I keep seeing comments about how sad and regrettable it is that the Red Lotus died.
No. Screw them.
The Red Lotus are great as villains, but that doesn’t mean they were good people. I don’t care if they’re capable of legitimate love, camaraderie, and affection. Most monsters are. You don’t have to be detached from your humanity to do terrible things. Showing them in relatable situations makes them more whole as individuals, but it doesn’t mean they’re redeemable or baseline good at the core.
The ways they died were awful and violent, and it’s terrible it had to come to that, but I don’t feel an ounce of sympathy or regret over their deaths. They committed murder, burned down a city, destroyed the remnants of a sacred ground, threatened innocent children, tortured and attempted to kill a teenage girl, all in the name of their own twisted agenda. They died while trying to kill others. I think they’re interesting characters with interesting dynamics, but they’re interesting insofar that they’re villains, not people to root for.
I keep coming back to Zaheer’s statement that under the new world order the only loyalty people would have would be to “ourselves and the ones we love.”
I don’t care if this demonstrates Zaheer’s capacity for loving those closest to him. I don’t care if he and P’li sincerely loved each other. This is fucking wrong. The test of your empathy isn’t in your ability to care for those who are closest to you. It’s in your ability to care for people who aren’t. Forsaking your responsibility to all other human beings to solely pursue the interests of those who constitute your in group is the worst form of tribalism, and from it stems all manner of xenophobia, out-group hatred, racism, you name it. We aren’t tested when we’re asked to love the ones who are like us. We are tested when we are asked to love the ones who aren’t.
And this is amply demonstrated through the acts of sacrifice that are regularly committed by members of the main cast on behalf of people with whom they share no intimate personal connection.
I think there’s a tendency to forget callousness in the face of relatability. The Red Lotus weren’t a mess of internal contradictions like Amon, or willing hosts for evil incarnate like Unalaq, but slightly better interpersonal skills do not a good person make. You can look at some of the worst, most cruel and violent criminals and history, and a good number of them were able to successfully co-mingle with society. Some of them were even well-liked. A judge of character is never, ever about how someone presents themselves to those they’re willing to deal with. It’s about what they do to those they are not.
And I do understand why this happens. It’s sad to see pointless, wasted scraps of humanity in someone who’s otherwise cold and inhumane. It’s appealing and easy to latch onto, because it contextualizes an otherwise difficult to accept character as someone who might not be that far from ourselves in the most forgiving way possible. And it’s sad that the Red Lotus were these terrible people without empathy who needed to be removed from society. But come on. They were locked away for trying to brutally murder a toddler.