Can evil or immoral characters be protagonists? The answer is absolutely! After all, what exactly is a protagonist if not the hero of one’s own story. If you think about it, people, good or bad, all think they are the heroes of their own tale. Everything they do is for a cause.
Stop and think of Walter White from Breaking Bad. Is Walter a bad man? Many of us would agree that he is indeed immoral. He constantly makes wicked choices to earn money. However, he does these wicked choices for a reason: He needs to save money for his cancer treatment and to support his family even after he is gone. His motives are for a good cause, but that does not make him a good man. Walter is the protagonist of his own story. We, the viewers, do not want him to get caught. We want him to keep cooking meth, keep saving money, and keep dodging the cops and anyone out to kill him. He is the perfect example of an immoral character who just happens to be a protagonist.
Let’s face it, we love immoral protagonists. They make us see the darkness that is buried in all of us. Are we not all capable of breaking the rules for a good cause?
“The ends justify the means.” —Niccolo Machiavelli
Years ago, in a psychology class I had to take, we discussed when a bad action is justified. For instance, we came up with several scenarios. One of them was a poor kid stealing medication from a drug store to save his dying mother who cannot afford to pay for the medication. Is the kid’s action justified? Although it is immoral, many students agreed that they would do the same if they were in a similar circumstance. Likewise, evil or immoral characters force us to think of ourselves in scenarios that bring out a little darkness in us. And that is exactly why we love these twisted protagonists!
What do you think of immoral characters as protagonists? Let us know in the comments below!