What are your thoughts on protagonists buying/owning slaves?


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    This is a trope that seems to be very common in light novels, but since it spans all media, I'm putting it in Other Discussion.

    A number of stories, particularly fantasy/isekai light novels, feature a protagonist who buys or otherwise ends up owning slaves. Examples include Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody, How NOT To Summon A Demon Lord, Lazy Dungeon Master, and numerous unlicensed titles like Slave Harem in the Labyrinth of the Other World (the suggestion thread for which has already gone into this topic).

    Obviously, with slavery having such negative connotations in our world history, these stories usually try to bring about some form of "happiness in slavery". Since the protagonists of these stories are meant to be the "good guys" to some extent, they are pretty much always shown treating their slaves well, though only a few of them actively work towards actually freeing their slaves. Sometimes the world setting's slavery system imposes rules on how to treat slaves, too.

    Nevertheless, slavery is something that makes many people uncomfortable and even with these elements in place they may find such stories to be unreadable. And, in the end, the protagonist's caring for these slaves oftentimes is just playing to the wish fulfillment fantasy of the stories they are in, in some way or another... though whether that is a bad thing or not is up to debate.

    So, what are your thoughts on protagonists buying or owning slaves? When are you okay with it, if ever, and why?



  • Usually I don’t give it a second thought, and often times I forget it cause it is not detretmental to the story (like Isekai Maou, Death March, LDM).

    Plus at the end of the day it is fiction so honestly I think I have never given it any real thought.


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    Not something I ever think about, because I'm reading fiction.

    If the author decides to put slavery into the world that they are creating in the book, and it's part of the story, then that is how it is in that universe. Most of the time it is there for plot reason, so no reason to second guess it.


  • Premium Member

    As mentioned above, it's just fiction. But I do draw a line, the line being the 'good guys'. For example I started checking out a WN quite a while ago, and the protagonist was someone who had slaves and treated them terribly (free violence). I just dropped it on the spot.


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    I will give some historic context here. In ancient times there were laws that would prohibit mistreating another person's slave as if you hurt another person's slave you would have to pay that person money. Now you can treat you own slaves however you wish but you could not do so with another's slave. In ancient Rome if you were a house slave, like a hair dresser for example you were treated very well if you and the other slaves behaved (though if you were a miner slave then you were doomed to die in the mines). If a slaves killed their master then that slave and all the other slaves the master owned were killed (as why didn't the other slaves stop it?). So basicly in Rome if you were a house slave and you and your fellow slaves behaved you were treated well. As a Roman slave you can work your way to freedom and once you were free you were adopted into the family you served. Once freed the that would mean that your children and grandchildren would be Roman citizens. We also have to remember that racial slavery is a much more modern thing as say if you attacked a city the people of that city may all become slaves especially if the ruler of that city made it hard for the attackers by not surrendering before the battle (they did not care about "race"). As for sex slaves aside from revenge fantasies the slave consents to the sex or sexual activities (usually as they may be a few where they do not). Fun fact the very first prostitutes were priests (or the equivalent to a preist), you would go to the temple and pay to have sex. I will end this here with why slavery is ultimately a bad thing and I will not argue morally as it is commonly believed to be morally wrong. Slavery halts progress. The ancient Greeks had the technology to make a steam engine, to them it was nothing more than a toy and they could just have the slaves do the work a steam engine could. If you have a toaster you don't need a slave to toast your bread. I will argue that slavery does off because it became less and less practical, serfdom died off and that was pretty much slavery as the lord had to feed them and the serfs had no obligation to farm over a certain amount, while presents just had to pay the lord a certain amount of grain and keep the rest for themselves to eat and sell. What seems better to a lord? A serf that works 3 out of 7 days or a present that works 6 put of 7 days and contributes to the economy?


  • Premium Member

    I have yet to encounter a light novel where I thought the inclusion of slavery enhanced it (I almost want to extend that to all stories, but I'd have to sift through too many memories to conclude that).

    In some books, I find it a clear negative element that has pushed me away from that story. In others, typically when it's less prominent in the story, it's something that I can ignore and still enjoy the other elements of the story.


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    I can't excuse something just because it is fictional. Have to think about how the author's views are being expressed (is it an expression of their real view?) and what they want you to get out of those views (Is it propoganda?). Like with Terry Goodkind...

    "Soul of the Fire" describes a minority group that keeps itself in power by controlling the schools and teaching everyone in their society that they were the victim of a horrible injustice in the past and are therefore owed a great debt by the "evil" majority (and the horrible injustice may not have actually happened in the first place). They used this (along with being moneylenders who control the economy) to take control of the entire country during a crisis. Parallels to real-world groups are left as an exercise to the reader.

    https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/SwordOfTruth

    Yikes.

    A hypothetical slavery equivalent would be if someone took Kanye West's I'll conceived belief of slavery as a choice, and included it in a work involving fantasy races to sort of dog whistle their beliefs in there. =/

    Not sure about their use of slavery to tell any message, but in the manga + LN sphere, we've seen some pro-Imperialist views in Lit that are a bit iffy. There is intent in a lot of these works, no matter if they're fantastical settings or realistic.


  • Premium Member

    @terrence no doubt every author has their own biases and beliefs that will make its way to their works counciously or uncounciously, but the question is how is the work interpreted? Take Enders Game for example, the book can be interpreted very differently then what Orson Scott Card's belifs are. Ridicule for how you were born, conflict due to misunderstandings and differences, the political forums (though I do not remember those parts very well but I think they can be viewed in an opposite way then what Card beliefs are).


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    I think it's more often than not a poor narrative crutch. There are a few cases where the slavery kind of matters - Demon Load uses it to explain the video game concept of "summoned things obey the summoner," for example - but most of the time it's just a lazy shortcut to characterize the protagonist with "oh look, he/she/they are nice to slaves, you should root for them" or something along those lines.

    At the same time, I personally don't have much of a problem ignoring it to enjoy other parts of the story. It just elicits an eyeroll from me when it turns out to be a shallow implementation.


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    I can't really say its something I like but at least in most light novels I've come across so far seem to either downplay or make it clear that our main character is not being abusive. I think an interesting point of contrast in Demon Lord when Diablo uses the fact that Shera is his slave to compel her break out of her brothers mind control showing how our main character acts and how our villain would treat their slaves.

    That being said if were talking about all media then I'm sure we would find many more bad examples of our main character being outright abusive and those should not be glorified or treated as kink. Honestly speaking you don't even have to look outside light novels to find examples of that but I'd rather not give direct examples


  • Premium Member

    I think for this one thing that is very important is how and why the MC gets a slave. Take shield hero for example. The MC buys a slave, that explains the how and why he buys a slave is that slaves are the only people are the only people that he can trust as they can never betray him. Now take death March, out of all the slaves or servants the MC aquires only 2 of them he went out of his way to buy (the rest just becomes his slave). The reason being one if them was a reincarnater while the other was her sister.

    Also in storied I would say for every thing that happens in a story it has one of 3 outcomes:

    1. it adds to the story
    2. it detracts from the story or contradicts with the story
    3. it is neutral and does not add or detract

    I would say the slavery in shield hero adds more than the slavery in death march.

    Ideally you want everything to be in #1 but there will be stuff that is in #3 and you want to minimize and lose all of #2. I find in most cases in LN slavery is in #3.

    Edit: there is a series called skill taker where the MC goes to buy a slave or is saving up enough money to because the slave has information he want a and he made a deal that she becomes his slave he tell him the information and MC sets her free. Though MC makes it clear that if she lied about having info (after the slave asked what he would do if she lied) that he would not free her. Though in the end she is like I will stay as your slave and they later have some sexy fun time.


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    As always, we have to be careful of the Thermian Argument, ie the setting is created just so in such a way that (in this case) participating in the institution of slavery is justified and excused. At which point we have to ask why the setting is written in a way that conveniently happens to excuse slavery.

    Personally I suspect that in the vast majority of light novels, slavery is included entirely because it's somehow expected as a plot device in fantasy-setting stories. Far too many of them could be easily rewritten to remove any mention of slavery at all, much less have the protagonist buy or obtain them, and the overall plot would not be affected beyond the altered excuse for why the female characters hang around the male protagonist.

    It's lazy writing and worldbuilding. Most of the time it is tolerated and ignored, rather than actually appreciated, which I would think would be a sign that authors would do well to leave it out in the first place.



  • Tbh, I don't mind anything.
    Slavery.
    Rape.
    Prostitution.
    Torture.
    You name it—as long as it adds smth to the story.

    In other words, everything is OK as long as it fits the story context.

    I haven't read the examples in OP (Kinda iffy on reading LDM but has no interest in the other two) so, I can't draw examples from them.

    @Terrence

    Well, to me, an author who doesn't inject his thoughts, feelings, or philosophy into his stories—is kinda a failure.
    The outcome will always be flat and uninteresting.

    And, I don't think people get swayed easily. (If they do then they are irrelevant)
    If there's some guy who will go to the underground market to buy a slave after reading a novel with slavery—then there's something wrong about him from the start lol.


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    @bloodygaikotsu said in What are your thoughts on protagonists buying/owning slaves?:

    And, I don't think people get swayed easily. (If they do then they are irrelevant)
    If there's some guy who will go to the underground market to buy a slave after reading a novel with slavery—then there's something wrong about him from the start lol.

    I mean, yes and no?

    Nobody's going to an underground market to buy a slave after reading a novel with slavery, so that's kind of a strawman.

    The issue is that it propagates the idea that some people (invariably women, since the slaves in the stories are women) are adjuncts to the main (male) character and extensions of that male character, as opposed to people in their own right.

    This is kind of the same issue as "othering", eg "they're just from the Evil Empire, so it's okay to kill them", which can be easily analogized to RL concepts. Someone who isn't already inclined towards that sort of mindset probably won't be swayed towards it, but someone who is will have their beliefs reinforced, however subconsciously, and that's kind of not a good thing to do in this day and age.

    Which is kind of why I keep recommending Outbreak Company, since the protagonist is much aware of this sort of thing, and expresses his thoughts much more eloquently than I can.


  • Member

    I'm more terrified of people like Terrence who are so eager to mix even something as silly as isekai novels with the real world behaviour, it's one of the first steps of the "burn the witch" mentality and happily banning anything with a minimally controversial content.

    Everyone has a dark side to them and if the writer feels compelled to explore these thoughts through his work then so be it, you don't have to read it and you certainly have no right to judge the author himself, but still, in 99% lns it's nothing more than a convenient and lazy plot device or a tired cliche so I can't really have a default opinion on it except the fact that it's kind of overused.


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    @drone205 said in What are your thoughts on protagonists buying/owning slaves?:

    @terrence no doubt every author has their own biases and beliefs that will make its way to their works counciously or uncounciously, but the question is how is the work interpreted? Take Enders Game for example, the book can be interpreted very differently then what Orson Scott Card's belifs are. Ridicule for how you were born, conflict due to misunderstandings and differences, the political forums (though I do not remember those parts very well but I think they can be viewed in an opposite way then what Card beliefs are).

    You could even argue that stories like Ender's Game...

    Personally, I don't mind stories about slavery as I've explained before. That doesn't mean I necessarily approve of slavery (I do also believe that the form of slavery matters since in some cultures, slaves are treated well, while in other cultures, slaves are treated rather horribly).

    I do believe that a lot of the negative thoughts about slavery has to do with the fact that in more modern times, it has become normal that slaves are treated horribly. If slaves were always treated with respect and properly taken care of (excluding perhaps criminal slaves), then I think slavery would be thought about differently. I make a note of criminal slaves because even in modern society, criminals may end up with more dangerous jobs (even though they are still relatively safe).

    I know that in my own WNs, there were two cases of slavery being portrayed as a bad thing. One case, the hero's reason for fighting the protagonist is because of the slave he dedicated his life to being kidnapped and mistreated. The other case, the slave is more of a victim/prisoner than a slave. In both cases, slavery is not really focused on for the story, it is just something that happened. (The VN version dives more into detail though).

    I do believe that everyone will make their own decision about slavery. Some will decide it is bad; some will decide it is bad in public, but good in secret; some will decide it is acceptable in public, but bad in secret; some will decide it is acceptable. Everyone's choice is their own in the end.


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    I pretty much on the same mindset as @Rahul-Balaggan and @Timaaahh.

    It really doesn't matter and I couldn't careless even if the author was trying to somehow insert their real world views in it.

    No light novel is going to affect my morals and/or beliefs.

    If it's entertaining whether it contributes at all or not to story I will read it, if I don't like it or is not entertaining I won't

    @unsynchedcheese said in What are your thoughts on protagonists buying/owning slaves?:

    The issue is that it propagates the idea that some people (invariably women, since the slaves in the stories are women) are adjuncts to the main (male) character and extensions of that male character, as opposed to people in their own right.

    Honestly this sounds like some borderline SJW stuff but either way I disagree.

    In most of the isekai novels the MC is usually pretty adamant about respecting any slave(s) as a person whether they are trying to free them or not. In most all other cases it's only illustrating that slaves are 'adjuncts' to the character that owns the slave(regardless if one approves or not). If someone wants to spin it in some other way to some how get their jollies, that's on them.

    I'm sure there are a few examples otherwise but would be minority.

    This is kind of the same issue as "othering", eg "they're just from the Evil Empire, so it's okay to kill them", which can be easily analogized to RL concepts. Someone who isn't already inclined towards that sort of mindset probably won't be swayed towards it, but someone who is will have their beliefs reinforced, however subconsciously, and that's kind of not a good thing to do in this day and age.

    I have to think anyone that could have their beliefs reinforced by not only a fictional story but one that usually takes place in some alternate world and alternate time is again in the extreme minority and is also not playing with a full deck.

    Side note: As far a recent novels that I can think of, Lazy Dungeon Master went a bit too far for me and what I find entertaining (the slaves and bandit part) and if I understand correctly and followed closer to the WN I wouldn't have read it at all/dropped it.



  • @unsynchedcheese

    Nobody's going to an underground market to buy a slave after reading a novel with slavery, so that's kind of a strawman.

    More like exaggerated sarcasm (but I can't type my voice tone)
    But the concept is the same.

    but someone who is will have their beliefs reinforced, however subconsciously, and that's kind of not a good thing to do in this day and age.

    But, here is the thing—you decided ,on your own, that a belief is wrong to be voiced or reinforced 'cause it goes against your own beliefs.
    In the same sense, many people can and will say the same about other beliefs—after all, every belief and opinion has its opposite.
    There is a difference between banning and opposing after all.




    Also, in context of these novels, It ain't black or women = slave mindset.
    (You can check Drone205's history class above for that.)
    So, it's difficult to apply that to RL. (without the impossible—or improbable—example of human trafficking.)

    Well, slavery ain't the only thing that negates other characters' personhood in manga and LN, like we got shikigami concept or even in some cases, parent-child relationship.
    You never read a manga, where the parents are treating their child like tool or possession?
    'I gave birth to him so, I decide his fate or whatever'
    I think people usually talk about how they cheer on the child than about how it's bad to write about these stuff.

    I'm not arguing slavery is morally good or bad—as person who believes that people should be free to think, do and be whatever they want—it's against my beliefs.

    I'm just saying, as long as it's not direct insult, anything goes, but the reader just should apply some logic to what he absorbs and think twice about any belief.
    (More like that's our duty as thinking species lol, to contemplate our convictions and doubt our beliefs first—but that's just me going off on a tangent)


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    @bloodygaikotsu said in What are your thoughts on protagonists buying/owning slaves?:

    Well, to me, an author who doesn't inject his thoughts, feelings, or philosophy into his stories—is kinda a failure.
    The outcome will always be flat and uninteresting.

    I think it's more the rah rah mentality of some stuff that I'm concerned about. That it'll rile up folks with the wrong ideologies. The Terry Goodkind example may work as a dog whistle to remind people already susceptible to racism to remember to be skeptical towards a group of people. And it may make kids question things ("did this historical event really happen this way"). If the people they're around online / irl are racist / hate filled idiots, they may get the wrong info.

    And, I don't think people get swayed easily. (If they do then they are irrelevant)

    This article quote kind of shows how fiction can be helpful and harmful to societal views.

    [S]tudies reliably show that when we watch a TV show that treats gay families nonjudgmentally (say, “Modern Family”), our own views on homosexuality are likely to move in the same nonjudgmental direction. History, too, reveals fiction’s ability to change our values at the societal level, for better and worse. For example, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” helped bring about the Civil War by convincing huge numbers of Americans that blacks are people, and that enslaving them is a mortal sin. On the other hand, the 1915 film “The Birth of a Nation” inflamed racist sentiments and helped resurrect an all but defunct KKK.

    https://bigthink.com/the-moral-sciences-club/fiction-isnt-good-for-you

    Those are all real world fictional examples of course. It's tough to find a Terry Goodkind type fantasy example, outside of the aforementioned pro-Imperialist stuff + anti-China stuff in some light novels.

    That article kind of talks about how a story can't swing you from one perspective to another, but it can reinforce things that you were already moving towards or had an inclination towards. If you had literally no thought or inclination on something though, the view in the work you read would probably become your view, even if temporarily.



  • @terrence
    It just boils down to what I said

    but the reader just should apply some logic to what he absorbs and think twice about any belief.

    (More like that's our duty as thinking species lol, to contemplate our convictions and doubt our beliefs first—but that's just me going off on a tangent)

    You see, "the wrong ideology" thing is quite the subjective thing.
    I live in country, where homosexuality is illegal, immoral and sinful.
    So—the ministry to not "rile up folks with the wrong ideologies", has banned LGBT fiction. (Some stuff goes through like Will Grayson but LGBT manga don't, that's why I get some help from my friend who's in Austria lol)

    The whole problem with argument that writing about certain ideologies is bad—is you, firstly, have to judge another ideology is rotten based on your own.

    The article just talks about some form of mob mentality.

    "If many people acknowledge something, even if it's false, cruel, or stupid, I realized that it can simply become true and just."
    That's something u gotta get.
    If the majority decides something is wrong—then it is even if it's really right and if we follow concept "bad ideologies shouldn't speak up", it will just die out.

    You shouldn't "fix" fiction/literature, but "fix" the reader.