Re: Pick a side!
Personally I think that's one of the best appeals to something like this. If the author never tells you which is 'right' and which is 'wrong' people will form their own opinions based on their own experiences. Then when two readers meet, they might have conflicting views and then those around them might want to learn more about this 'conflict of views' thus giving the writer more publicity. That and the fact that you at times have to use your own beliefs to form said opinion makes the character you root towards much more real than ever before.
Re: Pick a side!
Yeah, I tend to just go with whoever I feel is doing the right thing, especially if it's a morals-based question. I have this strange kind of morality, however, where I believe that in most cases, the end justifies the means. Under that logic, I definitely side with Light in Death Note and Lelouch in Code Geass - though they're basically villains with a respectable goal, I can see what they want and often I can't see a better way to get it.
Code Geass is actually an interesting one, especially when you look at the conflict between Lelouch and Suzaku - two characters who are essentially working towards the same goal, but through entirely different methods. When I was watching it, though, I just thought that Suzaku's concept of changing Britannia from the inside seemed slow, foolish and unlikely to succeed, so I backed Lelouch all the way. Sure, people died (and don't get me wrong, my opinion would likely be somewhat different in the real world) but at the end of the day, it was an effective - if risky - method that made sense in context.
Back to Death Note again - this is also why I backed Light. He was killing off people who had already demonstrated that they were unwilling to contribute to society, and were unlikely to come around. On the other hand, I also believe that no human being has the right to dictate whether another human lives or dies. On the other other hand, well . . . it's a dog-eat-dog world, and animals kill each other all the time for less. So that's a murky morality question. But I egged Light on all the way because I wanted to see his dream become a reality. He had this grandiose, insane vision of a world without evil, and the simultaneous attraction of that world and the darker, macabre fascination with this young man who wanted to be God combined to win me over almost completely. The best part of the series, of course, was that I could always sympathise with L as well, though.
I don't know. Sometimes when you find yourself standing on a continuum in various shades of grey, the only thing you can do is pick the spot that seems good, grit your teeth and dig your heels in. That's how I see it, at least.
Re: Pick a side!
I'm personally not sure why you got yelled at for providing two perspectives and then not making it clear who you should root for. It just makes me think that some people don't want to form their own opinion or think too hard about their morals long enough to choose. They'd rather have their mind made up for them. I agree with some of the posters who've said that it's better to expand the reader's mind than it is to try to please them.
In this scenario, I really try to see things from both sides. I don't really choose a side until the very end, when all is said and done, so that all actions can be carefully considered.
Re: Pick a side!
I like it. And why? It's more realistic. Those whom we see as bad and evil in this world, often have the same views upon us (think the Middle East conflict). Both sides fight for a cause they think justified, and both think the other are in the wrong. I do not believe in moral absolutes (or absolutes of any kind), and while often easier to write in a story, villains who aren't evil, or motivated solely by negative emotions (hate, revenge, etc.), are more intriguing. The West fight for freedom, liberty and democracy in pretty much every conflict in the Middle East etc. (or at least so we are led to believe), and that seems righteous. But those we invade, do they actually want the same things? Do they think of it like we do, or do they see our actions as injustice, as the same kind of evil we see in their way of living? And do our politicians actually fight for those noble values, or are there strategic goals behind? A wish for control, resources, those things?
Conspiracies aside, my point is, in the real world you may often come across conflicts in which both sides are both justified and unjustified, from a neutral perspective. Where the concepts of good and evil are scrapped, save for propaganda telling us the other side is evil and ours is just? I've only used national conflicts as an example, but this will very much apply to people as well, and thus villains and good guys. Thus morally grey conflicts are interesting, because they're closer to reality, and farther from the cliche "good vs. evil" where it is very clear who/what is evil and what is good. It's also much harder to write, but so much more exiting to read, done well!
The funny thing is, a story I'm writing now is just about this. While the characters may seem good and evil, a large portion of the whole point is that, in the end, most are simply fighting for what they see as just (there are some good and some bad, though). But acting out of justice and what you think is right, is in fact closing your mind to the alternatives. As soon as you choose a side which you think is just, you're biased. And that's a lot of the conflict or the main characters. Which side is just? Should I even pick a side?
(I'd love to tell more, but that would be spoiling an upcoming story P:)
All that said, I actually quite enjoy characters and conflicts that are more black/white, where the good and evil is clear. It very much depends on the story, but for some stories that is more important. It all depends on where the focus lies. I mean, a series like Lord of the Rings is a series where you need the good, and the evil side. it is clear that all those who act in favor of Mordor are evil, or have been corrupted by evil, the lines are pretty clear. Likewise, those who go against Mordor are quite clearly good. Are there grey characters, they're more than often mystical entities slightly removed from the world and conflict at large, and thus it doesn't create so much conflict; not in the same way. Basically, the clear lines between good and evil, both in actions and in characters, creates the conflict. The story isn't about what is just and what is unjust - it's simply about overcoming that which clearly is unjust and evil. And it works. Had LotR been more about ambiguous factions, where you couldn't discern whether Mordor or the forces of light were in the right, it would have been a completely different story! (though if one takes the social commentary into play, with Mordor representing industrialization and progress, and the good guys representing those which are inconvenienced by this (the colonies, nature (the Ents are a personification of the nature vs. industry conflict), and so on), it becomes slightly more skewed - but not enough).
Err-hem. Rambling, I am. But I think I made my point...? If not: Both are interesting, in their own way. Having someone to clearly root for is often as interesting as having to pick someone to root for. It depends on the type of story and, as always, the quality of writing.
Re: Pick a side!
Ah, the picking sides deal...
Personally, I think ambiguity is one of the most amazing tricks in the book, even if it's one of the oldest. For me, however, it takes a lot to get me to root for the villain. In the Assassin's Creed series, for example, when dealing with the less-crazy/evil-seeming Templars, as I listen to their dying words, I occassionally slip into their mindset, thinking, Maybe they have a point. Sure, freedom is nice and all, and the Assassins are working to allow mankind to choose its path to being a better species...but how many milions more lives have to be lost before that day finally comes?
Of course, it is usually at this point that I remember that the Templars are going to mind control the planet and rule the people as they see fit, with them forming a dictatorship, and then I'm back on the Assassin's side.
In most cases, however, if I root for a villain, it's usualy when they're of the Designated Villain variety, and especially if the heroes are of the Designated Hero type.
Also, I dunno if Death Note is too good an example. I will admit, I have not fully followed the series, but I heard that later on, Light started contemplating killing people if they were being lazy. For me, if this is true, this is the part where it's impossible for me to root for Light, regardless of how his ends justify his means. As the series goes on, he slips farther and farther into his demented delusions of moral absolutes. The line separating him from guys like Near and L, I think, would be that those two are okay with their flaws, whereas Light cannot accept that there is anything wrong with him. Why should he when, as far as he is concerned, he's God, right?
It's a matter of pride that I also find in Lex Luthor. There was one miniseries, I think, that told the story from Lex's view. However, we're still supposed to realize he's the villain. Lexy's whole beef with the Big Blue Boyscout is that here he is, this awesome norman human businessman, a self-made man. Then, out of nowhere, here comes this alien in spandex, with superpowers that render everything he's ever accomplished moot. He also believes that Superman will make humans come to rely on him solely, which will cause stagnation in our evolution. Except for the part where other metahumans besides Supes show up and prove that he was wrong. We don't rely on the superheroes, but we look to them for inspiration. But Lexy is waaaay too proud to admit this. He's the greatest human being on Earth, after all, so how could the greatest human being ever be wrong? That said, a lot of Elseworld stories will depict an Earth in which Superman had not appeared as a utopia under Lex. But even then, despite him always saying that if it wasn't for Superman's meddling presence he would have solved all the world's problems, as the Man of Steel points out when he returns at the end of the 52 storyline, Luthor had a whole year without him to work on fixing the world's problems, and squandered all that time planning ways to kill Superman. And then there's the whole symbolism of Lex being the Satan of the human race trying to fight its God (Superman).
As for Code Geass, I definitely think that is a better example of ambiguity. However, and I could be kinda wrong, since I haven't watched the series for awhile, I kinda find Suzaku's behavior to be kind of hypocritical. I'll explain better once I have time to go back and do a bit of research again.
Re: Pick a side!
I quite disagree. L, Near, and especially Mello, are all people who do not like admitting to their faults; often being quite childish about the whole wanting to win and being right deal. L imprisoned Light for a long time based only on his intuition. It's clear that he kept going on longer than necessary, because he wanted to be right in spite of no overly conclusive proof.
Originally Posted by The Booty Warrior
Anyways, back on track, Light didn't go quite that far, but he did kill people who stood in his way, criminals or no. To be more specific, he perceived anyone in his way as criminals, for he was more and more convinced that he was a God. However, being such a gradual change, a reader/viewer might find themselves rooting for him well past the point where it is clear that he does it to fulfill his god delusions, not to bring justice to the rotten underbelly of mankind, the latter being a cause easy to root for.
And that subtle change, how you suddenly realize that he's not the dirty laundry-cleaning hero you thought he was, was quite brilliant, how you found yourself rooting for the guy who was, in the end, the bad guy. Was it okay to root for him back then? Or would you deny to your friends ever rooting for him, to seem a just person yourself?
Arguably it was evident from quite early on, but not to the extent where one could accurately predict his character and the story taking that turn.
Code Geass offers an interesting study in ambiguity, but it can be argued that at times it was more from bad writing than anything. Don't get me wrong, I loved the show, but there was so many iffy parts that I just couldn't help notice. Suzaku's hypocritical behavior is on one side quite brilliant and the foundation of a hero that belives in changing things differently than most heroes - while on the other side there's inconsistency to the point of weakening his integrity as a believable character.
Lelouch is pretty much the same as Light, though, with the glaring difference that he remained his empathy though to the end. And empathy is what makes a genius stay a genius and not turn into a madman. Through it he found a solution, instead of beign cornered, left to die a pitiful death in denial of the fact that he, of all people, could be killed (which was the case of Light). What I'm saying is, when looking back, at least, Lelouch was good all the way, while Light, while seemingly just at the start, was also misguided from that very start; he did not have the same empathy, he did not care for other people in the same way. A result of how his brilliance left him isolated, estranged and by many idolized as a genius - whereas Lelouch had friends to help him keep that human side of him. Light was doomed to spiral down into insanity, while Lelouch had that which kept him sane all the way. But the writers concealed it well at times, so in the end you'd think he was quite ambivalent in his actions and motivations from time to time.
Both characters are great examples of moral duality, each in their own way. And just the fact that we're discussing this concept to such an extent as this goes to prove that it is a very attractive concept, wouldn't you say?
Re: Pick a side!
Oh the old Death Note dilemma.
I don't really pick a specific side in this type of stories, actually I just go with it and depending on the situations and the event that goes on in which chapter/episode I decided who to root for. So to sum it up I basically just change sides with each chapter. For example in Death Note I would usually cheer for Light when I thought he was doing the right thing or something awesome but when he killed Naomi Misora or Ray I wasn't too happy with his actions. I stopped rooting for him around the time his dad died though.
With Code Geass I actually cheered for Leleuch through most of it, sure he killed, but they deserved it and he never really targeted innocents. Actually I felt sorry for him because no matter what he did there was always something that screwed his life up at some point. I was against Suzaku because....well I just thought he was an idiot, his method of doing things was too goody goody and stuck up he wasn't on the good side he was just kissing up so that the bad guys wouldn't be as bad but he was never going to try to get rid of them like Leleuch was.
Anyways the thing that's interesting about this type of stories is that no matter who you root for one will always die. And that's the thing that makes it fun, normally when you root for someone you think of them as the hero or the one that'll make it till the end, but if you have two people that you have to decide from the chances of the one you pick dying are 50/50
Re: Pick a side!
Gastly's Mama, I absolutely adore such narratives. I crave moral ambiguity and associated tropes, partly because they are more interesting, partly because they are more realistic, partly because they are more human. I despise clear cut didactic works where the author insists one character's attitudes are correct. Furthermore, I hold that neither purely 'good' nor entirely 'evil' characters can exist.
It's actually a rule of mine never to write 'black and white' morality stories. 'Grey and gray' is ideal, and 'black and grey' is acceptable in darker fics. In my current project, 'Different Eyes', the organisation filling the role of what is normally the 'evil team' are viable candidates to support. I'm making a huge effort to permit the justification of everything they do, not to imply that they're moral paragons, but to prevent the casting of them as 'villains'.
One of my favourite examples of this sort of thing is the highly regarded graphic novel, 'Watchmen', which you have probably heard of. Without spoiling very much, the 'antagonist' not only wins, but garners enormous support from many readers. Not only that, but every character has differing moral views, an the writing does not vindicate any one of them. It's worth a read for anyone with an appreciation for mature, sophisticated writing, and its level of ethical discussion is something I aim to emulate.
Gotta love antiheroes/antivillains.
Actually, I find it quite absurd that anyone would object to - let alone be offended by - a story in which no party is presented as 'right'. I think that sort of attitude - that the author must provide a 'moral' party - is quite intellectually immature, honestly. To said persons; go study multiple ethical doctrines. Utilitarianism is a good starting point.
I hope that my readers will form their own views, and decide for themselves what is right...
Re: Pick a side!
I love it when you can't tell who to root for. It makes me more interested in the plot, because each episode or chapter you find out something to push you one way or the other, or both. I love ambiguous characters because they require more thought. You have to wonder - why I am rooting for this character? Why not the other?
I also tend to root for villains AND heroes. In Death Note, I love Light and I always rooted for him to win, even though I thought L was a great character too, and sometimes I wanted him to win just as much as I wanted Light too.