If you step into the book community, there are a few phrases you are bound to hear.
(1) just one more chapter, I promise
(2) this book is overhyped
(3) insta-love is my worst nightmare
(4) oh my goodness he is so mean to her, I hope they get married
(5) morally grey characters *non-stop talking*
So, guess what one I am talking about today?!?!
MORALLY GREY CHARACTERS. *ding ding* “….and a stuffed toy for the winner”
In the book community, there is a
trend culture for the morally ambitious characters.
They are very popular.
So, who are they??? (can we have a definition please?!?!)
Morally Grey Characters: The 100% Oxford Dictionary Approved Definition.
They’re a bitch but cute with it. Probably white and male.
No, that’s no good.
They’re horrible but good looking in leather so we forget about all the murder and emotional abuse. Probably white and male.
No, that’s still not what I mean.
A character whose morals are ambiguous. It can be hard to determine whether they are good or bad. Their behaviour will often fit into either category. Their actions can’t always be justified as they are very questionable characters. Probably white and male.
I’m really not sour that they are mostly white males. I couldn’t care less. I am completely fine with this.
To me, morally grey characters can be the villain, the side character or in some cases the heroes. I think a lot of us have a different idea what we want from these characters and they can vary depending on genres as norms and situations change but I am talking about them in a very general sense today.
As I’ve mentioned these characters are very popular. People are obsessed….
And so am I. For good reason.
Why do we obsess about them??
*end of presenter’s voice*
I’m glad you asked… (
the gifs aren’t examples)
I have always been a fan of the ‘Clark Kent’ dynamic. But let’s be real, they are made to be admired and they can be predictable. So, when they have to choose between saving a person’s life or anything else, they can play all the dramatic music they want but when they decide to save the person it isn’t like “everyone tweets about the plot twist and the crazy decision. People don’t scream at their neighbours and Queen Elizabeth doesn’t resign”. Nope, none of this happens because everyone is the audience knew it was going to happen.
Now, I know unpredictability is not everything, but I love these characters who choices are really complicated, who can surprise you in their action. They can make you go like this….
They don’t stick to a formula. Their decisions aren’t made to make the readers love them but because it is just the decisions they would make. And we readers can’t look away from them.
THE COMPLEX CHARACTERS FAN CLUB
Morally grey characters are always complex, when well written of course. As the name suggests they aren’t black or white. They work in shades of grey.
They are naturally interesting, well-rounded, realistic characters so, of course, they attract people. Their flaws and strengths are delved into and this intricate care of writing will always pull people towards them.
GOOD VERSUS BAD
People having been loving ‘good vs bad’ for forever and morally grey characters are essentially this fight but as an internal struggle. It is a fight people can watch and pick a side. It is full of battles and intrigue as you wait until the end. It is full of ups and downs so people can’t look away. The same rules apply for these characters, people can’t look away whilst they are around. And, dare I say, people will relate to these internal struggles. *gasp* Reveals all book lovers are morally grey characters *gasp again*.
WE LONG TO LOVE THE LONELY
This could just be me but characters who are lonely or have no-one understanding them do reach out and make me want to say ‘no it’s okay, I’ll be here for you’ and I kind of think this is a common thing for many readers. I mean look, who doesn’t want to give Harry a hug here?!?!?!
And, well morally grey characters can often be on their own with limited people helping or sympathising with them. I think when we see an absence of love, we naturally try our best to fill it and the love takes over.
A PLACE TO EXPLORE THE DARKEST SIDES OF YOURSELF
Only in fiction can the dark deeds have little consequences so could it be a release, an imaginary situation for people?!?! They watch characters argue between good and bad and make the poor choices. Maybe readers have imagined doing this and through reading they can let go of some of the’darkness’* and actually become healthier for it. It can also show them the consequences and teach them why this is a bad choice so they can become better in themselves. (Unless it is their villain origin story, of course)
*it might be too extreme to call in ‘darkness’ for some people, but you get my point.
THE COMFORT OF REDEMPTION AND RECOGNITION OF THE POWER OF SECOND CHANCES OR TO HIGHLIGHT THE DANGERS OF THE WRONG DECISIONS.
Wow that was waaaaaayyyy too long but basically these characters can be used to show the errors and the positivity of recognising them. To act as an example of what roads to avoid and they can actually act as a powerful moral compass for the rights and wrongs. The hero choosing to do the right thing is inspiring but the character who has chosen wrong before and is now choosing right might call to some people more. They can represent the hope you want for yourself or for other people in your life.
Are morally grey characters a good or bad ‘trend’?
I’m just going to be really vague and use my opinion as fact here (do you mean what you have been doing this entire post? Obviously.) ….
YES. They are wonderful when they are well written. They are, in fact, ….
As this Tumblr account (lyricstomb) said ‘Fiction is a place to explore dark topics* and the dangerous, unlikable side to humanity BUT immoral acts shouldn’t be glorified or normalised in fiction.’
*note: my definition of ‘darkness’ for this entire post is probably quite light ironically but use your judgement for what I mean in this context.
Well with morally grey characters you can emphasise both sides of this statement which I believe whole heartedly is true. You can explore dark topics freely and responsibly. Morally grey characters naturally get this balance instead of being all good or all bad. They look at both and give the responsible message to the audience which I do think it really important
and needs to be remembered more.
Morally grey characters shouldn’t be glorified but recognised for what they are and depending on their growth, you need to decide how much you should actually admire them. I like characters whose behaviour I don’t agree with all the time but I know not to romanticise who they are, I find them interesting and believe there can be more to them but they aren’t a role model or perfect by far. I don’t want to paint them out to be more than they are, I just find them interesting often because of their journey and their flaws.
They are realistic. There is something very human about them as we deal with topics around what is good and what is easy. Their flaws are a big part of them and watching them battle with it is something I think we all do whether on a small or large scale. They are complex just like real people. They are questioning just like real people. They make wrong decisions just like real people.