Grimdark discussion.

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Grimdark is terrible, and using it actively makes stories worse.
Let me explain. Grimdark is a genre where everything is bad. Hope is treated as worthless fluff, being a good person is pointless, trying to improve the world is stupid, and kindness is always paid back with suffering. This all brings up some questions. If nothing ever changes, everything is bad, and no one is likable. Then why should I care? This is a big issue. "Why should I care?" is the worst possible question an viewer can ask, and answering it is hard. It is an inherently useless genre, because of this fact.

However, the biggest problem isn't that. The biggest problem in grimdark is the base concept alone. If you're writing grimdark then you're not allowed to use positive emotion, unless they're going to be taken away. It's an inherently restrictive genre in the worst way possible. It keeps you from accessing hope, which is by far the most important feeling. Why am I meant to feel sad about hopelessness, when hope doesn't exist.

Grimdark stories can be good stories, but that in spite of it.
 

Gyftrot

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Hmm, I’ve only read the first two books of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket. I’m not sure if it counts as grimdark.

but that constant hope for well… hope kept me reading until the library was missing the third book.
 

Hooded Pitohui

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It keeps you from accessing hope, which is by far the most important feeling.
The parable of the man who builds his house on the sand exists for a reason. We need cautionary tales. They ask us to look at the foundations we've built in multiple areas of our lives, to examine those foundations, and to make changes lest we face ruin. Should "hope" be an area we exempt from these examinations?

I understand the idea that hope is a necessary thing, the idea that, without hope, nobody will bother to effect change. If you don't have some positively-changed scenario you hope will manifest as a result of your efforts, what's the point of trying? Personally, I'm not sure that I buy that hope is necessary to motivate change, but it's important to people nevertheless.

The thing is, though, that not all hope is well-founded. Some hope is built on shaky foundations. You'll get people who insist that things will "all work out" without putting any effort forth to make them work out. You'll get people who think things will... just... improve, no work on their part needed, and when things don't improve, they'll turn around and despair and act as though this is inevitable and a retreat to cynicism is the only way to proceed. And that can be pretty damaging! When "hope hard enough" replaces "work hard for these changes" and a subsequent failure to get one's desired outcome turns peole onto pessimism and doomerism, you get people dropping out and giving up on trying to improve anything!

In that regard, I think it's important that our stories subject hope to stress sometimes. Stress it until it breaks. Where is a character's hope coming from? Is it well-founded? Can they continue even against odds or a system that seems thoroughly stacked against them? What makes some hopes well-founded and others built on sand? And if your hope crumbles, how do you react?

To get to the main point of this thread, rather than focus on a specific aspect of it, though, I think it's unfair to call grimdark media "useless". I'm no fan of grimdark media. It (typically) fails to appeal to me and I think it often feels unnecessarily dismissive of optimism and the capacity of people to do good. I'll argue that it has its place among our collective works of art, though. It explores questions of, again, what happens when what we hope for and what we believe in is placed under extreme stress. It asks "okay, in this situation, stripped of all possible support, your back against the wall, how do you cope?". Sometimes, the worlds it envisions caution us against complacency; they are created to reflect where our world may go so that we can be vigilant and guard what we have while advancing our causes. If you imagine how a machine might break, after all, you can prepare and mitigate those possibilities in advance (say, by checking a part for wear and stocking a replacement). If you imagine what might go wrong in our world, you can, perhaps, mitigate those possibilities in advance. For individuals already living with systems stacked against them, systems which may seem insurmountable, grimdark works may reflect their experiences - after all, no matter how hard you fight for something, you don't always get what you want. Some changes takes generations.

While, yes, you don't want your audience to go "why should I care?", that's most damaging for works meant, primarily, to entertain, and not all works are made just to be consumed as entertainment. A grimdark Marvel movie or YA novel is likely to fall flat in spectacular fashion, sure, but stories don't only entertain - they invite you to engage with them in many ways, and, if you engage with grimdark stories on another level, you may very well find you asking things like "what would I do in this situation?", among many others!

To that end, while I don't care for it, I'd say grimdark isn't "useless".
 

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Lmao.
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The parable of the man who builds his house on the sand exists for a reason. We need cautionary tales. They ask us to look at the foundations we've built in multiple areas of our lives, to examine those foundations, and to make changes lest we face ruin. Should "hope" be an area we exempt from these examinations?

I understand the idea that hope is a necessary thing, the idea that, without hope, nobody will bother to effect change. If you don't have some positively-changed scenario you hope will manifest as a result of your efforts, what's the point of trying? Personally, I'm not sure that I buy that hope is necessary to motivate change, but it's important to people nevertheless.

The thing is, though, that not all hope is well-founded. Some hope is built on shaky foundations. You'll get people who insist that things will "all work out" without putting any effort forth to make them work out. You'll get people who think things will... just... improve, no work on their part needed, and when things don't improve, they'll turn around and despair and act as though this is inevitable and a retreat to cynicism is the only way to proceed. And that can be pretty damaging! When "hope hard enough" replaces "work hard for these changes" and a subsequent failure to get one's desired outcome turns peole onto pessimism and doomerism, you get people dropping out and giving up on trying to improve anything!

In that regard, I think it's important that our stories subject hope to stress sometimes. Stress it until it breaks. Where is a character's hope coming from? Is it well-founded? Can they continue even against odds or a system that seems thoroughly stacked against them? What makes some hopes well-founded and others built on sand? And if your hope crumbles, how do you react?

To get to the main point of this thread, rather than focus on a specific aspect of it, though, I think it's unfair to call grimdark media "useless". I'm no fan of grimdark media. It (typically) fails to appeal to me and I think it often feels unnecessarily dismissive of optimism and the capacity of people to do good. I'll argue that it has its place among our collective works of art, though. It explores questions of, again, what happens when what we hope for and what we believe in is placed under extreme stress. It asks "okay, in this situation, stripped of all possible support, your back against the wall, how do you cope?". Sometimes, the worlds it envisions caution us against complacency; they are created to reflect where our world may go so that we can be vigilant and guard what we have while advancing our causes. If you imagine how a machine might break, after all, you can prepare and mitigate those possibilities in advance (say, by checking a part for wear and stocking a replacement). If you imagine what might go wrong in our world, you can, perhaps, mitigate those possibilities in advance. For individuals already living with systems stacked against them, systems which may seem insurmountable, grimdark works may reflect their experiences - after all, no matter how hard you fight for something, you don't always get what you want. Some changes takes generations.

While, yes, you don't want your audience to go "why should I care?", that's most damaging for works meant, primarily, to entertain, and not all works are made just to be consumed as entertainment. A grimdark Marvel movie or YA novel is likely to fall flat in spectacular fashion, sure, but stories don't only entertain - they invite you to engage with them in many ways, and, if you engage with grimdark stories on another level, you may very well find you asking things like "what would I do in this situation?", among many others!

To that end, while I don't care for it, I'd say grimdark isn't "useless".
That is a fair point. I shall edit the title.
 

Ray Trace

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Like any good media you just need a good balance of differing emotions and moods while writing a story. The best grimdark works aren't gloomy and dreary the entire way through because it gets repetitive and really dull and it loses its intended effect.
 

Fleur de lis

Lmao.
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Like any good media you just need a good balance of differing emotions and moods while writing a story. The best grimdark works aren't gloomy and dreary the entire way through because it gets repetitive and really dull and it loses its intended effect.
Then that's not grimdark. To be a grimdark story you must be dark and grim the entire time. If not you're just a gloomy story, and probably better.
 

Turnabout Big Top

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One book I started and stopped reading around 2015, The School For Good and Evil, I did so because it had that problem. Aside from an okay start all it did was be mean-spirited and have characters be miserable or mean to each other iirc.
 

Fleur de lis

Lmao.
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Hmm, I’ve only read the first two books of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket. I’m not sure if it counts as grimdark.

but that constant hope for well… hope kept me reading until the library was missing the third book.
Hope is only punished in grimdark. It is never rewarded.
 
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