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27 June 2010 @ 07:40 pm
To Join the Living  
In the LJ conversation on a previous post, the subject of whether or not FK vampires can starve to death came up and, in that context, so did the interpretation that Lacroix treated Nick as he did throughout Forever Knight "because Nick was very suicidal."

That is Lacroix's view, and it's not an uncommon view in the fandom.  Lacroix thinks that Nick is suicidal for desiring and pursuing mortality, for preferring humanity to vampirism.  If Lacroix's premise of the futility of humanity is accepted, the interpretation that Nick is suicidal follows.

I disagree with that premise.  I hold that pursuing humanity should not be construed as pursuing death.  In the baseline metaphor of FK as I see it, personally, Nick is Everyman and humanity is salvation; Nick will never get it in this life, but that doesn't make it the wrong goal.  Regardless of metaphors, the hero's fictional desire to escape vampirism by returning to humanity should not be taken as equivalent to a real human desiring to end his/her life.  That's grotesque.  Nick, undead, is striving to rejoin life, not to join death.  That death comes to all living things does not void the life lived.

I interpret that Nick is not suicidal except at two distinct, somewhat bizarre, points in the series.  TPTB suddenly crammed Nick's assisted suicide down our throats in "Last Knight," the final episode of third season, and there's a gesture in the direction of suicide for Nick with "Near Death," which originally aired near the end of second season (not in the order now on the DVDs), but before and aside from those two episodes, the guiding text is "Last Act," from near the start of first season, in which Nick forcefully, explicitly rejects suicide. 
Nick:  I still find life exciting. And I think I've got more to give.
Erica: I always loved the romantic in you. But the time will come--
Nick:  No. Not by my own hand.
Erica: By whose, then? You don't really think that you can become mortal? That's no more than a fantasy, Nicholas.
Nick:  Well, I believe it. ... There are only two ways to escape eternity. One way is to join the dead. The other, to join the living.

In "Last Act," Nick declares that he will never commit suicide, that he thinks he is still contributing to the world, and that he still enjoys life.  "Last Act" draws a distinction between Erica, who commits suicide after falling behind, as shown not only by her ghost's dialogue but by her manual typewriter, and Nick, who is actively engaged in the world, and is surrounded in his "high-tech dungeon of doom," as Schanke calls it, with the latest gadgets.

First-season Nick, having slain his demon (Lacroix), is full of hope and life and striving.  There is nothing suicidal about first-season Nick.  In his utmost depths of disappointment and despair ("Feeding the Beast"), what he turns to is vampirism ("re-vamping myself"), not suicide.

In second-season, with Lacroix back from the dead, there is "Near Death," the episode with the machine that supposedly stimulates near-death experiences.  Until speaking with the Guide, Nick thinks he may be able to short-cut straight to heaven, perhaps, by returning to and remaking his eight-centuries-old choice to live as a vampire rather than die as a human.  So that does meet the definition of suicidal: he is pursuing a course of action that he believes will lead to his death.  However, it's a fantasy universe, so is it really that simple?  In a sense, Nick is already dead; the disposition of his immortal soul is a more pressing concern than dying, as, to this way of thinking, he died long ago.  Importantly, Nick's primary goal in ND isn't his death; it's his salvation.  He's trying to find a shortcut not around living, but around his burden of sin, as if he could go back in time to before those sins were committed.  (His idea is clever.  Many of us could have told him it doesn't work that way, of course, and ND has oodles of theological problems, but still, he's on the clever side there, I think, seizing this unexpected opportunity.)  So because Nick's primary goal is not death, his move in the direction of death will not apply again (he accepts an interpretation of the Guide's words that requires him to keep on living, case closed, bring down the curtain on the episode).  I think that ND does not show Nick to be suicidal in any ordinary or long-term way, but only in a very extraordinary one-time-only way.

Granted, third-season's "Last Knight" is what it is.  No need to touch that.

It's so very, very easy for FK vampires to commit suicide, as exemplified by Erica in "Last Act."  No need to trouble with more elaborate methods (and there are several ways to die available, as listed by Lacroix in "Dark Knight").  Just sit outside and wait for the sun.  Just be a little late getting in before sunrise, a little early going out before sunset.  No effort at all.  If Nick were indeed death-seeking, surely he would have just let the sun catch him at some point in the past eight centuries.

Instead, Nick fights to survive, and keeps on growing and changing and finding life exciting through the years.

Embracing mortality does impose an acceptance of eventual death.  As Joan says in "For I Have Sinned," "those who live forever in the night live in constant fear of death."  This is both psychological and spiritual, and I think there are lots of good stories to be had in it.  That Nick can come to terms with death as a consequence of life, and Lacroix cannot, exemplifies Joan's insight, without getting into the theology that she and Nick both know behind it.  With this in mind, the Nightcrawler's monologue in "Fever" about the three ages of man suggests that Nick has a maturity Lacroix does not.  Lacroix thinks that any vampire who dies is "taken out of turn."  Nick knows that every vampire's "turn" has already come and gone.

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Foxy11814foxy11814 on June 28th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
I agree with you in a lot of regards. I don't think Nick's pursuit of humanity is a way for him to commit suicide, nor do I think Lacroix believes that is Nick's purpose. I do, however, think Lacroix realizes death is the inevitable outcome of Nick's quest; therefore, he wants to stop it because he wants Nick to be his companion for eternity.

I don't know if Lacroix isn't mature about the subject, though. His speech in "Last Knight" was very thought provoking and shows his feelings on the matter. (I ironically posted it not long ago, so I have it at ready, LOL.)

Life is a gift. As sweet as a ripped peach, as precious as a gilded jewel. I have never been able to understand the logic of willfully surrendering such a treasure. And what is there to gain? How dark can your existence be when compared to an eternal void? Unless of course, you have faith that there is something beyond. What do you see from where you stand? A bright light at the end of the tunnel? Is it a ray of hope? A glimmer of something better? Or will it burn you like the rising sun? Is that sound you're hearing the trumpeting of St. Peter's angels, or the screams of Memnoch's tortured souls? You can't answer that, can you, because you will never know the answer, until after the deed is done. And is your faith, really that strong? I understand the need to move on; it is something that happens to us all, and your time has truly come. I also understand that with the beauty of this life there comes pain and despair. No one is immune. But consider what you have in your hands before you give it up. Don't trade a treasure for an empty box.

Lacroix says he doesn't know what is in the afterlife, but he prefers life and that one shouldn't willingly give it up. Though I do believe in an afterlife, I agree with Lacroix here, as well. :)
Amy R.: Nickbrightknightie on June 30th, 2010 05:09 am (UTC)
>"As sweet as a ripped peach"

:-) This small typo keeps cracking me up. :-) As the slang definition of "ripped" is "with well-defined musculature," I keep seeing a peach with six-pack abs. :-)

>"I don't know if Lacroix isn't mature about the subject, though. His speech in "Last Knight""

Lacroix can often be quite eloquent. That skill certainly drives his success as the Nightcrawler.

I meant my observation specifically within the parameters of his "three ages of man" monologue in "Fever," really. There, Lacroix says that a person who has fully lived life is ready to die, and in that episode Nick explicitly expresses acceptance of death if needed, while Lacroix explicitly does not. This extrapolates out to many other encounters with death throughout the series, but no, not quite all of them.

"Last Knight" naturally has a different set of immediate parameters than "Fever," facing not a fatal disease, but suicide, and, further, dealing with suicide not as previously throughout the series, as something Nick condemns (LA) and resists (AMPH), but in the bizarre and unacceptable Romeo and Juliet nightmare they settle on. By the terms of the "Fever" monologue, "Last Knight" makes no sense, conflating "out of turn" and "ready to die" in an impossible manner.

However, if the "ripe peach" monologue were subjected to the logic of the "three ages of man" monologue -- which it really shouldn't be! but just for playing -- then I suggest that it could be interpreted as once again showing that Lacroix is not at peace with the possibility of death, and is therefore not in the most mature position on that paradigm.
Foxy11814foxy11814 on June 28th, 2010 03:22 am (UTC)
Oh, I forgot to mention that I never saw "Near Death" as a suicide attempt, either. He simply wanted to save his soul, as you have stated. :)
greerwatsongreerwatson on June 28th, 2010 11:09 am (UTC)
Death being an incidental concomitant.
Foxy11814foxy11814 on June 28th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
Yes, death would be, but I don't really think he was thinking about it as a suicide. Some, and even he does in the series, claim that he is in fact "dead," so it wouldn't be suicide, if you follow that logic. But I simply think he wasn't thinking about it terms of suicide. He was concerned with his salvation and he wanted to redo a choice that had already been given to him, but when he saw that his soul was still carrying the burden of his sins, he decided to live.

I think if he had a desire to commit suicide, he would have done so in episodes like "Last Act" or even "Can't Run, Can't Hide." He could have stayed in the warehouse as his "brother" commited suicide. In fact, the emotion on Nick's face when he realized suicide is what the other vampire wanted to do clearly shows Nick wanted to stop him from doing the act. It also shows that Nick, himself, did not want or condone suicide. You could argue that Nick always says he will not die by his own hand, and he even holds true to that in "Last Knight," but what about the times before "Last Knight" where his life was threatened. Why not simply let them win? Why not let Spark kill him in "A More Permanent Hell?" Or why not let Divia kill him in "Ashes to Ashes?" It shows he has a desire to live...but even in "Last Knight," I think he has a desire to live, but he also gave his word he and Natalie would be together forever no matter what. Considering he's a knight from the Middle Ages, that's a pretty big thing, and I think he retained his beliefs on honor and duty to one's Lord, King, and Lady--Natalie being his lady.

But of course, as with a lot of issues with Forever Knight, I can see the argument that he's suicidal, but IMO, there is too much to contradict that, as well. *shrugs* :)

Edited at 2010-06-28 06:06 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Amy R.: Nick Solemnbrightknightie on June 30th, 2010 06:17 am (UTC)
Different Essential Premise, Part One
Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply! I've been thinking about it for the past few days. I'm afraid that my response will take two posts, due to LJ length-limits.

>"Drat that I don't have a broody Nick icon!)"

I do. :-) I've put spares up for grabs over the years, too. Do you want one? Here or here might apply. ~shrug~

You and I approach the series from different essential premises -- a very common thing for FK fans. :-)

I believe that any fantasy element -- vampires, spaceships, whatever -- must validate itself by serving as a metaphor for something in reality. If the fantasy element is not used to illuminate something about real life, to tackle obliquely something that is difficult to face head on or to explain by analogy something that is difficult to understand, then it's of no use.

As I see it, the fiction of Nick's quest is very versatile and serves multiple metaphors well, with the metaphor of the moment depending on who's writing, directing and editing a given episode. Underlying everything in the series, from the "repay society for his sins" in the opening-credits monologue to the bitter end, I see a metaphor in which FK vampirism represents fallen humanity, and Nick's quest for humanity represents a soul's hope for salvation. That's my baseline. Over that, I see a metaphor in which Nick represents a survivor of abuse, and Lacroix represents the abuser -- sometimes this is refined very specifically to a representation of Nick as an adult survivor of never-reported child abuse, or Nick as a spouse who finally killed his abuser. Additionally, there's the ever-popular metaphor in which Nick's hunger for blood represents an addict's hunger for alcohol, drugs, tobacco, whatever. And then there's the thankfully almost outdated metaphor in which Nick's preference for humanity represents a person trying to live his sexual orientation or transgender nature under pressure from his family to repress and deny it. I've also enjoyed long talks about FK vampirism representing eating disorders -- from both perspectives, Nick as the healthy one and Nick as the ill one, though of course I lean to Nick as trying to regain his health and vampirism representing the illness.

So from my perspective, the fact that "humans are just as flawed as any other creatures" does not mean that humanity is not a state worth pursuing, as humanity metaphorically represents salvation, recovery from addiction, embracing a true identity, escaping abuse, and more, while vampirism represents their dire opposites. (That is complementary to but aside from the story level on which vampirism is a constant state of driving hunger to hunt and kill people, as well as denial of the day, denial of freedom to worship, denial of human sexuality and procreation, etc.).

I'm confused by the assertion that Nick was a "borderline-abusive jerk" "back in the day" because we "know next to nothing on his former human life." During the centuries in which Nick followed Lacroix's lead, he was canonically a serial murderer of incredible scope, a much worse thing than a jerk or even an abuser, of course. But during Nick's human life, as seen in "Queen of Harps" and the small scenes in "Dance by the Light of the Moon," there is no hint that Nick is in any way a "borderline-abusive jerk." Instead, he seems rather enlightened for his time and place. Surely it is unfair to assume categorically that he was guilty of sins that are never hinted on screen? Of course that supposition should be used wherever applicable to make great fanfiction stories! But without specific canonical citations, we don't have to accept it as canonically part of Nick's character.
Amy R.: Nick Solemnbrightknightie on June 30th, 2010 06:21 am (UTC)
Different Essential Premise, Part Two
And here is the rest of the reply, with my apologies for the length.

>"But, being happier with your lot in life doesn't make for good drama, don'tcha know. So they brought Uncle back."

I believe that what they said at the time was that they revived Lacroix because they liked working with Nigel Bennett and wanted more screen-time for him. ~shrug~

>"The fact that he hasn't gotten that sense of acceptance, of belonging, in the vampire community makes it only natural that he finds humanity to be a better deal."

Surely Nick spent centuries "accepted" by the "vampire community" when he was murdering regularly, as he was taught by Lacroix?

Lacroix, and presumably others -- the "we" in "Love You to Death" -- became unhappy with Nick only after he began resisting their brutality. The "Love You to Death" flashbacks are key, but all the flashbacks add up. Nick did not become attracted to humanity because he was cast out by vampires; rather, he became attracted to humanity -- first beginning to kill "only the guilty" around the time of the Spanish Inquisition, and then beginning to experiment with animal blood in the nineteenth century, and then ceasing to kill altogether with Sylvaine in 1890 -- and his vampire associates recoiled from him. Despite their rejection, Nick continued to stick to his convictions. Nick's isolation from other vampires -- if indeed it really exists; we rarely see them hanging out with other vampires in flashbacks, so it's not much different from the present day -- followed his code; it did not prompt it.

>"seize the day and grasp for true meaning in his life now"

There is definitely some truth in this! However, I would suggest that Nick's available meaning in life rests in committing himself further to humanity, not giving up on it. Living one day at a time and finding joy in each day should not mean killing people or consuming human blood or ceasing to regret the loss of sunlight and worship and human love. All the story's meaning is in Nick's quest. The struggle to better himself, to be true to himself, to save his soul, to strive forever if forever is what it takes -- that, I believe, is what FK offers through the fantasy element of vampirism, which we can bring home to real life and use.

But again, you'll rarely find two FK fans who agree on any of this, much less across factions. :-) A friend of mine used to joke about everyone receiving her own unique feed of the show, because from the way people talked, it was almost impossible to believe that we were all watching the same events! :-)