Darkness versus “The Light” – We need to twist things up more.

Image by ipicgr from Pixabay

One of the most overdone tropes in fantasy, ever, is the concept of ‘dark bad’ and ‘light good’. I’m so utterly tired of it, and I bet much of the world is as well. Yes, humans are a diurnal species and trust the sun to be ‘good’ for us. It makes sense, biologically, we’d like the light places better because we can see. However, that’s not creative, and I’m saying this as someone who loves biology. Not only are there implications that go beyond just ‘we like the sunshine’ with it, but said implications can be very racist.

It’s not my place to critique that, however, though it should be mentioned and thought about. The trope isn’t inherently that way if we’re just talking about ‘sparkle sparkle light’ being good without specifying ‘white’ (though, I could be wrong, feel free to comment if you think I am off base here.) Religion tends to leak into things when we talk about ‘the light’ being good. I won’t mention any names, but I’m sure there’s plenty that people are thinking about which would be common in our world.

I say: Cut it out. It gets tiresome demonizing the shadows and darkness of night when such a setting isn’t evil, it’s just something we as humans are not adapted to see as well in. Nocturnal animals can take advantage of that, which is why we fear it. The fear of dark is very valid – I had it as a child, after all, and still feel uneasy in pitch blackness. While it can be a good tool for horror, it shouldn’t always be just flat out ‘evil’ in a story. Again, the trope itself is just so overdone.

We see ‘Dark magic’ being bad. ‘Light magic’ being good. ‘Dark magic’ being destructive, evil, amoral, all that, while ‘light’ is always praised to be good. Nevermind that the sun burns to a crisp, fire can do the same, and many methods of ‘light’ itself can be destructive. Look at lightning, as well, and you’ll start to see how ‘the light’ can very much be destructive and frightening. In the same vein, the peace of the dark. A place to hide from someone after you, a force that can aid with sleeping, something we normally see equated with the quiet and peace. Sure, the dark can be scary, and it’s a great tool. But using it as ONLY that in a story gets…old. Fast.

My advice is to mix it up a little. No, going the polar opposite is… just as bad. Light just being ‘bad’ and dark just being ‘good’ also would have no nuance. I want to see instances of the ‘dark’ being used for good and evil. Same goes for ‘the light’. The era of stories having little nuance, with just flat out ‘this is evil’ and ‘this is good’ is over. In my personal opinion? A story without variation and nuance is a bad one.

Try to keep that in mind when writing up your works, if you’re looking to flavor your writing. Please allow for nuance! Don’t lock something into a box just because a common trope says so.

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