It bugs me sometimes how easily audience reactions are manipulated.
The simplest thing is how people are led into empathy just by how much access they get to specific characters.
Like, obviously familiarity makes it easy
In Captain Cold's introductory episode they play with light and shadow, the goggles on his trademark outfit, and camera angles, all so you see him, but you don't get to see him having a feelings. He's shadows and angles and outlines, he's controlled and collected and as cold as his moniker, and while you get to see him glory in violence, see him grin and laugh and aim the cold gun one more time, you don't get to see his feelings about actually hitting someone.
Because once he hits someone he stops. Flash is sitting there next to the frozen guy, there's opportunity, but. Nope. He's out of there.
And we don't get enough access to guess why.
But then with Legends of Tomorrow we're at the whole other extreme with him, we get to see him have feelings with his face, fill his voice with emotion, even tell little stories about his past. Because he's a regular character now, because we're in his point of view often, so the gradual unfolding of character you get on the Flash is turned up to eleven.
And he's still the same guy. He'll kill people and he'll only have feelings about it in really extreme cases. But they showed him in those cases, or even the one or two cases where he purely wouldn't kill.
So now the audience sees him having a feelings, and they have a feelings too.
Logically every last random thug and henchman has as rich an interior life as you do.
But the story doesn't give you access, doesn't invite empathy, so when they go down like ninepins, nobody is paying that much attention.
And sometimes that gets creepy. Sara Lance's ability to claim the Legends aren't killers when they were initially recruited for an assassination and routinely mow down opposition? Either writers or character be being creepy there, cause they're just blithely ignoring the human cost of the fx fests.
But sometimes it bugs me that we're just that easy. That the story, by manipulating our attention, giving or withholding emotional data, can manipulate who we think of as people, who we even count. Who stays the dire thing in the dark.
Stories are a technology of empathy, able to build a connection with people radically different from ourselves.
If they want to.
If they don't... I don't like it that humans don't so much build that bridge themselves.
Even while I actively seek out genres that'll have the kind of mass fight scene where 'we' blow up gigantic numbers of 'them' and never go to the funerals.
But I do like that Doctor Who takes viewers on a journey so often, from the scary thing in the dark we don't even get to see, through their terrifying actions, to understanding, empathy, and on a really good day making a deal to resolve it all.
Not evil, just misunderstood, so let's put the work into understanding.
Back in the real world, this is the baseline need for diverse representation.
Because access builds empathy, practices seeing the stranger as a person, and humans are just scarily bad at that without story to build the bridges.
I should go write story.