Some people like their heroes like their milk and their villains like their coal: pure and white in the former case, pure and black in the latter. Me, I prefer a bit of ambiguity: characters of whom its much harder to say that they’re definitely good or definitely evil, characters with shades of grey in their motivations.
I don’t think I’m the only Doper holding that opinion. But I’d like some confirmation. Feel free to explain why you think a given character is ambiguous, and what makes that character work for you.
I’ll start with three:
- Bull Meachem from Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini. (I have not seen the movie nor do I intend to, given my rule against watching adaptations based on books I love.) Bull’s a wifebeater, an abusive parent, a racist, and a serial turtle killer–but he’d kill anyone else who hurt his family, and he’d never abandon a friend, and if war broke out you’d want him on his side. He dies before his son can figure out whether he can forgive him for being such a son of a bitch; I haven’t figured it out either.
2.** Boromir** Yes, he betrayed his oath and tried to kill hte ringbearer. But he did it out of desperation, and for love of Gondor, and realized that he had done wrong and atoned for it with a horribly painful St. Sebastian imitation. He was Gondor’s greatest captain, I tell you.
3.Magneto (as written by Chris Claremont in the 90s). Yes, he’s trying to conquer the world on behalf of mutantkind. But spending your childhood as the guest of the Nazis can erode your trust in the kindness of strangers. He’s best when he realizes, deep down, that he’s a hop, skip, and a jump from becoming his own worst nightmare.