Deviant characters in Books & Movies – Why are we attracted to rebels?

I’ve been obsessed with the Chinese show on Netflix and the book its based on – The Untamed / Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, lately. The story has two lead characters – Wei Wuxian, who is the nonconformist and Lan Wangji, who is his opposite, a stickler for following rules and doing the absolute right thing. And that got me thinking, what is it that draws me and many others to literature or movies which have gray characters?

I started to think back upon my years of reading and watching TV/movies to find out which characters left a lasting impression on me, and I saw this pattern, that I was drawn to rebellious characters. As a society, we have all these rules of propriety and culturally acceptable behavior that we strive hard to follow. But then, why are most of us drawn to the rebels?

Warning: This might be longer than my usual posts, but I’ll love it if you read till the end πŸ˜€

Here are a few of my favorite characters and why I love them, to drive my point across a little:

Anne from Anne of Green Gables: Anne had stolen my heart from the first time I read about her. But did you notice, that at the period the story was set, Anne’s ways were quite unacceptable. She was loud, argumentative, boisterous, had too many opinions. But she had a heart of gold and she never judged anyone and was always ready to help, no matter what. And slowly, she endears herself to everyone in the village.

Fox Mulder from the TV series X-Files: David Duchovny playing Fox Mulder in X-Files was probably one of my first celebrity crushes. X-Files was one of my favorite show growing up. I just loved the slightly eccentric, untidy, rule flouting Fox Mulder, who wanted to find out the truth, no matter what it took. He never got promoted, wasn’t involved in any sort of FBI politics or power game and didn’t even care that people made fun of him. His passion was addictive.

Sherlock (from both the books and the latest TV series) – I loved Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the genius and utterly disliked detective, Sherlock. Sherlock doesn’t have time for petty discussions or even small talk. He is really rude. Everyone hates him. But everyone goes to him to solve a case since he just cant resist a puzzle. You’ll notice that he will go to any lengths to save the people he cares about, even if he doesn’t let it on.

Tea of the Embers from The Bone Witch Trilogy: I still have the final book to finish, but I cant argue the allure Tea has, being the youngest and yet the darkest bone witch with immense power. Her ideas of defeating the faceless are very nonconformist too and she doesn’t hesitate to voice her opinions and become unpopular in the process. But one thing we know is, she is fighting for the same cause and will unearth the truth.

Delilah Bard from Shades of Magic Trilogy: Delilah Bard is a cut throat thief. She doesn’t have time or patience to be pretty, friendly or nice. What she lacks in etiquette, she makes up with her sharp mind and skills. But once she’s got your back, she will protect you even if it costs her everything. Courage is something she has plenty of.

Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows Duology: If he weren’t the lead character of the books, he could’ve almost easily passed on as a villain. Absolutely ruthless, money minded, cunning, and again, with no patience for playing by the rules. He makes his own rules. But one thing he protects even more than his sinister reputation, is his band of misfit friends.

And finally, the character who inspired this whole post, Wei Wuxian, Yiling Patriarch from the book Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation and TV series The Untamed: I haven’t finished the TV series or the book yet, but I’ll get there very soon. However, I’m in love with the characters already. Wei Wuxian has terrible manners and has complete disrespect for all kinds of rules. But his heart is in the right place and he never leaves his friends behind.

There are many more maverick characters like the ones mentioned above, that I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention, but what got me thinking next was, what sets these characters apart from similar geniuses like – Moriarty, Voldemort, The Darkling, and the Joker? If you see, most of them do have very similar personalities and I know at one point this year, I have rooted for both the Joker and The Darkling. So why are they the villains?

The answer according to me, lies in the very popular Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang and finding your balance. All of my maverick and rebellious characters were saved from over stepping and crossing over completely to the dark side by their Yang counterparts.

The soft spoke Jacqueline Van Maarsen for Anne

The straight thinking, rule following Dana Scully for Mulder

The kind and caring Watson for Sherlock

Righteous Kalen for Tea

Focused, loyal and dependable Kell for Delilah

And kind, quiet, morally upright, brilliant Lan Wangji for Wei Wuxian

That’s where Joker, Voldemort and The Darkling lost out, I think. They couldn’t find or keep their light-partners to save them from falling over. If I may get a bit more philosophical at this stage, sometimes I feel that we’ve all got this yin and yang within us, and finding the balance is usually the hardest part. Even now, I battle between my own selfish instincts and desires to remind myself that there are some lines that should not be crossed, no matter what the intent.

Questions to you guys:

If you’ve managed to reach the end of this super long post, a huge thanks a virtual hug first of all! πŸ™‚ I hope you enjoyed my post as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Who are some of your favorite gray characters?

Do you enjoy reading books or watching movies/shows with gray characters?

8 thoughts on “Deviant characters in Books & Movies – Why are we attracted to rebels?

  1. Excellent post Prachi… wow you just started the show and book and you are already analysing so much 🀩🀩🀩
    I just watch and read, cry and repeat πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
    I think especially in fiction, we are attracted to rebellious characters because maybe we want to be like that but can’t in real life. But I liked your point about them being balanced by their counterparts. It’s impossible to even perceive Sherlock without Watson or Wei Ying without Lan Zhan. I’m gonna bookmark your post to think on it more.
    So well written 😍😍😍

    Liked by 1 person

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