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The Good, The Bad, and Which One I Like - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The Good, The Bad, and Which One I Like
I think I've hit my limit of "But he was so much KEWLER when he was evil." I don't know exactly why this is such a commonplace thing, but as a fan of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars and Spike in Buffy, I think I've heard enough people say that to last me a lifetime.

Frankly, I'm not interested in evilness. Quite seriously. I mean, in an academic way, yes--but I have a much more Tolkienesque view of it, a kind of disembodied threat out there that tempts the good and sometimes wins. But it's the struggle against it that interests me a great deal more.

The main good guys
Shockingly enough, when I read a book or watch a movie or television show, I tend to sympathize with--hold on, you'll never guess--the hero. If I don't, then the chances of my getting along well with the book, seeing the movie again, or tuning in for the show next week are pretty slim.

I'm not sure when this became unusual.

What keeps me turning pages (or tuning in) in an epic story is the struggle that the heroes go through as they battle. It's difficult and messy, and their choices have to take a lot of factors into account, in a way that the villains don't. One of the major differences between heroes and villains, imho, is that the villain is out there Looking Out For Number One. S/he may have other concerns, but there's no contest when they come into conflict. Voldemort isn't balancing his desire to live forever against what's best for his Death Eaters; he's just going for it. Palpatine doesn't give much of a rip about the people of the Empire; he just wants the power. Sauron's not making use of evil means to save Middle Earth from itself; he just wants to control it.

There are people like that, and they can make some very unpleasant things happen, but I don't find them interesting in and of themselves. In real life, I don't find them interesting at all. In fiction, I find them interesting only inasmuch as they cause crises which the heroes must face.

So the villains aren't presented with really good moral choices. The heroes, on the other hand, have to constantly choose, as Dumbledore puts it, between "what is easy and what is right." Evil is easy. It's self-serving and it feels good. Doing what is right requires sacrifice and self-abnegation from time to time, and that's what makes a character interesting. What is s/he willing to sacrifice, not for her own sake but for the sake of others? I don't just mean life and death stuff, either. Percy Weasley is faced with the choice of loyalty to his family and the truth or to his personal ambition, and he fails because he chooses the latter. But what about a person who chooses the former? The one who turns his back on his own ambition in order to serve good? That person may be bitter or angry or borderline unstable (as Sirius was in his mother's house), but that person is also interesting in a way that the predictable, self-serving evil character is not.

Now, there can be villains who are villains only in the sense of the plot--the opposing force. These may have a perfectly legitimate point in larger society. But they also tend not to stand up in epic fiction, because they don't provide a really good foil. As to the idealist villain, I don't excuse him from the charge of being self-serving. You listen to the rant in Air Force One from Gary Oldman's character, and he goes on about how much he is willing to sacrifice for Mother Russia... but what it comes off as, in the end, is not self-sacrifice but complete self-glorification and grandiosity: "I am above petty morality because I have a higher purpose!" Stress on I, as is usual.

What in the world is interesting about that?

Give me a hobbit who must choose to take a road of trials that take him from his beloved comfort, who is sorely tested by evil every step of the way. Give me a Slayer who understands that killing isn't supposed to be about a rush. Give me a Jedi who learns to let go of his anger.

In short, give me the good guys. They have more depth.

Fern the Redemptionista
So why is the site I link to over in the left column Vader's Mask rather than Obi-Wan's Hovel or something? Why did I start this out by stating my fandom for Anakin and Spike? I'll even go further and say that I'm fascinated by Peter Pettigrew and Smeagol. I also like Snape, though less than I used to.

I do like the characters who cross the line, who fall on their faces and make bad choices. They interest me as much as the "straight" good guys.

But here's what I was never interested in: Vader the TOTAL, ALL-ENCOMPASSING EVIL.

Such a character, imho, never existed in the movies, and if he had, I wouldn't be a fan. What interested me about him was his difference from the evil around him, the things that set him apart even as far back as the first movie. He held on to that scorned religion of his, even while being sneered at by subordinates. Now that was neat. And it was his redemption that made me a simple Vader fan for life. What was it about him that made him different? What battle was he waging in his soul that made it possible for him to be redeemed?

It's the same question that interested me with Spike--this guy actually functioned on love without a soul. For the first time, Harmony (now on Angel) has also interested me... she may be stupid, but at the end of the current episode, she wept that she was trying to be good, but without a soul, it's not easy. And so on. It's the same sort of theme played again: Choices. What's easy versus what's right. (And Harm, as I recall, was never much for the "good" even before she was vamped, so it's an even more difficult choice for her.)

Peter Pettigrew went the other way--notably, out of very compelling self-interest--but in his scenes as a DE, he has been shown in a very human light. It makes me strongly suspect some kind of redemption is in the works for him, and that makes me interested in him. What makes him tick?

Smeagol--he almost made it back. Almost. If Sam had just not been sleepy and cranky at the wrong moment, what could have happened? I feel a lot of pity for Smeagol.

EDIT: While we're on the subject of redeeming characters, I propose that we redemptionistas of whichever fandom clarify the language a bit, because I think there are three distinct categories that are put together under the "redemption" label, and that may be what causes some disagreement, or at least misunderstanding.

So, these are the three things I've seen listed as "redeemed":

Exonerated: The character is presented as bad, but if we knew the truth about his motivations, or the truth about what happened, we'd realize that his actions are not, in fact, bad. Perhaps mistaken from time to time, but not evil. An exonerated character might be Sirius Black in PoA--throughout, all of his actions are interpreted as those of a murderer, but it turns out that he was trying to catch Pettigrew, and never committed the murder he was imprisoned for at all. Far from wanting Harry dead, he loves him fiercely and is committed to protecting him.

Penitence: The character has done genuinely bad things and they have not been misinterpreted, but he comes to an epiphany (either a single event or an arc of events) and turns away from evil. Now, he's doing his best to fight on the side of good, and giving what he can. Snape fits this mold (as far as we know; I doubt Rowling will go the exoneration route), as does Vader in his destruction of the Emperor, or Spike as he fights his way up via his love of Buffy. The penitent has a hard road ahead of him, and he's never going to be completely morally sure of himself. He's not exactly washed clean, and the past is always a temptation. Penitents are my favorite kind of redemption, though they require a lot of set-up.

Absolution: I think this is the one that gets the most fiery objections from people who want villains to get their comeuppance. This redeemed character is actually wiped clean of his past sins. I don't think I've ever read a convincing absolution in which the character actually lives after it. Spike could have been absolved, except that they decided to move him onto Angel after he died to save the world, and that required a penitent arc to continue. Absolution is sort of the end of penance, and it doesn't make for much of a story. And yet the fiercest arguments about character redemption make the assumption that every redeemed character is assumed to also be absolved.

And just because I think, after that, that I should show that I'm willing to work with bad guys--including those I consider irredeemably bad--today's story is the Sorting of Tom Riddle, the third vignette in my series, Of A Sort. I sympathize with him here, but I most definitely don't think he's next in line for redemption.

The Sorting of Tom Riddle

Tags: ,
I feel a bit...: grumpy grumpy

18 comments or Leave a comment
ashtur From: ashtur Date: January 15th, 2004 09:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. I couldn't agree more. I admit, some villians are more interesting than others, but ultimately it is the hero who makes the story, and who interests me. Some heros are like Harry or Frodo, where they were firmly on the heroic path from the beginning, and while they may put a foot into iffy territory now and then, there is no doubt what they are. Other heros are the redeemed, those who have fallen and look to change. Ultimately, either one is interesting. Villians though are there to be a foil. They may make fodder for short ficlets (I have my own Riddle story) but that is it.

One exception is a pair of books by L.E. Modesitt (3 actually, now that I think about it) The Magic Engineer on one side, and The White Order and Colors of Chaos on the other. Those books tell essentially the same story from opposite sides.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: January 15th, 2004 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

But Evil is TEH SEX000RR!!!111

That was a great post and I want to address it more fully tomorrow, because my brain has about had it tonight.

Suffice it to say that I think evil is glamorized in our culture. Bad Guys are Hawwttt and Sexxaaayyy and, most of all, powerful. And good? Good is wussy. Good is for sissies.

Then there's the "decadence and kink are hip and cool" fad which is so evident. There's a rush to hop on the "Badwagon" and I did mean to leave out the "n." The latest pose is decadence and those with pretensions to coolness and sexiness rush to embrace it.

There's a big difference between pure sociopathic evil and evil arising from bad choices and screw-ups. Smeagol screwed up. Peter screwed up. (I'm not the LOTR expert so I'll confine further comments to Harry Potter where I'm better informed.) Peter didn't have to be a bad person; his genes didn't compel him, his choices did. Now Percy in the current generation made bad choices. He chose ambition over principle. I wonder what is going to happen to him in the next books.

Very few real-life humans are "born evil." Most of whom we call "evil" got that way through screw-ups and wrong choices. That is why pure evil in the Tom Riddle sense is not that interesting. But evil in the Peter Pettigrew sense is interesting in that Peter could be any one of us. (I suspect that's why so many MWPP writers try to get him out of their fics; not only is he not hot 'n sexy enough but he hits too close to home in his very ordinariness.)
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: January 16th, 2004 09:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: But Evil is TEH SEX000RR!!!111

That is why pure evil in the Tom Riddle sense is not that interesting.

Mm... I've seen it said that JKR once said or implied he was hopeless from the start, but I don't think that fits with either her themes or the way she wrote him and the parallels she made with Harry's background. (And, well, it isn't interesting. *coughs*) Granted, she does acknowledge the influence of ancestry and upbringing, and there are some differences, but I think if Harry's not being evil is to be treated as a matter of choices, Tom Riddle's becoming Voldemort has to be treated as choice as well. Now, I'll grant that I'm not sure Voldemort can at this point come back -- or rather, while I believe as a matter of principle that he could if he tried, I can't think of what would prompt him to -- but I can't buy his starting out that way, and have trouble buying his starting at Hogwarts that way.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 16th, 2004 10:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: But Evil is TEH SEX000RR!!!111

I think that Tom's problem from the start was that he was totally unable to look beyond his own circumstance. The difference that I think JKR points out by giving Harry and Tom such similar circumstances is that Harry chooses to give himself to love and loyalty, while Tom gives himself to hate and greed, and I suspect that is built into his personality. Had Tom been in Harry's precise situation, rather than longing for the Weasley family and trying to be a part of it, he would have hated them for having what he wanted and turned it into resentment and probably acting out. That's a choice.

I admit to being more of an essentialist than an existentialist when it comes to basic personalities--I think that, while circumstances will shape specific responses, the basic system of values and priorities is just a part of a person, as much as the color of his or her eyes. That's why two people in very similar situations will turn out very differently.

Now, had Tom Riddle been raised by two loving parents who accepted his talent and his mind, he might well behave very differently. (There's a Potterverse AU), but he'd still be battling his narcissism, and he'd probably still look out for Number One first; he just might have a chance of seeing further and noting that it's in his long term interest to be tied to other people. He'd probably still be a Slyth--he'd still have his subtle mind and probably care more about getting a thing done than exactly how it was done--but maybe something like Phineas Nigellus, snarky and not known for niceness, but ultimately actually caring quite a lot for certain people. (Okay, I'm extrapolating a lot about Nigellus from Harry's imagination of him going through Grimmauld Place, shouting for Sirius, but I actually like that Phineas, and it does fit with his refusal to believe Dumbledore.)
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: January 16th, 2004 10:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: But Evil is TEH SEX000RR!!!111

Now, had Tom Riddle been raised by two loving parents who accepted his talent and his mind, he might well behave very differently. (There's a Potterverse AU),

...Which exists. (Actually there are at least two.) I agree he'd still be a Slytherin, just with somewhat different priorities -- I think that a great deal of what contributed to his becoming Voldemort was the focus on revenge. I'm inclined to suspect he'd still be something of the charmer he evidently was in canon, though, rather than quite Phineas's style.
ashtur From: ashtur Date: January 16th, 2004 11:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: But Evil is TEH SEX000RR!!!111

I go very heavily under the theory that the situations of Tom and Harry were essentially the same, or that perhaps Harry's was even worse. People have misunderstood my one Tom fic to say that it's "excusing" him, while I was trying to build the comparison.

We don't know what happened to Tom in the orphanage, but from his reaction in the CoS flashback, it's a fair bet that it was miserable, and that the misery went beyond simple physical privation. I'm quite sure he was on the recieving end of bullies, and the like.

Harry's situation is essentially the same, with one important exception. Harry's situation is even worse, because the people doing it to him are his own blood family. That adds a "sting" all it's own to the mix.

That is the question where these discussions come up. Why does one go "one way" and someone else go another? Why does Harry become a hero, and Tom a villian? Why didn't Luke walk in Anakin's footsteps and become consumed by hatred and revenge when his aunt and uncle were killed?
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: January 17th, 2004 01:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: But Evil is TEH SEX000RR!!!111

I go very heavily under the theory that the situations of Tom and Harry were essentially the same, or that perhaps Harry's was even worse.

I think that's very plausible.

We don't know what happened to Tom in the orphanage, but from his reaction in the CoS flashback, it's a fair bet that it was miserable, and that the misery went beyond simple physical privation. I'm quite sure he was on the recieving end of bullies, and the like.

Hmm. You're right, it's a fair bet. And my attempts to write Tom do depend rather heavily on CoS for obvious reasons; I wouldn't doubt that his reaction to the idea of going back was genuine (though I suspect it was also a bit played up rather than strictly involuntary) nor that part of the reason was psychological. On the other hand, I also think it's plausible that he may actually have held his own pretty well. If his magic got out of hand, the orphanage authorities would presumably have reacted badly, but they'd've had to be informed the way the Dursleys were to be as systematic about it; that question could probably go either way. We know Harry was physically smaller than most of the other boys and got ganged up on; I'm not sure we can guess on Tom's relative size (except by the "we even look something alike," I guess), but it's not impossible that he learned to charm people and get them on his side well before Hogwarts.

Not that any of this means it would have to have been pleasant. It's also all mostly the product of a feeling that however logical it might be to have the orphanage recapitulate the Dursleys in detail, I wanted to do something else. *g*

That is the question where these discussions come up. Why does one go "one way" and someone else go another? Why does Harry become a hero, and Tom a villain? Why didn't Luke walk in Anakin's footsteps and become consumed by hatred and revenge when his aunt and uncle were killed?

Actually, bringing the blood-family point in again, I strongly suspect Tom's fall was in large part a result of dwelling on resentment against his father. But getting away from him specifically.... (Aren't we all glad now?) The "whys" can be hard to answer. Something inside, a choice... and sometimes a helping hand at the right time, and whether it's accepted. But still hard to define, huh?
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: January 16th, 2004 05:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree totally. I don't understand the good-is-boring argument--I mean, that Luke Skywalker as an example. I've never met any hero who was so slighted in his own fandom. And the quality that comes to mind when I think of Luke is simply good. And I find him one of the most interesting people in the whole thing--more so than the more favoured Han. And I could go on all day about Luke, as you probably know, so I shall stop. :-D
ivylore From: ivylore Date: January 16th, 2004 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Agreed Cat. He's much more complex of a character than that. Being good isn't necessarily the easiest path, nor do the right choices come without conflict or a price. There is much left to be explored when it comes to Luke, IMO.
lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: January 16th, 2004 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Indeed, Luke does get a bum rap. Similarly, I have heard complaints that the prequels "ruined" Vader by showing he was at one point a sweet little boy or a young man who loved with all of his heart (and wasn't afraid to say so). Or I've heard that Han wasn't as cool in ROTJ because he wasn't the cynical outsider anymore.

Can you all say, Missing The Entire Point?

Great piece, Fern.
ladyelaine From: ladyelaine Date: January 16th, 2004 05:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you on Vader. Return of the Jedi has always been my favorite Star Wars movie, and for one reason only: That scene when Luke and Vader are talking on the catwalk on Endor. "It is too late for me, son" always gets me; but the half-second we see Vader alone on the catwalk gets me even more.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 16th, 2004 12:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
May I suggest to you a book entitled 'Ordinary Vices'? (Easily findable on Amazon). The author deals with a lot of these issues, in a very sophisticated and interesting way...and this passage popped into mind.

"It was always natural to shudder at Machiavelli's prince when one thought of his treacheries, but it is just as easy to forget them and find him fascinating. A 'new' prince, then as now, is inherently exciting: men follow him out of greed, but also with passionate attachment. Cruelty can be glamorous."

She gives this idea a good solid drubbing. A lot of people who like villians (I mean something more than enjoying them as characters--there are villians who I find to be interesting characters, but temper that with remembering what they DO) slide over into the area of forgetting what moral qualities and actions the villians take. It's a good reminder to think, for example, 'Voldemort killed a LOT of people. He kills at will. That's evil, man.'

Thoughtful post!
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: January 17th, 2004 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
It occurs to me to comment on the different definitions people use for "redemption" -- I've also seen a sometimes-puzzling fourth use where it might be better phrased as "redemption in the eyes of" followed by either the reader or another character. This is where, say, someone who thinks Snape is genuinely working on the good side and trying to protect his students, etc., refers to whether or not he will be redeemed based on whether he and Harry come to an understanding or not, or a reader without doubt about Molly's allegiances nonetheless says she'll have to do something really impressive in the next two books to redeem herself, evidently from being too controlling and/or too stereotypical. (The latter, I suppose, would be more a case of JKR redeeming her writing of Molly as an effective character, actually....)

Now, being obnoxious or cruel or controlling in a day-to-day sort of way certainly causes problems, and it isn't as if mundane concerns and flaws or petty evils don't count, but even if one maintains that Snape needs to learn to control his temper and not turn the sharp edge of his tongue on his students as a necessary step to being truly redeemed (penitent OR absolved...), or even that he would have to attempt to reconcile with Harry, I don't think it's quite fair to insist that it doesn't count until Harry acknowledges it. So I'm inclined to think this particular use is problematic for most literary discussions. *g*

Out of curiosity, would you consider it possible for a story to work if a character were supposed to be absolved -- but then went on to work further for good? Or would that still be considered a penitent arc by definition?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 18th, 2004 02:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Out of curiosity, would you consider it possible for a story to work if a character were supposed to be absolved -- but then went on to work further for good? Or would that still be considered a penitent arc by definition?

Such a theme could happen in theory, but I think in practice, it would always turn out to be a penitent arc, just because the person who is already absolved loses a lot of momentum. I think that a person may actually be absolved, but go on a penitent arc anyway, because he or she will never feel absolved. A good person with memories of doing horrible things will probably always feel unclean, so even if he was forgiven long ago, he might see himself as still struggling for redemption. I doubt Eru or any reader would consider Frodo Baggins to be anything but absolved for the taking of the Ring, but I think it was a big part of what haunted him in his illnesses--the guilt, the sense of needing absolution. So had Frodo stayed, I think any subsequent plot would be, structurally, a penitence plot.

I think this could be part of the deal with Spike. The flashy ending of Buffy, in which he becomes the light, was an iconic absolution. But when he comes back, he grumbles about deserving a better afterlife when things are light, but when push comes to shove, he admits that he feels he belongs in hell ("but not yet"--a great penitent line). He may be stuck in a kind of purgatory until he genuinely feels clean himself. I've noticed an increasing frequency of the use of his real name; I think this is a signal that he's returning to himself, to the path he belonged on, as William.
selenak From: selenak Date: January 18th, 2004 08:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Hero-bashing is a phenomenon...

...which annoys me, too. Mind you, I do think there are some interesting villains around, but like you, I need them to be conflicted to be genuinenly fascinated.

Heroes, when well-written, do have the harder choices, which is one of the reasons why I'm in the tiny, tiny minority who actually likes and sympathizes with Buffy the character on BTVS.

A convincing absolution in which the character in question lives afterwards: no, I can't say I've read one, either. In some of his letters Tolkien speculated what would have happened if Smeagol had made it back, and concluded he still would have taken the Ring from Frodo and thrown himself into the fire of Mount Doom, only in this case he'd have done it intentionally, to save Frodo. Apparently he couldn't think of a scenario in which a redeemed Smeagol would have been able to live, either...

As far as TV is concerned, however, I can think of one exception to this rule, and it is a qualified one. Are you familiar with Babylon 5? If you're not, the character I'm thinking of is Londo Mollari, who goes through fall and redemption on the actual show; his final act of redemption - on the show, that is - is a self-sacrifice that doesn't contain death. Death, in fact, would be easy in comparison. He volunteers for decades of an hellish existence during which he will be controlled and torment every second of his life so that millions of other people will live, and his world be saved. This happens near the end of the show, but thanks to an earlier episode involving time-travel the audience knows that Londo will have to live for about 17 years like this before he dies.
alara_r From: alara_r Date: January 18th, 2004 10:41 am (UTC) (Link)

I agree with everything you've said.

I'm a Magneto fan, and I see this kind of thing all the time. Either "Magneto was a better character when he was a one-dimensional evil maniac" or "Magneto is actually the good guy when you think about it and had good reasons for killing all those people and Charles Xavier is really the evil one." I also see it with Scorpius on Farscape-- either people who simply refuse to recognize that Scorpius is not a one-dimensional mwahahaha villain, or people who refuse to recognize that in fact, John Crichton is well within his rights to never, ever forgive Scorpius for torturing him.

I think there may be a fourth category, which encompasses characters like Magneto and Scorpius-- the semi-exonerated, perhaps? People who are originally presented as one-dimensional, wholly evil villains, whom *canon* later applies dimension to and gives good reason for doing what they did... but that doesn't make what they did right. Yet, because they had good reasons, they are unlikely to become particularly penitent. Scorpius had very good reasons to torture John Crichton-- Crichton was an alien sneaking around on his top secret base, where he was researching means for saving his people from an overwhelming military threat, and when he interrogated Crichton he found out the man was hiding the secret of a powerful weapon/military advantage that Scorpius was putting a lot of effort into researching. This does not make it right to have tortured Crichton-- while from Scorpius' perspective what he did to Crichton may have been relatively merciful (another guy in the same military wanted to summarily execute Crichton for being in the wrong place at the wrong time), from Crichton's perspective it destroyed him, and we should not expect him to ever forgive Scorpius for this. Scorpius has never expressed any remorse, and one suspects if he did it would be purely pragmatic-- ie, "that was a dumb idea because it ended up alienating someone it turns out now I need", not "I committed a morally wrong act"-- so he's not a penitent, and we can't wholly exonerate him because what he did really *was* bad... but he did it for understandable reasons, even forgiveable ones if we don't identify too strongly with the guy he did it to. He had trillions of lives at stake, and as the series progresses, the "hero's" body count gets seriously high, in the tens of thousands, and Scorpius kills a total of about four people, I think.

So what do we call characters like that?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 18th, 2004 01:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I agree with everything you've said.

Sympathetic villains? Righteous villains? I don't read X-Men comics, but Mageto fascinates me in the movies, because I can sympathize with most of his actions while still realizing that he's in the wrong and needs to be stopped. I certainly see the friendship between Charles and Eric, and I tend to think that Charles would very much like to see Eric come to his senses. I think he's in the "redeemable" category--many of the villains who do wrong thinking that they're doing right are susceptible to redemption arcs at a later part of the story, when their sense of justice can no longer condone their own actions.

So I guess I'd put them in the category of "Redeemable" or "Sympathetic." They, like Vader and Peter Pettigrew, interest me simply because there are great big beacons about them that shout "inner good." The evil part doesn't interest me for itself, only as a disease that's eating away at them. In the Dark Tower series, Stephen King describes the heroin addiction of one of his characters (Eddie Dean) as "a good gun going down in quicksand"--that Eddie has this huge potential to be good, but he keeps miring himself in this factor that cripples him. I think all of these characters dance back and forth across the line.
stakebait From: stakebait Date: January 30th, 2004 02:27 am (UTC) (Link)
See, I tend to like the grey, ambiguous characters better than either, I think because there's more suspense about what they're going to choose in any situation. In Star Wars I'm a Han Solo girl. In Buffy I go for Spike, Wesley, and Faith -- good guys turned bad, bad guys turned good, both turned something complicated in between. Sometimes all of the above.

It's not that I'm not interested in Buffy or Angel or Harry Potter -- and yeah, if I don't like the viewpoint character, who is probably the hero, I'm not going to stick around long. And I don't tend to be very interested in *pure* evil (Voldemort, Angelus) except as a catalyst for someone else's reactions, because it's pretty self-explanatory and it doesn't match up well with my view of the world, which is that almost no one *thinks* they're evil, however much I might.

But while I'm somewhat interested in the pure good -- because it's not so self-explanatory, and it's harder to maintain -- I tend to be *most* interested in them as catalysts too. Buffy's impact on the people around her fascinates me more than Buffy's own feelings. What is it like to love a hero, to hate one, to have one for a sister?

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