I recently finished my first novel and sent it out into the world of editors and agents. As I wait for the feared rejection letter or hope for the call of acceptance I have finally found time to catch up on all the shows I keep seeing my friends post about on social media.
The two new shows that have my attention are Blacklist and Scandal-both of which I’m watching on Netflix.
Both shows have some similarities: The setting is in Washington D.C. (for the most part); the main plot revolves around someone who “fixes” things (Olivia Pope for Scandal and Raymond Reddington for Blacklist); the secondary cast of characters are about as flawed as one can imagine (seriously); and finally, there’s a never-ending list of criminals, thugs, politicians in dire need of their sinful behavior to be “fixed”.
But there is one big, HUGE, difference that I’m seeing between the two shows and that’s redemption. As a writer it’s important that I create characters with real struggles but it’s just as important to show redemption. Now, before you ask me what bubble my head is stuck in or what rock I live under, believe me when I say that I know the world is not all bubble gum and rainbows. Believe me, I know. However, there is a belief I hold strong to and that is: No one is beyond redemption. No one. Not even the villain. Don’t believe me? Let me give you some examples.
Hannibal Lecter chose to help F.B.I Agent Clarice Starling find Buffalo Bill.
Gru puts the moon back and decides being a father to three orphans is better than being a despicable villain.
Raymond Reddington emerges from thin air to help capture high-profile criminals while getting close to his daughter (okay, I’m guessing on the daughter part but don’t tell me if I’m wrong. Remember I’m still watching the first season!)
Those are only a few examples but they prove my point. Their character can be redeemed. However, they also have a choice and that’s what makes good fiction, whether it’s in a book, on television, or in a movie. The villain, or any character, has a choice. They can choose the path of redemption or they can stay their course and pay the price. My point is that the choice of redemption is available.
Now back to the difference between Scandal and Blacklist. As I mentioned in my example, Raymond Reddington struggles with the choices of redemption and secretly we’re (or at least I am) rooting for him to become the good guy we believe he can be. But in Scandal…well, let’s just say I have yet to see any redemptive behavior in any of the characters. Not even Olivia Pope. You could argue that her “fixing” does have some redemptive qualities but when you see who she’s “fixing” there’s nothing really redeeming about it. She’s hiding, diverting attention, lying, and she has a village of “gladiators in suits” helping her. Because of this my intent to continue watching this show is quickly diminishing. Who wants to watch humanity self-destruct?
I want a hero. I want someone who is flawed and struggling to rise above it and make the choice to do what’s right. To choose the path of redemption, even if there are setbacks. I need to see the possibility that someone can change and become a better person. I need to know the world is not full of scandalous people but that from among the sinful a few, or even one, will be the hope necessary to bring back faith in humanity.
What do you think? Is redemption of character something you look for in books, television shows, or movies? Can you think of any examples in which redemption of character was absent in something you read or watched recently?