I feel I should apologize for talking about my passion for Supernatural, though I know it's not necessary. I'd rather write about what influences my work than concentrate on my current distraction=writer's block. That being said, I will divulge what's in my head.
Season ten (the upcoming season) will deal with a major character turned demon (yes, that's a bad thing). Spoilers have said that there will be a 'tease' regarding moral dilemmas-'who's the real monster?' Now said character, Dean, is a good guy. He has many vices, but on the whole, he's always been on the proverbial straight and narrow. Sam, his brother, searches high and low for him when Dean disappears. Along the way, Sam commits a lot of questionable acts (we won't be seeing that, I'm guessing). So the question is put to the audience-is Dean, the demon, the real monster, or Sam?
So all this leaves me wondering why the writers would want to scruff up the good guys' white hats. I understand that often 'perfect=boring'. All happy families are the same, as they say in writer's articles
. And while I know that no one is perfect and that characters should also have a few skeletons in their own closets, it seems more and more that it's fashionable or 'trendy' to smear a good guy through the mud. How bad is bad? How far can the line be pushed before the hero becomes the villain? My question is, is it really even necessary? You want a flawed character? How about Fred Flintstone? How about Bart Simpson? Archie Bunker? Actually, I know less about Bart Simpson and Archie Bunker than I do about Fred Flintstone. Fred was designed to be flawed, but 'loveable'. As I child I thought he was just a complete idiot who flaunted himself as a genius, constantly disappointed his wife and had the dumbest luck keeping his job. He's not exactly the kind of character I'd call a hero.
When Supernatural first came out, the boys (Dean and Sam) were designed as heroes, in spite of their horrible (and questionable) upbringing. As the show accumulated more and more seasons, the story arcs have grown darker and darker. The characters themselves have been -literally and proverbially-through hell. And I will grant that something as traumatic as that has to leave an impact-a deep, unhealed scar, on their souls. Sam has been possessed by a demon and an angel. He suffered in Hell for 160 years. His soulless mind and body committed a few unethical things on Earth because all that was left of Sam (while his soul was trapped in Hell) was the nature of an animal-fright, flight, fight. In Hell, Dean turned demon and enjoyed tormenting people. That aspect of his character has never changed.
So it makes me wonder why the writers feel it so necessary to vilify the characters so that the audience is left to consider who is the real bad guy. It makes me uncomfortable. I understand that well-written characters need flaws. But outright villainy just seems a tad tasteless. It was the very thing that more or less turned me off about the second Star Wars trilogy. It's one thing to watch a bad guy 'rise to the light', but quite another to watch a good guy rot before your eyes. Not only does it leave a bad taste in my mouth, but it leaves me in a state of depression. Isn't there enough bad/evil/mean people in the real world? Why should fiction reflect what already exists? Dwelling on such things is no different than watching the news day after day after day.
As I've mulled over this, I've also been watching "Band of Brothers" (look it up, it'll take to long to explain it here) Now the soldiers in those stories had a job to do. They did their job and had to learn how to be objective about what they did. It was war. And people commit all kinds of acts-good, unsavory, evil... Ad infinitum in war. It too, got me to thinking: maybe it is that the characters in Supernatural aren't superheros, but soldiers. They do what they have to and deal with the consequences. And that kind of makes sense. Otherwise, I'd be looking around every nook and cranny-so to speak-for an excuse for their criminal behavior. Does war excuse them for what they do? Not entirely, no. But now I understand WHY.
And that in and of itself gives me greater room for thought: cause and effect; cause and effect. It's what drives the character and thereby the story.
Still... there's this part of me that wants a hero, someone to cheer for; someone that can be dependably good. Does it make a character boring if they are wise (or learn to be), kindhearted, forgiving and merciful? I certainly hope not. That is not to say said character shouldn't have moments when they're so pissed off that they slap someone, or do something irrational. I'm not saying that at all. It's the pre-contemplated acts that make us criminals. We all make mistakes, but we do not need to be criminals-and neither should our fictional good guys.