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Killing Off Characters

With Brian's death in the latest episode of Family Guy, the people of the Internet are in a state of furor. There's a lot of frustration floating around at why the creators would kill off such an important character 12 seasons in. With such concern over a recent character death, I find it appropriate to discuss when the right time to make such a pivotal story decision in any form of media is.

Nowadays, killing main characters is seemingly taboo in serialized TV shows and movies especially. Even the mentioning of potentially wanting to do something like that sets passionate fans ablaze. Why the story conservatism? From a narrative point of view, a death is one of the most thrilling plot twists because viewers have bonded with the character and are sad to see them go. This also opens new interactions allowing the survivors to apply lessons taught by a friend or mentor and seek a deeper understanding of what transpired. It's the "Why me?" moment everyone feels after a loss. The grievance process gives way to a clearer worldview and understanding of one's purpose in life.

I believe there's a lot more that can be said on the matter, but I'd like to open the topic to your opinions. Do you think death should become a more frequent mode of plot advancement in entertainment? Does killing off long standing characters hurt or help narratives? What are some examples of effective character deaths in TV shows, movies, or videogames? What are some bad examples?
 
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I don't watch Family Guy on a regular basis, so this was news to me. I've always viewed it as a comedy that relies on some very crude humor to get itself by, so the fact that they would kill off such a major character makes me wonder what that actually does for the purpose of the show, which is to make people laugh. I guess I can't fault the creators for wanting to make people "feel", but I have to question the logic behind doing it when the entire point of a comedy is to make people feel better after the tragedy. The entire point of having Comedies and Tragedies in theatre was to make sure that the audience could have a break once in a while, and not have to go through multiple depressing deaths and events. So in the category of comedy, such as Family Guy, I really don't think killing off major characters is a good idea.

That being said, character death is absolutely necessary to achieve larger and more vibrant emotions from the audience. Going back to my theater example, Shakespeare's greatest works are those such as Hamlet and Macbeth, where massive character death occur, almost exclusively in a depressing way. The reason Shakespeare is still relevant today is because of those types of works, so it's a testament to how character death can really impact a person and leave an impression. Another fantastic example is the Game of Thrones series (and also the book series of course, but the HBO series is more well-known). I won't spoil anything, but I'm sure EVERYONE knows about the main character deaths that go on throughout that series. I was shocked when it happened multiple times, and that's lead to the book series and the HBO series being some of my favorite entertainment pieces of all time. George RR Martin is also a fantastic writer to boot, so that certainly helps.

But.... It's not necessary to put on a good show, I think. The Star Trek franchise is a very, very good one, with minimal character death involved. In fact, when character death DID occur, it was almost always just because the actor in question decided they didn't want to play the role anymore. Despite that, all 5 series of Star Trek were met with good critical reception, be it when it was released or years down the line. Star Trek just knew how to bring out emotions with a good story and writing, without massive death being included. I don't think it quite reached the level that Game of Thrones does, but it does enough to provide a very memorable experience, which is why it's also among my favorites today (mainly The Next Generation).
 

Justac00lguy

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I'm with Vergo: This doesn't make any sense to me. As a big fan of the show I'm quite saddened to hear one of the major and most impactful characters has been killed off. I don't know if this is exactly official--to be more specific--if this "death" is an actual canon death with no hope of return. I'll do some more research, but if this is the case then I just don't see why.

Family Guy is a comedy first and foremost. It's job is to entertain and bring laughter to those who watch it. Yes there is a rough plot; however, this "plot" is a collection of mini plots within each and every episode. So basically, each episode has its own story and the following episode doesn't necessarily cary over nor does it have to acknowledge previous episodes; much like the Simpsons. Killing of a character is only done effectively if you want some sort of emotional reaction from your audience - though without any real grand plot is it worth it? Well the answer is simply no.

In my opinion this "death" has no logical reasoning. It's not like Brian was a someone who was hated by the fans, he's just one contrasting personality in the odd and diverse Griffin family. It's like a jigsaw: take one personality out of that family dynamic and it feels like something is missing. It's not even to do with the voice actor as Seth Mcfarlane (the creator) voices Brian. Not to mention, he also voices other characters such as Stewie and Peter Griffin. It just baffles me really. Why? What were the writers thinking and what benefits can this actually bring towards the incredibly popular show?
 

CraptainFalcon

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The Internet blew up yesterday because of Brian's death. We were talking about it at school too. Well, they're probably going to bring him back at some point.
 
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But Game of Thrones is fairly new I believe. Family Guy has been around since 1999 and everyone grew to love all the characters, including Brian.
The book series has actually been around for over 20 years, with the first book being released around 1991 if I'm remembering correctly. The HBO series is the one that started recently, about three years ago, which is pretty new.

Game of Thrones spoilers ahead, don't say I didn't warn you.

Game of Thrones and Family Guy aren't really comparable though. Ned Stark is the main character for one book/season, and he gets killed off at the end of that book/season. You're still attached and invested in him of course, but Brain is a character that's been a mainstay in a comedy for over a decade. Granted, I could find myself getting much more upset over the death of Ned Stark when compared to Brian, but the mediums and presentations of both characters is so radically different that it's very difficult to justify one with other, or vice-versa.
 

Mercedes

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I think it depends on the show, really. Some character deaths just feel so forced, whereas others are a more natural progression in a story. Like, I'm really surprised Brian was 'killed off', if he really is gone. Family Guy isn't the type of show I'd expect or really want to do something like that, whereas if someone gets their head blown off in The Walking Dead, it sucks but it's expected in that type of show. So really, as long as the death actually extends and progresses the storyline in a meaningful way and is not some very cheap way of getting some emotion from the audience then I don't mind it. It sucks when a character I really like gets killed, but, I can get over it. Eventually...
 

Sheik

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Hmm... Don't watch Family Guy a lot, so I'm not sure to think about Brian's death. It could be good, as in, "whoa, Brian died, Brian freaking died, didn't see that coming." It's a surprising turn of events. However, it's bad because Family Guy isn't the type of show for that. It is a comedy where, since (I don't think) two episodes would hold much meaning to each other, and each episode is it's own thing with the characters, killing somebody off would ruin its already perfect cast of characters.

Killing off major characters should MOSTLY be just for shows, books, etc. with heavier plots than Family Guy. Anyways, killing off major characters is almost necessary for a great and memorable story. Fans build up this character, like them more and more, and everything is great, until BOOM. They're dead. Fans will outrage because of this, but this is great because they are showing emotion, the story has made them feel emotion. Emotion is great because it gets them more hooked on the story to see what happens next.

Bridge to Terabithia is a children's novel, seemingly innocent at first. There's this character, Leslie. Over the span of the book, you come to like Leslie more and more. Heck, even right before it happens, the boy (forgot his name...) has the perfect day, and then he comes home and finds out Leslie is dead. So... Whoa. The whole point of the book is building up to this death. Heck, even in the later stages, everything is completely perfect. Nothing could go wrong. The reader is not at all expecting this death, so it hits them like a truck. And that is what makes it so memorable.

Besides that, some pretty great examples are
Sirius Black. Come on, you loved him. And he died. The other reason that is great is that it makes Bellatrix an even MORE hate-worthy character. Also
Prim. I have mixed feelings in this one because Prim was Katniss's driving force. Prim is the reason she entered the Hunger Games and how Katniss went through all that other crap. Because of Prim. Then Prim dies, and it's like... Was that good? Or bad? Well, for starters, you'll feel miserable. But Prim's death makes you think... Sure, it was emotional, but Prim is pretty much the entire reason all this happened. Killing her off just make it all seem... Pointless.

In the end, killing off characters is a thing that is freaking brilliant if done right, still great if done okay, and if done wrong, then... Everything will kinda come crashing down...
 

CraptainFalcon

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Prim. I have mixed feelings in this one because Prim was Katniss's driving force. Prim is the reason she entered the Hunger Games and how Katniss went through all that other crap. Because of Prim. Then Prim dies, and it's like... Was that good? Or bad? Well, for starters, you'll feel miserable. But Prim's death makes you think... Sure, it was emotional, but Prim is pretty much the entire reason all this happened. Killing her off just make it all seem... Pointless.
[/SPOILER]
The only reason it feels "miserable" is because she's a small girl forced to fight and kill people she doesn't even know in the Hunger Games. Other than that, I could care less about her death. I just didn't feel right that they killed her off just like that in the book and movie.
 

Shadsie

Sage of Tales
I saw Family Guy come on after The Simpsons and went "Ew, not watching," and turn the television off in favor of farting around on the Internet as I have been in a habit of on the later seasons. Now that I know of this happening, I regret not watching, because I'm going to sound like a horrible person... I wonder if I would have liked to see that dog die. I feel betrayed by Brian. I used to love the first seasons of Family Guy. It was shocking and hilarious - the "crosses the line" humor was actually pretty funny and I've always liked his dynamic with Stewie (back when Stewie was more of a dark lord in diapers than camp stereotype sexualized baby). Brian was actually a nice, witty straight-man (humor term) back in the early episodes. Then he "progressed" into a hypocritical mysognistic thing of preaching that just... argh. He had some unpopular beliefs - that was okay, and it's okay to stand up for what you believe in, but when that includes telling some insecure girl that there is NO possibility of a benevolent force in the universe because *she is a female and is ugly* - especially when it's okay for her father (male) to be homely, but somehow, being a woman and having "her father's looks"... creates some sort of black hole of badness that negates any use of faith? Badly argued point, to say the least. Throwing said "ugly" girl some niceness every once in a while only to be as mean and cruel to her as everyone else in her life is bothered me. What really tore it for me with Brian was his endless whining over his attempted writing career. As someone who has tried for the same thing... his attitude of "Oh, I am the bestest writer evah and the world is idiots for giving me any constructive criticism" and his "Oh, my life is meaningless!" when he finds out the audience for his book is unintended.... ugh. If any of *my* books were published and it turned out they were enjoyed by the mentally challenged and helped them to learn to read, I'd be *effing THRILLED,* not suicidal. I guess your audience isn't "people" enough for you to take a compliment, dog?

Yeah, I think that puppy needed to be put to sleep years ago... although I would have guessed that Meg committing suicide would have been a more likely death for the show. Eh, I just think the show jumped the shark years ago. It's "progression" actually reminds me of how weird gimmicks were pulled during the last seasons of "The X-Files." (It sort of became customary to "kill off" Mulder only to bring him back), and eventually three quirky characters who'd been given their own spin-off that many fans were saying was better than the original show were killed off (that was in the final season or next to final season). This strikes me as that - a long-running show with well-established characters suddenly starts killing them off... it's an indicator that creators know that the show itself is dying and are trying to shock the viewers back / give the remaining viewers one last run of forced excitement.

That said, killing off characters, when done in a manner that requires forethought, can make for a beautiful show, book, game... I kill off characters frequently in my stories. In fact, if I can get my novel-writing up to any kind of thing that people pay attention to, I am thinking "In most Shadsie stories, everyone's dead by the end" a gimmick, since I do seem to like writing stories like that - ends with death or characters showing that they were actually dead the whole time and are living in Limbo or something else. I kill off important characters and even mains quite frequently in my fanfiction. Generally, when reading a book or viewing a show with character deaths... I can tell when the author "had this in mind from the beginning as a thing that is meaningful" vs. "Let's kill someone off for a gimmick/shocker."
 

Salem

SICK
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First of all....
BRIAN IS DEAD??????

Second, if the creators what to kill a character they have to be committed to the death. No Dragon Ball Z BS unless it's a joke or something.
 

Turo602

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On the subject of Family Guy. It was pretty obvious it was going to be Brian who kicked the bucket, considering it was stated before the beginning of the season that a main character was to die and be replaced. Brian, being voiced by the creator of the show and the voice of two other characters isn't really going to lose his job not voicing Brian anymore. The other big giveaway was the whole "being replaced." You can't really replace family, unless it was a pet. Still, I was expecting some sort of cop out, like when they said a few seasons back that Lois was finally going to get killed by Stewie and we all know how that turned out... So I was pretty shocked to see Brian, such an important part of the show, just go out the way he did. Honestly, I don't agree with this decision and I do not care one bit for this new Vinny character, so I'm hoping this is just an ark that will pass. How lame would the Family Guy/Simpsons crossover be without Brain? I'm hoping this change isn't long term.

Anyway, for anyone who missed it, the video is in the spoiler below.

[video=youtube_share;adzkOv0vvDI]http://youtu.be/adzkOv0vvDI[/video]
 
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Ventus

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(I don't watch Family Guy; who is Brian?)

Killing main characters is sometimes an effective method of plot advancement, but writers should always be concerned with how often these character-kills take place - and when. Obviously everything is good in moderation, but when you kill off a (main) character, it shouldn't always be at a point when it's expected. Case in point: BREAKING BAD. Characters were killed all the time, but sometimes not during a point of INTENSE TENSION. Sometimes character deaths should be sweet and subtle.
 

TheMasterSword

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Killing of characters should be accepted, unless it's done half heartedly. Killing off a character often times is great for a series, and adds more to the love towards the series. For example, in the anime series Trigun,
one of the main characters and Vash's antihero, Wolfwood, is KIA (killed in action).
Trigun utilized the character killoff perfectly, and it was great. On the other hand, there are Brain Griffin's killoffs. Brain's is obviously a joke, and he's coming back. The evidence provided by numerous people, particularly the semi-circlejerk in r/familyguy, have proven this true. This killoff, in my opinion, is the worst possible killoff for a show. Doing this needs to be done with class, and Brian's was not. It was abrupt, and extremely short, with NO buildup what so ever. His last words were pretty bad as well. So I understand why the internet is in such an uproar, especially considering the condition that Family Guy and it's fanbase is currently in. The only thing that keeps some fans watching is the Brian/Stewie combo, so it's understandable. This killoff was entirely unnecessary and poorly executed, and Seth McFarland is the greatest troll of all time.
On the other hand, there are characters who should be killed off but aren't/weren't. For example, in the anime Samurai Champloo, the ending would have been SO much better if at least one of the Trio died. The ending in itself is pretty controversial, I for one was disappointed, but that's an entirely different topic for another time. Anyway, if the one of them died, it would have allowed for a much better ending. I mean, it's ridiculous that they survived the injuries they had. I don't want to get into to much detail, but lets just say that they survived a Michael bay film.

Tl;dr: Killoffs need to happen
 

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