Sunday, June 7, 2015

We Could Be (Anti)Heroes

I've been playing Grand Theft Auto V for the PS4. Like pretty much all the GTA games, you're playing a character who's basically a criminal and a scumbag. (You can switch between three characters in this one, but . . . well, let's just say all of them are lacking for virtue.)

They're the protagonists of the game. But they're definitely not heroes.

We also don't need them to be.

In terms of movies and pop culture (to include books), we live in a post-Matrix world. We've gotten used to the protagonists wearing black, scoffing at the law and establishment, and killing people. Take the FX TV show The Shield. The protagonist is a dirty cop who kills, lies, steals, philanders, and more along the way. Yet we kept watching. Vic Mackey was no hero; he was an antihero, with the emphasis on "anti." But he was a great character on a really good show.

Protagonists don't need to be white-hat-wearing Dudley Do-Right characters anymore. We've gotten used to rooting for people who live in the shades of grey. Maybe we've even come to expect it. Good characters--as in well-developed, not virtuous--drive a story. After all, isn't someone who's morally grey more interesting than someone who's as pure as the driven snow?

My protagonists tend to live in those shades of grey. I think it makes them more intriguing (they're aware of their grey-ness, for what it's worth) and opens up better opportunities for storytelling and conflict. Your mileage may vary, and that's OK. It takes all characters to make up a world.

What are your protagonists like?

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