I watch a lot of cartoons. I’m sure anyone who has read this blog can attest to that. I notice there are a lot of trends happening in recent cartoons, and find it quite interesting to wanted to talk about it. Modern cartoons have a lot of nuance to them, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not saying this particular theme I’m talking about in this post doesn’t work, but it’s just fascinating to me how certain cartoons execute it, so I wanted to talk about it.
What I’m talking about, is the redemption arc. In modern cartoons, we see a lot of characters that seem beyond redemption, or characters that it’s obvious will get a redemption arc. In both instances, it can work, and the two examples of this I want to talk about are from Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure, and Miraculous Ladybug. Needless to say, after this point in the post, major major MAJOR spoilers for both shows.
The first one I want to talk about is in Miraculous Ladybug. Specifically, for the character Chloe. I thought her story arc was super interesting, because it isn’t quite done yet. We see in season 2, that Ladybug gives her a chance by giving her the Bee Miraculous. When Master Fu asks Ladybug if that’s the right choice, she replies “Being Ladybug made me a better person, so maybe being Queen Bee will help Chloe”. I thought this was a really mature way to go about starting a redemption arc, because so many times a bad character just is instantly reformed. With this, you see that Chloe isn’t even close to a redemption, but it takes someone wanting to give her a chance to reform for her to try. That being said, in season 3 she completely goes back to her old ways, possibly getting worse, but I’m curious to see what is going to happen in season 4. Chloe was totally reforming for all of the wrong reasons before: She was doing so to get her Miraculous, to show Ladybug that she was worth her idol’s time. After realizing things weren’t going to work the way Chloe wanted to, she just went back to old habits. She needs to truly want to change herself, and see that her actions have consequences. Someone willing to give her a chance isn’t enough if she’s not willing to change, and having a cartoon show that to younger audiences I think is a really smart move. Like I said before, it’s a mature way to frame a seemingly heartless character and give her more depth, while at the same time keeping an antagonist an antagonist until they truly earn said redemption. And it is something that Chloe needs to earn, because she started off so far away from being a good person that we need to see her gradually change. Which, once again, we saw glimpses of – it just wasn’t enough for her to overcome all of her inner demons, and I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen as the story progresses.
In Tangled, we have the complete opposite situation. Cassandra is a huge character in the series, and at the end of season 2, she betrays Rapunzel for her own ends and desires. Now I wish we would have gotten a liiiittle more of her shown in season 3, but still there was enough to see her inner turmoil. Her feelings towards Rapunzel weren’t invalid, but she wasn’t willing to acknowledge her own shortcomings in what happened either. She wanted to prove she was more than what others saw in her, but she had no idea what she truly wanted to do in her life, or how to achieve it. So as soon as she had a “chance” to prove herself, she tried. When she realized that she was never going to get what she wanted through the means she tried to use, and actually had a heart to heart talk with Rapunzel, they both realized that perhaps they were going about the situation the wrong way and were able to part amicably at series end.
In this scenario, we also get to see Cassandra throughout the entire series, and her character growth. But opposed to Chloe, Cassandra started out with good intentions, but was lost and hurt by the actions of other characters. She used her anger to fuel her desires, but still wasn’t sure what exactly her desires were and it was interesting seeing her misdirection. When the house of cards came tumbling down, she felt like a failure and it took her falling from grace to redeem herself, and realize trying to force what you want on yourself and push away your friends isn’t the answer.
Both of these are interesting, because they are both redemption arcs in completely different ways. Cassandra started out good, lost her way, and found it again. Chloe never knew what her way was, and is currently trying to find it. She’s messing up and stumbling through her growth, but so did Cassandra and it took a good friend bringing her back from the brink to redeem her. Chloe is going to need to see that the world doesn’t revolve around her, and that her actions and words matter and need to change before her inward change can occur.
It’s a really good way to show redemption arcs. A plotted out, methodical series that viewers can track, empathize with, and understand. It helps people see that people like this may exist in real life, and how to possibly deal with it in their lives. A lot better than the old version where someone just reforms because the writers want them to, and we see no change whatsoever on screen and we’re just supposed to accept that they’re good now.
What do you think about modern redemption arcs? Are some well done, others done poorly? Some shows do too many of them? Let me know what you think in the comments!