Read just about any story, especially ones that are might and magic focused, and there will be some semblance of Good vs. Evil somewhere in there. Fantasy novels are the best are illustrating this fight because it’s so obvious: Middle Earth vs. Mordor, Eragon vs. Galbatorix, Luke Skywalker vs. Emperor Palpatine (yes, it is fantasy) etc. Yet, there always feels like a little bit of a disconnect when it comes to stories like this, there almost feels like there is a human element missing in all of it for me.
I do believe that having a purely good and purely evil character has it’s place in any story, but I think there can be a much more dynamic story if we can just muddy the water even a little bit.
For instance, Superman is a character who is way too pure for me. Growing up, he was the hero who could literally do no wrong, and I’ve always hated that inhuman approach, but then again that is what makes him “super” (along with his other unbelievable abilities). I know he has gone through changes and perhaps humbled a little bit in the process, but he is still the ultimate paragon of justice when I think of good heroes.
Spider-man on the other hand has shown his potential for a darker side of human nature. His origin story reveals his potential to take his power and use it for something incredibly terrible. He could have continued down a dark road that would lead to multiple murders, but in the end he overcomes that darker capacity and shines truer as a hero, but more than that he is so, -so- human despite his abilities.
Both Superman and Spider-man have their place in a story telling environment, and both approaches can be really good. However, I have found that the stories I lean toward, and the ones I have come to love, are the stories that aren’t so clean cut. Is the hero, really good? Is the villain really bad?
The truth is that every person you meet today is capable of doing something wonderful or terrible, and it is their decisions that propel them down either path several times in a day. How much more credible is it then to have characters like that in a story?
I truly feel that the characters who are the most relatable are the ones who struggle with doing what is the right thing, who end up doing the wrong things for the right reasons, or even those who do the right things for the wrong reasons. Those kinds of decisions influence who your character becomes, just as our own personal decisions influence who we become.
What do you think? Would you prefer stories that have a more pure good and evil character in them? Or do you prefer the more ambiguous? Why?
Let me know, and until next week,
Grace and Peace