Redemption arcs are very rarely done well and they usually focus simply on a character doing one good deed before dying, which is supposed to make us believe that they have now become a completely better person. This is lazy storytelling at its finest, because you don’t have to do any deep character development or show the character changing in any real way. Furthermore, this storyline is unrealistic when it comes to how others respond to the redeemed character. It always amazes me that one act of kindness is enough for sometimes an entire race of people to forgive someone for a lifetime of atrocities. Everything in this type of storyline just feels very unrealistic. Thankfully, Welcome to Night Vale comes to the rescue. WTNV is pretty revolutionary and creative when it comes to much of its storytelling, but I was especially pleased when I noticed the much more nuanced way that WTNV addressed redemption arcs.
Spoilers for WTNV from Season 1 to Episode 73.
A long while back I talked about Welcome to Night Vale’s Strex Corp and the Smiling God, and how the Smiling God could potentially be a critique of Christianity, Prosperity Gospel doctrine, and religious colonialism. But now I am venturing into very different territory. Is Night Vale, with all its darker rituals, beliefs, and morality, representative of left-handed paths?
When the Strex Corp storyline started in Welcome to Night Vale, I was struck by what I saw as criticism of Christianity. The Smiling God was seemingly all about light and love, but was actually something powerful that could potentially destroy everyone. On top of this, Strex Corp was using the beliefs of the Smiling God to take over and practically enslave everyone, while claiming that the people of Night Vale would be happy if they just listened to them and fell in line with their beliefs. Night Vale, on the other hand, often seemed to follow a religious path that was darker and would be viewed as taboo in our culture. While Desert Bluffs and Strex Corp emphasized light, Night Vale emphasizes darkness. And I started to wonder if Night Vale could represent left-handed paths.
(Brief disclaimer: I was raised Christian, so my knowledge of left-handed paths largely comes from the research I have done on the topic. If I have said anything that is incorrect, especially if you follow a left-handed path, please let me know. I am always excited to learn new things.)
Spoilers up to Episode 49 of Welcome to Night Vale.
Welcome to Night Vale is a show that gives us a great example of what intersectional feminism actually looks like in popular media and storytelling. It has excellent female characters, most of whom are women of color; it has characters with disabilities, two queer main characters, and often points out problematic issues surrounding race, sexuality, gender, and disabilities. I am rarely, if ever, disappointed in Welcome to Night Vale, and now I have yet another reason as to why I love this show so much. Welcome to Night Vale is one of the few shows in recent memory to address how sinister the effects of religious colonialism can be on people. Religious colonialism is when the invading culture forces its own religious beliefs onto the native peoples it is conquering and simultaneously demonizes and outlaws the native religious beliefs.
Spoilers for the Strex Corp storyline below the cut.