Sacrifice

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There's something about self sacrifice that speaks to me. Countless script scenarios that I've come up with end with one of the main characters willfully ending their own life as to ensure the survival of their loved ones, overcome evil or some other obstacle. It's often views as the most noble of acts. Darth Vader threw The Emperor down a reactor shaft to save his son's life at the cost of his own is Return of the Jedi. Doctor Octopus brought an out of control nuclear reaction to the bottom of the Hudson River just after he proclaimed that he would not die a monster in Spider-Man 2. John Constantine took his life in order to persuade Satan to stop his son from entering the world in Constantine. The list goes on and on; Aslan, Gandalf, Neo, The Iron Giant, Spock, Jean Grey, John Hartigan, Obi-Wan Kenobi...

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So what is it about self sacrifice that appeals so much to film makers? Is it not enough that the hero saves the day and ends up with the girl to live happily ever after (until the sequel. See: The Bourne Identity)? Now, to be clear, I'm not talking about the old soldier who says to his commanding officer, "Just give me a gun, and get out of here... I'll cover your escape..", as they take one last soulful stare at each other which conveys al the love and respect that they're too manly to put into words. No, not that. I'm talking about the gut wrenching loss that someone feels when their world is shattered because of the loss of someone, while they know that there was no better way for victory to be achieved. I'm talking about V in V for Vendetta, David Tennant's Doctor in the Doctor Who Series 5 finale.. Characters that you miss terribly afterwards. 

I suppose the obvious answer as to our obsession with self sacrifice stems from religion. There's Jesus dying for humanity's sins, Prometheus being eaten alive for eternity. Countless other religions tell of us people who have sacrificed themselves for their followers or something simple. Yet, there's a difference between sacrifice and martyrdom. I suppose that religion focuses more on the martyrdom aspect, enticing it's practitioners to be inspired by one's selfless actions. 

I suppose that for me, the act of self sacrifice in film leads me to feel that the character believed so deeply in whatever (or whomever) they were sacrificing themselves for that it was the only option. Usually, this translates into the live of a loved one, sometimes without the loved one knowing that the character is doing the sacrificing. In the world of drama, I think that the feeling this conveys is the one that speaks to me most of all.