What do Urban Fantasy Series Always get Wrong?
There are some generic answers to this question, but in general, this is also highly subjective. What I think may differ from what you think. Lately, I’ve seen a few urban fantasy series and although I loved them, there were some things that got my attention, which led me to this question. What do urban fantasy series always get wrong?
Below are a few things that came to mind.
The Supernatural Bad Boy with a Dark Past
He is always there, somehow.
Dick Grayson in the Titans was tortured by his past. Geralt of Rivia (from The Witcher – which is categorized as high fantasy) lost his father at a young age and was abandoned by his mother. Chris Gordon’s immediate family was murdered in his childhood.
Although tragedies are unfortunately a part of life, our main protagonist always seems to have had it very rough in his youth. I don’t want to make light of this, because my youth wasn’t great either and I know how it affects people, but can we drop the ever-tortured hero who is incapable of love or can’t even crack a smile in every single series or film? Or in most of them?
How about a superhero who had a happy or a normal childhood with the usual problems, and who feels compelled to help mankind? Oh yes, there’s one I can think of: Tim from the Titans. He came from a loving family and wanted to join The Titans, which he ended up doing. I liked his story.
Humans, Living Happy and Carefree Lives
This week I watched the last episodes of The Titans and although I loved that series, there was one scene where I couldn’t stop myself from a sarcastic “Yeah, right!”
The characters Dick Grayson and Kori Anders are standing on a terrace of a high building, looking out over the humans on the streets far below them. Dick Grayson comments how fortunate they are, happily going about their daily lives, not knowing about monsters, the end of the world, and all the other dangers the Titans have to battle. His comment came over as if humans were this innocent flock, all happy and carefree, protected from pain when the exact opposite is true.
That is one thing that urban fantasy series and movies often get wrong. They frequently depict humans as this clueless bunch that has no idea about hardship.
Hm, we know that is not true.
Some of us face battles that others can’t even imagine. We all have our demons and foes, and although they do not wear capes or spew fire, they come in all forms and shapes: a bully in school, a harassing neighbor, a crazy ex who won’t stop stalking you, taxes, intimidation, and much worse, you name it.
Uhm, guilty … just once, though. :-s However, in my defense, when I started writing Aurélie – Survival in 2011, I had no idea there was going to be a love triangle. Aurélie decided to expand her interest from Lucan to Seraphin and didn’t want to listen to reason. Sometimes, those characters just do what they want. 😉 So, well, there she was, Aurélie, trying to figure it out.
None of my other books have any love triangles, except for one, although it isn’t really a typical triangle – it’s a futuristic fantasy/fairytale-type novel that has two men pitched as rivals. However, the main protagonist knows who she wants from the beginning, so there is none of this: “Ooh, who will she pick” or “Ooh, I hope she gets this or that guy.” It’s straightforward, she makes her choice early in the story.
In general, though, I aim to avoid love triangles. They’ve lost their novelty. In so many books and series, I see these love triangles and yes, it’s getting old … Unless you like that kind of conflict. We all have our preferences, we can’t judge. But it’s true that most urban fantasy (and fantasy in general) series and films include a love triangle. I could make a list of examples here but don’t worry, I won’t.
The End of the World
The end of the world or of humanity often seems to be the danger our superheroes have to prevent. Of course, the end of the world would be terrible, but I can think of other evils our heroes could fight.
- Preventing a worldwide drought that would end not only all humanity but also nature; or perhaps not even end the world, but cause extreme conditions. That would present an immense challenge for our Titans or Challengers, or Superman (or whoever else) to overcome. Sort of what humans are dealing with in some parts of the world. Those weak, carefree, oblivious, happy-go-lucky humans …
- Battling trophy hunters – those guys have weapons, so there would be combat, and a justified one. We could give the leaders of the trophy hunters some supernatural powers to present our superheroes with a real, fantastical challenge.
- An evil president of a large superpower invading a small, neighboring country – already happening in the feeble human world …
The end of humanity doesn’t do it for everyone anymore, and there are others who wouldn’t even care about it. So, I would get more creative with the evils our fantastical heroes face.
These are my personal opinions and it differs, of course, for each individual, but I think we can all agree that films and series (and books) could cut back a little on the love triangles and the tortured bad boy/girl heroes. Pain is a part of life, but does each hero have to come from such an extreme background? Does that imply that anyone with less horrible events in their lives can’t amount to much?
What do you think? Is “normal” a little underrated in fantasy films or series? I know, the point of fantasy is to see … fantasy, to escape from reality and from the normal stuff. However, even if we’re here to see fantasy and not focus on the daily grind of the human side characters in the story, I would like to see more positive interaction between supernatural and humanity. It’s an urban fantasy, after all. So, why not use more urban elements? I think it couldn’t hurt.
Another nice addition would be to portray the humans in the story as more knowledgeable or accepting of the supernatural, and not always depict them as helpless and clueless compared to the talented supernaturals. I’ve read a few books, though, where that was the case, which made for a nice change.