo faces down his grandfather; the blind, cruel monster whose malevolence killed both his mother and father twice over. And yes, he fights - at first. But then he remembers who he is, and he resolves the struggle not through further violence, but through drawing on his humanity and forgiving him. And not just forgiving - accepting him, and giving him a new life. Better yet? The villagers enthusiastically back him in doing so, without even needing to be pushed. It's the old lady who tells the amnesiac Moon King that he's the kindest man in the village, without Kubo saying a word.

    So! Submit your suggestions for similar moments. We need more heroism like this, and more of this moral - that violence and killing don't ultimately solve problems; sitting down and talking to each other does (yes, that was a Dr Who reference). Let's see how common it is in storytelling.

    As a general note, if your example is recent or spoilery, spoiler it as I have above.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
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  2. Insufficient Dakka

    Insufficient Dakka Funpost King

    There's several ways to talk down the Legion's legate Lanius into not advancing and taking over the Mojave, either through making him think there's a trap lying in wait and you don't want him getting killed in such a dishonourable way or the Mojave not being advantageous enough to incorporate into the Legion. Also found in the DLC, like talking down Joshua Graham from killing the leader of the tribe that's been waging war against his for some time, or getting the Think Tank to reconsider using the Wasteland for experiments. I don't think things like the original Fallout count, since when you point out to The Master that super mutants can't be the next step in human evolution because of their sterility, he ends up destroying the building you're in and killing himself.
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  3. Avernus

    Avernus Abomination

    The scene in The Day of the Dove, where the Enterprise has been taken over by an entity that feeds on hatred and anger and is making the humans and Klingon on board fight each other to feed itself. Kirk convinces the Klingons to stop fighting his people so it won't have anything to feed on. And to laugh at the entity, which it can't stand (presumably because that is the opposite of its favored emotions) and it leaves.
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  4. Peace on Earth Superman trying to save crops and distribute crops that'd be wasted normally. Papa Kent's speech on sharing was pretty moving for me.
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  5. Aleph

    Aleph Magical Girl Moderator-chan Moderator

    Two things that I'm editing into the OP - firstly, just realised that an equally valid summary of the concept would be "winning through compassion rather than violence" (so talking someone into suicide probably doesn't count). Secondly, please spoiler your examples if they're recent.
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  6. Sabertooth


    Norman McKay talking laying down on The Spectre for his inaction (ya, know the embodiment of God´s Wrath) and talking down Superman after he´s turned mad with anger, are two amazing moments in Kingdom come. The man, a humble priest, talks down two of the most powerful entities in the universe.
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  7. Insufficient Dakka

    Insufficient Dakka Funpost King

    I assume this is partly about Fallout 1, and I'm not sure "talking into suicide" is the best way to phrase it. Yes, technically the player character's words convinced The Master to commit suicide, but that wasn't necessarily their goal. The only thing they wanted for sure was to stop him from sending his mutants to attack the vault the PC is from, and there isn't necessarily any reason they didn't want to help The Master in some other way. I still think it violates the No Disney Villain Death thing though.
  8. Avernus

    Avernus Abomination

    I'm not sure what a "Disney Villain Death" is, actually.
  9. Insufficient Dakka

    Insufficient Dakka Funpost King

    When the protagonists doesn't directly kill them for one reason or another, but the villain still dies, like when Scar was killed by the hyenas so the writers didn't have to have Simba do it, or in Star Trek 3 when the Klingon guy refused Kirk's help and fell to his death during the massive quakes on the planet.
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  10. horngeek

    horngeek Australian Dragon Moderator

    Desmond Doss from Hacksaw Ridge (well, also the rl events it was based on)- during the Battle of Okinawa during ww2, he rescued 75 wounded soldiers from what was essentially enemy-held territory, earning the first Medal of Honour earned by a conscientious objector.

    You could argue his acting in support of people committing violence makes this one invalid, but his refusal to take lives- even in the face of pretty severe opposition from his superiors- and his focus on saving them makes this one qualify, I think.
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  11. Aranfan

    Aranfan Team Plasma Grunt

    The two that immediately came to mind for me were already mentioned by the OP.

    I liked talking down Saren in Mass Effect, even if it was immediately undercut by needing to fight his corpse.
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  12. Pokémon movie 1, Ash runs head-first into death beams to stop the fighting.
    Pokémon Movie 5. Latios sacrifices himself to save the city from tidal wave.
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  13. Insufficient Dakka

    Insufficient Dakka Funpost King

    Not to be confused with Disney death, where a character seems to die but is revealed to have survived, like a robot getting smashed but then walking out of a mechanic's shop good as new in a later scene.
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  14. Avernus

    Avernus Abomination

    The climax of For Your Eyes Only, where Bond throws the electronic McGuffin off a cliff instead of surrendering it to the Russians or fighting them. The Russian guy just laughs and walks away.

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  15. Dirk93


    The second book in the Nightwatch series has some situations where people talk other people to suicide by feeling guilty and accepting that they did wrong, which is one of the dangers of Others that choose the Light.
  16. Insufficient Dakka

    Insufficient Dakka Funpost King

    Unless I'm missing something,
  17. Dirk93


    It wasn't the plan of the ones doing the talking so I thought that it still counted.
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  18. Hmmm... does it have to be the climax of the story or conflict? I can think of two examples of non-violent heroism that can't be topped, but they're more incidental to the story.
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  19. greendoor

    greendoor Losing in avatar related threads since 2012

    Ok, in the 40k novel series Gaunt's Ghosts, the Tanith First and Only Regiment's (The titular "Ghosts") chief Medic is a character named Doctor Dorden. Dorden has the unusual distinction in the 40k universe of being an actual bonafide pacifist. This by itself would be very heroic, due to the sheer level of compassion in a universe that has very little left, but there's a specific scene that stands out to me:

    In Straight Silver Dorden protests Gaunt, who is a Commissar and empowered to execute Guardsmen for discipline issues, from executing a Tanith soldier who got half his squad killed by drinking on duty. When Gaunt tells Dorden he's gonna do it, Dorden stands in his way and states that Gaunt will have to shoot Dorden too before he executes Costin (The soldier who drank on duty). The two really impressive things about this act is

    A: Costin definitely deserved to get shot even by Gaunt's usually very lenient interpretation of Imperial Guard discipline, and Dorden stepped in anyway.
    B: Gaunt is a Commissar, has a gun out, and Dorden saw him summarily execute several soldiers from a different regiment for stealing medical supplies from the Ghosts just a few days ago.

    This actually forces Gaunt to stand down (He considers Dorden a friend, and didn't want to shoot him) and give Costin a second chance at redeeming himself, all because an old, defenseless man staked his life to protect an incompetent drunk responsible for the death of half a dozen.

    There's also the fact that in the later novels he learns he's dying of Leukemia, and decides instead of mustering out and retiring to live his last days in peace, he'll spend his last days saving as many lives of ihs comrades as possible, totally unafraid of death. This is so impressive that a damn Space Marine actually compliments him on his bravery in the face of inevitable death.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
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  20. You can't really have this thread without bringing up Usagi.

    Sailor Moon SuperS, both the resolution to the Nehellenia and the Galaxia plots are the quintessential example of this in action.

    Fullmetal Alchemist contains some great moments on this, even if the series doesn't end with it. The journey of Edward from a loud idiot who solves his problems with violence to the kind of person who is willing to burn his own life span to save people who were trying to kill him not five minutes ago and who completely defeats one of the villains by immediately surrendering are such beautiful moments of character development.

    And, of course, the Iron Giant. "You are not a gun!"
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  21. Avernus

    Avernus Abomination

    In Night's Master, Azhrarn, Prince of Demons and of Evil sacrifices himself for the love of the world in the presence of the spirit Hatred, a being literally made of hatred that was feeding on violence, hatred and death and in the process destroying the world. Azhrarn's kind cannot survive sunlight, and he lets the sunrise destroy him while Hatred offers him anything he wishes to convince him to stop. Such an act of selfless love in its presence destroys Hatred and saves the world.
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  22. Generalissimo

    Generalissimo Generalissimo of SufficientVelocity

    Tropico, Tropico

    Most heroic moment in Spartacus wasn't violence but standing together in defeat. I'm Spartacus!
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  23. Seru

    Seru New Quest Writer

    How Doji Kiriko handled Isawa Asahina in L5R is fairly bog standard, though I am unsure if it qualifies due to the fact it is from older fluff...
  24. Neo's death at the end of Matrix Revolutions can be counted as this.

    To open this, after their epic fight and Smith's brief moment of suspicion, Neo fools his greatest adversary to assimilate him willingly.

    This gives the Deus Ex Machina (the mainframe of Machines) to override his source code, and transferring the effect to all Smith clones present.

    With sacrificing himself willingly, Neo not only saved both mankind and machines, but he gave both sides a chance for peace.
  25. Q99


    Not even the climax, but during the Kim Possible TV movie, Dr. Drakken is after an invention that Kim's father has been working on for years. Kim's dad is just a smart normal, so confronted with a supervillain, he's got no chance whatsoever.

    So, he deletes it.

    Drakken turns out to have other means of getting the info, but being willing to sacrifice years of research and hard work while at the mercy of a villain, without hesitation? Badass.
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