Considered taking this to PM, but what the hell, others might be interested too. (and not like I'm disrupting an ongoing series like started happening with Jack and Jill ages ago XP )
Just happened upon this again by chance, and was compelled to reply, especially given some recent thoughts on the issue considering my own characters.
Regarding this post from Arbon:viewtopic.php?p=378826#p378826
It all comes down to intrinsic personality and developmental traits/personality, that and the question of how much the latter can really change once it's been firmly established. (especially from all of childhood up into adulthood -so fully established persona for better or worse)
That, and whether there's some types of people who have the potential to be very good OR very bad (and genuinely have their nature/personality shaped as such) with developmental factors playing the key roles here. (and, of course, potential for a huge range of middle-ground between "good" and "bad" as such)
And only some of them may have the ability to really change later in life (socialization in early life is a HUGE issue that's extremely difficult to overcome later on -applies to a ton of other animals aside from humans too, though it most definitely varies based on the individual in most/all cases). That, and some sorts of bad/poor socialization are more solidly bound than others. (some cases end up closer to a gray area that makes things more malleable later in life)
Developmental sociopathy or psycopathy vs intrinsic. (I'm not THAT well versed in the reality of this, but I'm confident that there's examples of both . . . and far more of the former than the latter)
Then there's the odd case of intrinsic sociopaths/psychopaths that end up in a situation that totally maskes/mutes/prevents the dark/disturbed side of things from really manifesting. (no trigger or finding an outlet that's totally acceptable to society)
And, of course, by definition, psychopaths are more intrinsic or "born that way" while sociopaths are far more developmentally/socially driven. (though there's almost certainly some level of predisposition/potential involved -or malleability towards such . . . some more of a "blank slate" than others even)
Then there's the other area that's different and not so much the case for Amanda: genuinely liking and enjoying doing bad things but also hating one's self for liking it. (and then the branches of that: being able to resist doing said things vs not being able to resist those compulsions)
DTF did an excellent example of that with Advice
Amanda doesn't seem apologetic though . . . sure, she'd be sorry if she hurt someone she cared about (including emotionally -ie if they found out her secrets), but at the same time she wouldn't so much be sorry for doing those things as much as just sorry she was found out. (and that finding out hurt someone else . . . nothing to do with feeling sorry for the people she'd killed)
I really can't help but sympathize with all sides in this . . . and I honestly can't say one way or the other how much of my own personality is just me, and how much developed due to the support/socialization I got. (getting pretty deep there, I know, but Arbon's comments pretty much dug down the root of things and got me thinking across the board on the reality of all this)
Same thing for my characters: all of whom have very strong positive reinforcement as part of their childhood/history.
Then roll that all into the dichotomy of power: Power corrupts,
andWith power comes responsibility.
And how much either of those are defined by our inherent character and how much is developmental.
The phrase "children are basically sociopaths" also comes to mind, which is not universally true, but still applicable. (and the general context to that quote is "sociopaths until their parents and society teach them otherwise" -except, lacking that, you've only got your life experiences to go with)
But at very least, there's varying degrees of potential for sociopathy. (which is itself generally guided by developmental factors)
And as far as macro fiction goes, let alone seriously detailed/fleshed out characters, you've got cases where redemption is possible, sometimes only partially possible (either conflicted over it or simply continuing to like it without reservations -aside from friends/family- as with Amanda), or totally impossible (again could be conflicted/reluctant but still unable to change/resist, or could be totally free of guilt/shame).
Arilin is probably the classic example here, and Berserker's characters (namely Fiela and -recently- Seranna) are directly inspired by her. However, none of those characters were as far gone or as traumatized as Amanda, or Cissy for that matter, and also not heavily indoctrinated by others (and reinforced by their own behavior) as Darla seems to have been. (or Umbra in First Crack at This -and as Nina may have been on the way to becoming as well)
Arilin and Seranna both had more apathy/neglect examples for their problematic socialization, not sure about Fiela though (seems more like basic predatory nature combined with lack of socialization one way or the other in regards to micros -combined with them acting as pests, perhaps even aggressive pests -and even then she wasn't as sadistic as Arilin, let alone Darla . . . for that matter Amanda isn't particularly sadistic either, most just playful+predatory and amoral -AFIK she doesn't really care too much for sadistic torture on the level implied by Darla, or for that matter, implied regarding Umbra and Nina . . . like tearing people apart while they're still alive).
Additionally, Amanda and Cissy are different even from Darla in that they live in a world/society where what they do is not remotely socially acceptable by macro standards and is totally illegal as well, so they HAD the benefit of the social norm potentially guiding them to the "normal" and "legitimate" path much more so than the others. (less so for Amanda, granted, but Cissy grew up in a first world country . . . sure, worst cases within that can still be pretty terrible, but also a VERY different context than the actively predatory and/or apathetic societies in the other examples -even in Arilin's case it would have been more frowned upon than outright illegal . . . or more on the level of animal cruelty at worst -granted, she never defined the formal laws of the Rha or Liliren, so it might have been a bit worse than that too)
Plus, being size-shifters, Cissy and Amanda can litterally see things from the point of view of of normals (or even micros), for what that's worth.
It's also not clear what might have happened to those characters that DO reform had events done gone the way they had. (would Arilin, Fiela, or Nina have continued -or deepened- in their abuse/exploitive/destructive behavior if things had continued they way they'd been, or would they have grown out of it on their own?)
Not quite sure where Neopuc's Natalya would fit in, but I'm pretty sure she's damn close to Amanda. (maybe a different backstory -or just less fleshed out- but still very prone to not having any regrets for killing . . . though making exceptions for those she finds "interesting" . . . sometimes -and becoming genuinely loving/close to those she's bonded with and really connected to, so not technically incapable of love . . . also like Amanda)
I get the feeling that Cissy is a bit more jaded than Amanda too, and there's something else going on, but still tons of similarities.
Fiela showed genuine signs of sympathy, compassion and change
Seranna . . . for one lives in a society where predation is normal (if not necessary) and apparently at least somewhat akin to Kusa's CAS universe. However, the acknowledgement of and respect for intelligence is a rather interesting note there that's not often that drawn upon . . . and something that's kind of dicey in its own sense. (ie are stupid people less people . . . and if animals with basically -or close to- normal animal level intelligence, yet with the ability -or limited ability- to speak be any more people than they otherwise would be?)
--I'm sure this issue is going to come up between Arbon and Christy in Tight Living
(Jacktherabbit over on eka's portal did something rather like this, albeit with normal/feral animals in a furry/anthro setting -some animals like fish and bugs are totally normal, many others like most birds, mammals, and reptiles have some level of speech and sentience beyond the IRL counterparts . . . some only barely so, others more or less fully sapient, so it gets pretty damn confusing and interesting -including in regions where sapient predation is outlawed)
And now down to a few specific points on Arbon's actual post:
arbon wrote:From what I can tell, this ISN’T kidding, and if ever caught in a situation where Amanda could eat me with no repercussions, social or otherwise, she would do so without any hesitation and a smile on her face. Acting the part of a monster for the sake of appearances is one thing, but when you act like a monster when there isn’t any reason to, then you simply /are/ a monster. I seem to remember reading that Amanda would murder her own allies while growing up in the military. Or rather, it was written that a number of soldiers would ‘disappear’ mysteriously and left it up to the reader to imagine their fate. Sort of makes me wonder just what happens to Kali’s friends if and when they ever /stop/ being friends. And would that ‘dedicated mother’ bit turn to a rather sour note if Kali got into a bad argument with someone and they showed up at the house to apologize, only to find Amanda answering the door instead.
This is completely true: she DID kill her allies iirc (in fact the rebels thanked her for that, thinking she was one of them when they witnessed the carnage).
As to eating YOU or anyone specifically though, it would also seem to depend on the mood and whether you could make yourself seem amusing, intriguing, or otherwise interesting enough to merit being kept around. (except with her forming a more solid structure of family and friends, and her more limited availability of . . . victims -let alone the liability of leaving any witnesses- it might actually be LESS likely to achieve this goal than in her old days . . . and more traditional begging/pleading would likely be totally ineffective)
On one hand it’s great fetish material, on the other hand I’m supposed to sympathize with Amanda in other works and actually laugh when the murders are treated as a joke. It’s not really a joke if she WOULD kill you, it feels more like lulling you into a false sense of security so she can strike when you least expect it.
Beyond fetish material, I still find the whole thing rather fascinating, and for similar reasons that I find those sorts of dark characters interesting in more mainstream genres.
(aside from that, there's also something charming about Amanda that I can't shake and can't help but sympathize with her on some level -at the same time I kind of hate myself for that, but I won't deny it's there . . . part of my own broad/malleable personality, I guess, that and being overly sympathetic in general -beyond being compassionate, really, and it's both strange and unsettling, but also fascinating)
I would love to see some downtrodden criminal, mob boss, serial rapist, ect … end up captured by Kat and gifted to Amanda as a delectable present. But realistically those are the type of people who would PAY an assassin, and the most common victim of a professional hit-man(girl?) would be the rape victims or eye-witnesses who were brave enough to testify, because someone with money wants them dead before they can get to the trial. Political assassinations are a possibility, and the only thing I’ve actually seen of Kat’s work, but anyone who would pay to have the competition eliminated in such a way is more likely to cause mass harm then prevent it. Kat has been /described/ before as doing pseudo-vigilante work, but it hasn’t been shown anywhere I can see, and it’d be very hard to actually make money unless she worked for some really weird, top secret government branch that outsources to keep their hands clean.
Kat is more complex than this, and different from Amanda in that way. She's cold at times, and detached, but I also got the impression she was more the "killer assassin with a heart of gold" type . . . maybe with a bit of her own twist on what designates an "acceptable" target as such, but there is the whole point that she RAN AWAY from a life as a government-controlled bio/genetically-engineered supersoldier and wanted nothing to do with being forced/coerced into killing people for reasons she didn't know or fully understand. (though there's a lot more to it than that, and it's kind of gray, but I got the impression that she was/is a genuinely decent person by comparison -hence a big part of why she keeps Amanda in check even when there might easily be no real repercussions -and why Amanda keeps her "stash" secret from Kat as well)
Kat's is (frustratingly) similar to that of Dark Angel . . . not related, but ironically released/created at very near the same time.
Similar character, similar premise, maybe a fair bit darker than that show, but also a good deal of similarities. (Kat had more of an amnesia thing going on though, so that complicated things)
Hmm, actually, I'm positive that someone else posted a story like this with a snake/reptile anthro of some sort on macrophile a few years back. (experienced assassin -might have been a sleeper cell- that experienced some physical trauma/amnesia, but the programming still held for the assassination, and then it kind of got left unfinished iirc)
Kat is most definitely the type who wouldn't hesitate to kill if she believed it was necessary though, but she has far more scruples than Amanda and the like. (and doesn't get the same sort of satisfaction out of it either)
Under the right conditions, she'd also likely become the avenging angel type, but I'm not sure if that's happened yet or not. (and now I'm thinking of Rogue's Lyell character from the Kenya's Heroine trilogy . . . almost a hybrid of Amanda and Kat in that sense, but warmer/more sympathetic than either . . . and better socialized . . . at least IMO . . . and going by the limited characterization from those 3 stories -most definitely the vengeful angel or punisher type, though . . . a dark superhero sort of persona, perhaps . . . Kat boarders a little more on antihero, but not quite)
Amanda would come across as selfish, conniving, and cruel for the fact she’ll actively support letting the children of other parents die in a horrible manner, yet the moment her own child is at stake she’s out for revenge.
This is really just a more extreme take on a far more common trope (or even a far more common real-world personality trait) that places individual and family (or friends) on a pedestal far, far beyond strangers or passing acquaintances (let alone enemies or rivals). I'd go as far to say that it's part of human nature, but obviously a twisted case when taken to such extremes. (fairly classic sociopathic murderer behavior though . . . normal life, good parent, good neighbor, but secretly a compulsive and/or bloodthirsty and/or sadistic killer)
In Case Studies it was made abundantly clear, multiple times, that Amanda didn’t care who was in the box and wouldn’t pay attention to any of them. It’s rather hard to notice white fur and odd eye color when you are so adamant against paying attention to your victims that you can barely remember what species you just swallowed. It was also made clear that Amanda’s background had absolutely nothing to do with her bloodlust, she does this because she /likes it/ and for no other underlying reason. It doesn’t really matter how infrequent the murders are when she isn’t selective about who she goes after, and her focus is more on a reason why NOT to kill you, because the fact she already wants to is where you start out in her mind.
SHE makes it clear, but you assume SHE understands herself.
She's a sociopath, and just because she LIKES it now and without qualms even, doesn't mean that she was born that way or that her childhood/past didn't mold her into what she is (even irreversibly so). That's a big part of what makes the classic sociopath. (the fact that she also has predatory compulsions/instincts and had her personality mold around to feeding those desires/compulsions just made it all the more tightly bound to her final personality -rather than the opposite case with the very same primal instincts and tastes, yet socialized in such a way that one would never consider seriously acting upon such things and would be totally disgusted with one's self if they did . . . and outright horrified if they acted upon it -more muted extensions of this are seen in Kali and Tia's compulsion to tease/play with/chase little/vulnerable things, but complemented by also being genuinely sympathetic and even protective of them . . . likewise with Christy except a bit more aggressively playful and also the whole . . . hunting normal small prey animals thing -in fact, it's the control/restraint/compassion complementing those instincts and raw power that make for some of the most powerful aspects of the macro/pred genre -and many similar cases of supernatual/superhuman fiction too)
To make Amanda kill someone she already knows and deeply cares for, all you’d need to do is cut off their voice and disguise their appearance.
Which almost happened to Jack . . . and would/could apply to many other situations too, granted, heavily depending on the universe. (cases where predation is not common, and all anthros are indeed sapient would be a factor to be sure -granted, that covers most cases . . . what Mannoth did with Comfort Food is rather uncommon in general with the intelligence element in there -ie if mice were normally of full/average sapient intellect, the context of that story would have been very different)
But yes, getting Amanda to willingly kill someone she cared about (well, willingly accidentally kill someone . . . ugh, mincing words there) would be easier to manage than many other cases, but still not totally black and white compared to more normal/compassionate/sympathetic characters doing effectively the same thing. (any predatory character would apply there -so I'm NOT talking about fully unaware examples where the victims are hidden within something else entirely . . . or transformed into something inanimate . . . or some animal normally not regarded as a person -and the latter goes ALL over the place throughout high fantasy and sci-fi works, classic stuff, really)
Actually, that's an interesting question: DOES Amanda regard her victims as people or not? The "people" category seems to be a touchy subject for a lot of predatory characters if not all of them . . . and there's those with (sometimes sociopathic) definitions of "people" and others that do regard what/who they eat as real people and either don't care or learn to accept it as unavoidable. (either necessary -or close to it- or compulsory)
Gang members disappear off the streets all the time. As do runaways, abuse victims, prostitutes (a particular favorite for psychopaths because they have no legal protection) people who wore the wrong shirt, people who wore the wrong hat, people who walked down the wrong street at an inopportune moment, people who weren’t looking behind them and didn’t notice anything until chloroform was shoved in their face, pretty much anyone, anywhere, who happens to be an easy target at the wrong moment. Easy target usually means the exact OPOSITE of gang members, as those people are more paranoid, more willing to fight, and won’t be taken off-guard if someone tries to mess with them. If she’s still an active serial killer and still cares so little for any of the victims, then it doesn’t seem like she’s actually CHANGED.
Indeed, and it would take a special kind of sociopath (or maybe not even a sociopath) to exclusively target those they felt were bad/evil or close enough to it to be fair game. In the "sociopath" case, you'd have cases more like Dexter as in a compulsion that's channeled into more or less vigilantism. The other case would be a physical need of some sort . . . more the case in some pred/prey-verses and also certain supernatural creatures that can't survive without feeding on living people in a lethal manner. (and thus, targeting the genuinely bad -or near as can be found- is the best of an impossible situation -certain reluctant/compassionate predators come to mind here, but I'm immediately reminded of the "kitsune" character Amy from Supernatural . . . not sure how many here follow that though
-in any case, those are among the most tragic characters of all in this)
And that's aside from the vigilante killer type who does it more out of some sense of duty to rid the world of said people and/or protect the innocent in the best way they know how. (even if it's a twisted form of justice) With any predatory aspect being more of an added quirk or perhaps making it a bit easier to swallow (no pun intended) rather than a true compulsion/need that needs some form of release.
Being a role model for Kali isn’t her having some miraculous change of heart, it’s simply a new potential consequence for murderous actions that she would like to avoid. Unless you’re telling me that if Amanda could eat some random person with NO possibility of any of her friends or family finding out, that she would hold off just on principle? Or would she jump at the treat that much more eagerly, because it’s now a rarity that she still heartily enjoys.
I think this is true . . . unless something more recent has happened to actually make her change deep down and rethink her actual respect for fellow living things . . . or at least sapient ones. (hmm, actually, I wonder if she ever considered . . . non-people "substitutes" there)
She might never change completely, but I'm not really sure where that leaves her, especially after Kalie found out.
I can fully respect not wanting to put the characters through that sort of ordeal, but it seems more like you’d rather Kali live her entire life without ever discovering the truth. And the idea that someone like her could live for so long being lied to and deceived so readily by the two people she trusts most is just heart-breaking.
Remember, Kat is being lied to as well through much of this, she's NOT enabling Amanda AFIK, though may know SOME of her cases of slipping/reverting. (I got the impression that she doesn't know how regularly Amanda still . . . indulges as such, though I'm not sure if she's actually ever been fooled into thinking Amanda had really changed on that level to the point of not WANTING to do those things anymore)
Taking a side-note so it doesn’t seem like I’m overly criticizing things, I’d like to make it clear that I really did like this update, and I can’t help but notice a little bunny down next to the dinosaur. Is that one of the Jennys? Or someone else.
Yeah, I think I’m accidentally ruining everyone’s fun by overthinking things. Sorry.
Heh, it's the kind of thing I think about ALL the time with this stuff . . . I just usually don't discuss it and am pretty good at just forcing suspension of disbelief and detaching myself. (though it does mean I'm able to sympathize with the people that just accept the darkly comical/comedic/cartoony stuff as fantasy AND those that take it seriously and get genuinely upset on the issues . . . and also means I kind of get upset with myself for actually having morbid fascinations in the stuff -fettish or not- in spite of constantly taking it seriously too -then again, the STRONG likes/preferences towards these genres are all in the genuinely positive/uplifting/gentle scenarios including those where character genuinely ARE able to change and avoid tragic or just dark/nasty endings . . . or, of course, those that never went full dark in the first place, and learned to control/embrace/manage any darker aspects of themselves very early in their lives -granted, the latter doesn't apply to all character types or scenarios)