It’s certainly no secret that I’m a fan of character-driven stories. As a person who is fascinated with psychology and the human condition, any piece of fiction that focuses on the analysis and growth of character automatically intrigues me. I love to see what a character will do in certain situations – what choices he or she will make, what emotions certain events or people will evoke in them, how they handle the big and small moments that get thrown at them while they are looking away.
To that end, I absolutely love stories of redemption.
It probably originates from the fact that I was an extremely optimistic, hopeful lad growing up despite my rough childhood. Eighties flicks have a tendency to do that to you when you are a Latch-Key kid. They also have a knack for turning you into a hopeless romantic if they were made by John Hughes.
I can pretty much pinpoint exactly where this enthusiasm for character redemption stories comes from . And I think anyone who knows me can call it before they even make it to my next stand-alone sentence.
It’s all because of the Star Wars Trilogy.
It’s certainly no surprise. Star Wars was the first movie my parents took me to when I was two. I vaguely remember bits and flashes from that showing, but my dad insisted that I was on the edge of my seat during the entire movie – eyes wide open at the wonders on display. From that point on, I was hooked. Empire, Jedi – saw them both in the theaters when they first came out. Those films shaped my imagination and impacted me on multiple levels.
And what did the course of events in the original saga eventually lead us to by the end of the third installment? The redemption of a fallen Jedi who was more machine now than man. A crusty, old white man played efficiently enough by Sebastian Shaw that a Hayden-swap was insulting.
But I digress. A little.
Point is, my love for the untainted Holy Trilogy was my first and biggest experience with the idea of a character who – by all intents and purposes – had lost all virtue, but by the end of his journey had discovered (along with the audience) that he or she still posessed that spark of goodness all along. All it took was the right experiences coupled with the right catalysts at the right time to show him or her the way.
For me, there’s a complexity in that kind of character journey, as the person walking down that path has multiple ideologies and feelings that drive him or her. Often, they are in conflict. Sometimes, the darker trait is the dominant driving force while the other remains on the edges of periphery until something stirs them into a spirited crusade. Either way, the situations and decisions that face this character are immediately met in a more complex manner. Instead of the character just deciding to make decision X or avoid scenario Y the subject is forced to deal with internal conflict. Nothing in the story is simple for this construct – they have to wrestle with what they are faced with internally.
And I guess that’s part of what appeals to me – watching that struggle. Even though we generally know how this type of arc plays out it’s fun and fascinating to watch each steps this kind of character takes to get to that inevitable end. And sometimes when the writer decides to skew in the other direction and have the antagonist, protagonist, or anti-hero choose the “Dark Side”, it’s even more thrilling. Either way, I find that in the end I’m mesmerized by the transformation brought on by how the character behaves.
Though the evil turn can be more fun, I still find myself rooting for the moment that sinister or simply assholic individual crafted from pen and paper suddenly embraces the heart of gold we all knew he or she had all along. Maybe it’s because that optimistic hopeful, that hopeless romantic that has since been overly-subjected to the harsh reality of the world around me still wants to root for love and good to win over all.
Or, maybe I’m just a sick voyeur who enjoys watching the human psyche pull itself apart and reorganize for my own amusement.
Can I get a glass of redemption over here?