Last week, I wrote an article titled “The Problem I Have With Horror”, where I explain why the supernatural elements found in so many horror novels turn me off from the genre. In this article, I’ll be talking about both the fantasy and science fiction genres, and an element they often share that, in my opinion, automatically bumps the novel down a full letter grade: the Chosen One.
Just like my criticism with the horror genre, this criticism I have with the fantasy and sci-fi genres are not exclusive to literature. How many Chosen One characters can you name off the top of your head? Harry Potter, Neo, Luke Skywalker, John Conner, Jake Sully, Percy Jackson, Frodo Baggins, King Arthur, Odysseus. The Chosen One is a figure that has worn a thousand faces throughout storytelling history, and frankly, he’s more than overstayed his welcome at this point. Can the Chosen One be done well? Sure, any tired trope can be done well with enough talent, but it’s such an overdone (and often poorly done) plot device that, in my opinion, the vast majority of the time it alienates me as a reader.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Mary Sue” thrown around on the internet before, but for those of you who are unaware, Mary Sue is a character that, no matter how inexperienced, wide-eyed and confused she’s portrayed, she still possess the innate ability to excel at whatever task she must overcome. Even though the world she’s been thrust into is unlike anything she’s ever seen before, she still somehow manages to keep up with the side characters who have lived their entire lives in this fantastical environment. Sure, maybe she’ll stumble a few times, but she’ll ultimately defeat the baddie, and we all know that she will.
So while a Mary Sue isn’t necessarily the Chosen One, the Chosen One is almost always a Mary Sue, and because of that, they’re not even chosen for a reason. The Chosen One isn’t chosen because he spent his entire life training and growing as an individual until he’s proven himself as a capable hero, he’s chosen because the necessary qualities to defeat the villain just come naturally to him. Because of this, the Chosen One never goes through an arc, because if you’re already destined to save the day, what more is there to learn?
This why I believe that we should retire the Chosen One. He’s not a character, rather a magical panacea sent down from on high to destroy the evil. He doesn’t get strong, he already is strong, which not only, as I said, eliminates the need for an arc, but it also perpetuates the idea that heroes aren’t made but rather born, that they don’t arise from overcoming internal as well as external obstacles but rather an ancient prophecy, which makes for a pretty boring story. Please, no more Chosen Ones!
Featured image via d23