The Stringer Bell Paradox Test

Let me put this out there right away.  I’ve never seen The Wire.  It’s on my list, and I know it’s considered one of the best shows on television, but I’ve never seen it.  Second and more importantly, this test was created by D. F. Lovett, the writer of the blog What Would Bale Do. I asked him more than a year ago if he’d be okay with me using this, and I was happy to receive a yes 🙂

The link to the original article contains aggressive spoilers for both The Wire and Game of Thrones, so click at your own discreation.  I decided to let myself be spoiled for The Wire in order to read this, though I still intend to watch it at some point.  I’m caught up on GoT, which is the focus of the WWBD’s post in regards to the SBP Test.

The Stringer Bell Paradox Test is when one of your favorite characters kills another one of your favorites.  Can you guys guess where I’m going with this?

There are five questions to be answered and a bonus that doesn’t really figure in to the characters/fandom I’m going to use.  That fandom is obviously Final Fantasy VII and the major characters are Aeris and Sephiroth.

1. Did one major character kill another major character? – Most definitely yes.

2. Did the world they live in prevent any possibility of them both remaining alive? – Hm, this one is interesting.  Nojima says in the Reunion Files that “Since Sephiroth exists, Aerith must exists.”  In order for Jenova’s plan to come to fruition, Aeris would have to be out of the way, because the last Ancient was the only one who could stop it.  Since Jenova essentially took over Sephiroth (see here for the reasons why I think that.  It’s too much to go into on this brief post), its desires became his desires.  Aeris arguably had the ability to destroy Jenova with the power of Holy.  Maybe…seeing as Advent happened, this is up for debate.  The main portion of it was destroyed with only a few pieces left, but it’s such a virulent parasite that that was all that was needed.

I’m going to go with yes on this question.  Since Jenova and Sephiroth pretty much became the same entity and since Jenova’s modus operandi is to devour the life energy of planets thus destroying them before moving on, and since Aeris is the protector of the Planet, there’s no way they could survive together once that unholy merging occurred (poor Seph).

3. Did you like the character who did the killing? – Sephiroth is my favorite fictional character of all time.  Now if we go with the idea that Jenova killed Aeris in Sephiroth’s guise (which is apparently a big enough idea that it’s on some of the wikis), I fucking hate that eldritch abomination.  Since I generally go with Sephiroth was a part of the killing, I think I can still say yes.

4. Did you like the character who died? – Another yes.  Aeris is one of my favorite characters.  I love people who face their destinies undaunted.  My hatred of her in Crisis Core is due to her terrible voice actress and characterization.  She’s fantastic in the original and in Advent.  There’s a reason I pair her and Seph together 🙂

5. Was the character who died on a path toward redemption? – No, but she was certainly on an important mission that she still managed to accomplish after death.  I could argue that she might have been seeking redemption for herself because she felt like she needed to do something to prove she was worthy of being the last of her people and worthy of the White Materia her mother, the last full Ancient, bestowed upon her, but that would move this into the shaky condition of head canon and at best speculative interpretation.

6. Bonus: Did it occur during the penultimate episode of the season? – Aeris’s death occurs at the end of the first disk of the game, which is hardly penultimate.  It’s odd to think that a character who wasn’t even around for 2/3 of the story had such an effect.  I have quite a lot of feelings and thoughts about why that is, but this post is not the place for them.

I believe Aeris and Sephiroth fulfill many conditions of the Stringer Bell Paradox.  Questions 1, 3, and 4 are definite yeses, and question 2 is at least accurate up to 90% if you believe my arguments.  Even question 5 and the Bonus 6 are up for debate/interpretation.  If there’s any wiggle room, I think I can fit the puzzle pieces in.

Do any of your favorite narrative provide you with the ability to apply the SBP Test?  I think someone could definitely apply this to Harry Potter (you know the two).  Let me know in the comments!

Thank you again from the writer of WWBD!

10 thoughts on “The Stringer Bell Paradox Test

  1. I understand the concept is when one liked character kills another. What I don’t understand is the point of the test. This is a new term and concept for me, and I’m trying to understand it’s objective and reason. For instance, one liked character kills another liked character because one can’t live while the other exists in this world. But isn’t this common in fiction? Isn’t drama naturally created to develop conflict? Could you explain the premise of the test? (I’d click the link, but I don’t like spoilers.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the paradox comes from your liking characters that are antagonistic towards each other. A Song of Ice and Fire is probably the best example of this as it constantly shows characters at odds with each other on different sides of warring factions, but the writer makes you sympathize with both sides. That’s where the dilemma comes from. Who do you root for? It forces you to see the world in more shades of grey instead of black and white, expanding your judgment beyond mere binaries.

      In many situations when one character kills or tries to kill the other, the killer is portrayed as villainous and unsympathetic (e.g. Harry Potter and Voldemort), but when both characters have stakes and reasons to be at odds in addition to valid points, you have this conflict of morality to work out.

      A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones is really the best example I can think of since I haven’t watched The Wire. My example of FFVII has some caveats. Sephiroth is my favorite character of all time; however, there’s the element of mental manipulation exerted against him to contend with, and while I completely agree with the ideas around humanity’s hubris and ingratitude with what we have and what we ourselves are destoying, there’s still the matter of a parasitic eldritch abomination that will utterly obliterate the planet in order to sustain itself. The paradox comes from being sympathetic because of the potential lack of will/choice, but knowing the planet still needs to be saved (despite how much I myself agree with the arrogance of humanity and the need for humility/possible comeuppance).

      I hope that helps!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It does. I just thought that most stories strive to reach that paradox. I’m an old school white hat/black hat kind of guy, but I was genuinely under the belief that it was a old school ideal. So I imagine this test could be used to make sure your conflict was more powerful. It’s one thing for you to root for the hero, but when you understand the villain, the conflict is more powerful because you don’t know who to root for. It just caught me off guard because I’ve come to believe that sort of conflict has become the norm. Thanks for the explanation. It really did help me understand the purpose of the test.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Those are the types of fantasies I grew up reading! LOTR and the like, ASOIAF was one of the first things I read where it wasn’t quite so simple. Now I generally prefer stories with complex and sympathetic villains. It’s like you know they can’t win, but you feel bad for them. There’s this amazing episode of the old animated Batman with Mr. Freeze that perfects this example (I believe it’s the picture in the Alas Poor Villain entry ok TV Tropes, too). That helped me realize that the lines between good guys/bad guys can blur and you can’t condemn actions without looking at the cause of the situation.

          Agreed! I think it’s a good gauge of strong conflict. I didn’t even think about that.

          Liked by 1 person

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