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On Violence and Tragic Backgrounds

PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 10:23 pm
by Antheia
Content Warning for vague discussion of domestic and other violence and abuse

This is always a difficult subject, for many reasons. We want NarniaMUCK to be a safe and empowering place for people of all ages, and to reflect real pain, struggle, and triumph, and we want characters of all strengths and weaknesses, stemming from all sorts of backgrounds. But sometimes these goals conflict. Here's a quick and loose guide to how we choose to balance kid-friendliness with realism.

I use Shasta as my guideline for how to treat unhappy childhoods in NarniaMUCK characters. Shasta definitely does have an unhappy background of abuse with Arsheesh, but the story opens with him escaping from Arsheesh, and we never see him actually get abused -- it is only alluded to. In this way, Lewis acknowledges the existence of really awful people in the world, and of the very horrible experiences children sometimes have to face, without forcing his child readers to explicitly face it themselves. Those who are familiar with abuse may see it in Shasta and feel they are not alone without enduring it again in specifics. Those who were happy enough to escape abuse can be given a glimpse of what others may have suffered without having to suffer it themselves.

Importantly, Shasta does escape, and he gains a true sense of independence from Arsheesh. GK Chesterton said "Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon." This is the heart of our view of the Narnia books, and of NarniaMUCK. You are free, welcome, and encouraged to have your characters battle all sorts of dragons, real and metaphorical. But because we are a child-friendly place, your characters should be winning. Your characters should show the child that it's possible to defeat the bogey.

If you'd like a few more practical guidelines, rather than the general idea-based ones above, following these recommendations will not steer you wrong:

1. Don't have a tragic background. Problem solved!
1.5 Leave it in your background. Okay, I know lots of people like to have tragic backgrounds and unhappy families, and this is a real-world struggle that deserves addressing and working through via fiction, so #1 isn't necessarily fair or reasonable to ask. The next easiest way to avoid going too far is to say your character has already escaped whatever tragedy you want to have befallen them, or is currently escaping it and no longer fully in it's clutches (the end should, at the very least, be in sight).

2. Both for backgrounds and for whatever you may say about any living NPC family, assume Narnia and Archenland inherently have a better handle on (especially domestic) violence than most cultures in our world do. If a parent abuses their child, assume their acquaintances will notice, and will either interfere themselves, or go to someone who can. Therefore, if your character's parent is abusive, you can assume they will be called to account for it, and the child will be rescued. Similarly, tavern brawls are not common, significant others do not manipulate their loved ones into submission, and men and women treat each other with respect and dignity (or if they do not, it is not because of race, gender, class, disability, etc). Player characters that break these rules (a knight who is unkind to poor people for example) may exist, but they should be viewed as the exception, not the rule.

If you're ever unsure of the line in regards to your own plots, please feel free to run your idea by staff. If you find something outside your control disturbing you can come to us as well. We will do our very utmost to provide a reasonable, safe environment for all our players.