Developing a great character can add to… and in some cases save a story. However in almost every movie or book, certain characters always fall into different archetypal roles. How many of us have gone to the movies, seen one particular character and been like ‘Oh yeah, that guy’s not surviving this movie!’
Well, there’s a reason for that and it is because that character fits into one of many molds that movie goer’s and readers are all too familiar with. I’ve developed my own names for each of them over time with some of the more famous and/or notorious examples. Let’s explore them one at a time, shall we?
The Obi Wann Kenobi complex
Star Wars certainly didn’t invent this one, but it’s definitely the most well-known example. This complex belongs to a character, usually of advanced age who is the moral “right” in the story. S/he usually takes on the mentor role and provides words of wisdom to our main hero. This person can be incredibly powerful or incredibly feeble, it usually works either way. It also doesn’t matter if this mentor uses kind nurturing or tough love.
The main problem with this character is that he or she is actually a hindrance to the main hero. This is because the hero cannot truly grow and become strong and independent as long as he is still under the mentor’s wing. As long as the mentor is still around to protect the hero, the villain is usually kept at bay and the hero remains unchallenged. Thus this character will almost always be the sacrificial… (for lack of a better term) lamb to help the hero development.
Other examples include:
Dumbledore (Harry Potter)
Mufasa (Lion King)
Qui Gon Jinn (… Episode 1)
Captain Pike (Star Trek/Darkness)
Bambi’s Mother (Bambi)
Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Highlander)
One could argue that Gandalf from LOTRs also had this complex as Frodo thinks he’s dead, but he actually survives, so I kept him off the list.
I’m not going to lie, I love this one. Arguably the best characters I’ve ever read/wrote about or seen in a movie, suffer from this. A character who falls into this category doesn’t always start off as evil. Often they are exposed to horrors during their lives that twist them into what they have become. Others take up a cause or try to alter their destiny and go to extremes to make what they desire most happen. Ironically, in most cases, the exact opposite of what they wanted happens and they are left broken and having to face the decisions that they made.
In most cases they are teetering on the edge of insanity and/or are dealing with an internal conflict where their previous good selves are still fighting to come back. Often times, they can come back and are successfully saved. Many become the true heroes of the story by realizing their error at the last possible moment and come forward to save the day, often sacrificing themselves in the process.
Darth Vader (Star Wars)
The Dark Phoenix (X-Men)
Artimesia (Rise of an Empire)
Harvey Dent (The Dark Knight)
Javert (Les Miserables)
Frollo (The Huntchback of Notre Dame)
Okay, you could argue that this is the same thing as the Obi Wan Kenobi… which is why I was hesitant to mention this. It’s basically the Obi Wan Kenobi complex with a single provision; the mentor is either a dark character, or one with an opposing viewpoint and s/he is someone that the hero will eventually need to confront and/or kill in order to grow and succeed. In some of the better stories where this complex appears, the mentor turns out to be the actual villain.
Kreia (Knights of the Old Republic 2)
Tolwyn (Wing Commander)
Palpatine (Revenge of the Sith)
Basically a character that falls into this category is desperately trying to do good, he wants to save someone or something, but every time he tries to do good, his actions cause more evil. The character who has this is usually not a strong character. It’s someone who either has tunnel vision, is single-minded, and/or has no dynamic qualities at all.
A Character afflicted with this problem is cursed with knowing the outcome of a situation and/or his own fate or that of a loved one. Like Oedipus himself, when these character’s learn of what is to happen, they do everything they can to escape what is to happen.
The problem is that these characters are willing to do anything, and I mean anything to change the outcome. They often become so blinded by desperation that they don’t see what effect’s their actions are having. In the end, their actions are what causes the foreshadow to come true.
Though we can’t say for certain she would have survived had Anakin not fallen to the dark side, I think it’s a pretty safe assumption. At the very least, her chances would have been better.