(Warning, this might tick you off 🙂 )
Here’s the question that bothers me sometimes: In most dramatizations, characterizations, or anthropomorphic representations of Good & Evil, the Evil entity or force tends to be the more complex, interesting, and charismatic. Why is that?
If I remember right, this was one of the huge controversies with Milton’s Paradise Lost, because his Satan was so much more suave than the forces of good. Now… on one hand, one could say, “Duh, that’s because Man is depraived in nature, so of course people will be more attracted to Evil!”
But the thing is, that’s bullshit. This kind of thinking is what drove the Dark Ages and made every person beholden to both a King and a Pope.
This is fiction we’re talking about. In reality, I doubt that people, on a statistical scale, are attracted to real evil– and I mean terror, death, gore, slaughter, pain, atrocity, and holocaust. Real evil is not fun, or attractive, or clever, or suave. Real evil is bloody and tragic and senseless and blind. I tend to believe that people are, overall, decent and good. Because, otherwise, the species would have never risen to dominance or lasted this long. It’s a practical matter, more than one of faith.
So why, in fiction, is the bad guy or anti-hero so attractive?
Consider context. In American culture, “Good” and “Evil” tend to be defined by the Anglo/Christian context, and so the use of Good and Evil in fiction tends to draw from that. So my explanation? The Christian definition of Good and Evil is perverted and contrary to our human natures. We’re not tragically flawed, the religion is. We have a sense, deep down, that there’s something good in the “Evil” character, and something wrong in the “Good” guy.
I’ve got some specific notions on why this is, and what the perversions are in particular, but I’ll try to keep this from becoming a 40 page book.
Anyway, in fiction, you can do almost whatever you want to with the fabric of reality there. And the thing is, you can keep the reader captured as long as you can manage to walk a tight rope between belief and disbelief. And sometimes, belief is not realism, it’s adherence to shared context. So, if the story agrees just enough with what you’ve been told, and just enough with what you’ve seen, you’ll be carried along. The danger is, you might not realize what’s reality and what is doctrine, and where the two might diverge.
So, yeah, I’m saying that Christianity diverges from reality. Thus the fictional good & evil are not the same as real good & evil, and at some level we know there’s a difference but we might not know why.