There are just as many terrible male characters as there are terrible female characters, so here’s some good ones and what makes them awesome.
1. Finn- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Finn broke the stormtrooper brainwashing; that alone says a lot! No matter what his past, he chose not to take part of the village slaughter. He does what he thinks is right, no matter the consequences.
Despite being a trained soldier, he’s no ‘tough guy.’ He starts the movie with a panic attack, must remind himself to stay calm through a jail break, and isn’t always confidant with his abilities. He tries to protect Rey even after wanting to leave and is willing to attack Kylo Ren with no lightsaber training. He shows that even people who are sometimes panicky and unconfident can be heroes.
2. Aaron Burr- Hamilton
Not only is Aaron Burr (sir!) a perfect foil to Hamilton (more on that here), but he’s a super interesting character. In a world where “non-stop” productivity is praised, he’s “willing to wait for” just the right moment. He’s a different type of person than normally seen- unaggressive, but fights for what he wants when he wants it.
When he sings, “I am inimitable, I am an original,” he’s accepting that he’s not like Hamilton, and that’s okay. It’s fine to have a character, even a male character, be easygoing to the point of hesitation.
3. Nine- Doctor Who
Aww Nine. I miss you. Nine cared so much, about everyone. Remember how ecstatic he was when, “Just this once, everyone lives?” Ten would have been happy, Eleven would have smiled sadly with the knowledge it wouldn’t always end that way, and Twelve may not have even shown he cared. But Nine was absolutely euphoric. Not only did that drive home how rarely he saw a happy ending, but it showed how much he truly loves people.
The way he deals with his enemies is just as intriguing as the way he deals with his friends. When he faces the ‘last’ dalek he shows such hatred that it says to him, “You would make a good dalek.” Yet he also is willing to give some enemies a second chance, like the Slitheen woman. Write a character who cares. Write a character who cares about innocents. Write a character that may care too much about stopping the bad guys. Write a character who cares enough to learn to give second chances.
4. Lemony Snicket- A Series of Unfortunate Events; All The Wrong Questions by Lemony Snicket
Ah, the quirky mysterious narrator we all need in our lives. His love for Beatrice, his obsession with telling the Baudelaires’ tale, and his involvement in a secret organization are important pieces of his character, and not always explained. Although he starts out in Series as a seeming plot device to give the story ‘voice,’ he quickly evolves into an important character, nuanced enough to not always do the right thing, but noble enough to try.
Despite a four book series (All The Wrong Questions, a prequel about his apprenticeship) where he is the main character, much of Snicket’s life is still shrouded in mystery. Every detail of a character’s life doesn’t need to be spelled out to make him a ‘good’ character. What’s hinted at is often more powerful than what is outright said.
5. Steve Rogers- The Marvel Cinematic Universe
Some people criticize Captain America for being a flat character because he always chooses the moral high ground and doesn’t change. But that’s the point- he’s not supposed to change, he’s supposed to fight not to change. Because of this, he can be contrasted against the other characters in his life, like Stark, Natasha and Fury (and maybe Bucky). He shows them (and himself!) that it’s not always the underhand methods that win the day.
It’s the character dynamics that make Steve so interesting. Characters aren’t meant to exist in a void; they’re supposed to be apart of a cast. It doesn’t need to be a large cast like the Avengers, but what makes a story great is the relationships between characters, and how they affect each other. Some characters may be changed, while others will be the catalyst for that change.
Men don’t need to be stereotypically ‘manly’ to be an excellent character. They can be hesitant, panicky, or caring. They can have a great moral compass, or a terrible one. They can be mysterious, like Lemony Snicket, or predictable, like Steve Rogers. There are millions of types of people out there. Characters should reflect many, not just a select few.
Who are your favorite male characters?