Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Complex Characters

I've been thinking about some of my favourite complex fictional characters in print and other media. I've listed a few below. What are some of yours, and why?

Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica, 2003 - 2009)

The Secretary of Education laboured with the task of becoming the president of the 40 000-odd survivors of the human race. Dying, and shaped as an apparently mythic, spiritual figure, Roslin leads a dwindling human race through small victories and much strife via a sometimes dubious leadership, only to reach the Earth of prophecy to find it decimated and uninhabitable.

Bastian Balthazar Bux (The Neverending Story)

The shy boy who loves books and saves Fantasia in the first half of Michael Ende's iconic fantasy novel, and then proceeds to lose his own identity and almost destroying Fantasia, the very thing he saved.

Alex (A Clockwork Orange)

Where to start. First you want to hate him, then you admire his cockey attitude, followed by revulsion toward his behaviour, and then feel sorry for him as he endures the state sponsored "treatment" to make him "normal" in order to fit into society.

Lucifer/Satan - Paradise Lost

Is he a dictator? Usurper? Evil serpent? Or is he simply doing what any oppressed individual would do by rebelling against the dictator oppressing him?


Summoned from a hell-dimension to fight for the Nazi regime but taken by the US Army, Hellboy grows up to fight occult forces and threats for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. According to prophecy, Hellboy's giant red hand will open a portal that will bring about Armageddon. Burdened by his destiny and the life he leads as a hero of Earth, Hellboy is a wonderful example of that thin line between the societal human and his Neanderthal counterpart, and the constant struggle between keeping that line fixed without one of the two parts encroaching over the other.


Bryl R. Tyne said...

Interesting post, Lynne. With so many characters out there, it's difficult for me to choose just a few that I enjoy because of their complexity. I've summed up the main aspect about complex characters that appeals to me.

I tend to fall in love with characters that appear contradictory. The ones who will say one thing, or maybe nothing at all, leaving you to assume or wonder if there is not an evil streak or something else inherently wrong--and yet when all is said and done, their actions reflect the right or just choice.

Confident because of fear or insecurity

Silent because of strength or righteousness

Loud because of shyness or a broken spirit

Polite because of diabolical intention or arrogance

Goofy because of brilliance or a burdened life

Angry because of love

I may not know the character's true personality, but they do. And, if a character knows him- or herself well enough to wear an opposite mask to perfection, I find him/her interesting. Bad guy or good guy, it doesn't matter, I will like a character simply for being a good actor.

Lynne Jamneck said...

Ah yes, that word - Contradictory! One of the reasons I think Laura Roslin is such a wonderful character. Just when you think you've pinned her down, that you know what she's up to, she does the complete opposite.