Redemption through sacrifice is an old motif that has gotten more attention in recent popular media. Redemption arcs are powerful when done correctly, but they are also difficult to execute and require specific story structures to support them. Writers who want the powerful singular moment of redemption with less of the work required to earn it often use sacrifice as a shortcut. When a character’s life ends in the service of the people they have wronged, it can seem like the ultimate return payment for the harm they have caused, but can also be emotionally cheap. Without an effort to actually make right the wrongs of one’s past, a redemptive sacrifice can seem like an effort to suffer enough that some cosmic scale is balanced, a retributive impulse turned inward rather than a restorative one aimed outward. Worse, destroying oneself in a sacrificial blaze can also seem like an effort to escape accountability and prevent an honest reckoning with one’s legacy. For these reasons, I have grown to resent the idea of characters experiencing redemption through destroying themselves.
But one piece of media managed this difficult task with impossible grace, and that is She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. The story of Shadow Weaver might be the only time in my conscious memory that I have seen a redemptive sacrifice work. And to understand why, we have to go through Shadow Weaver’s story.
Continue reading “Redemptive Sacrifice Done Right: On Shadow Weaver”