Rooting for the Bad Guy

So I watched Tangled with my kids the other night. As the movie started, my six year old son couldn't help but give me a running dialogue about everything (he's seen it before).

The movie introduced the hero, who happened to be stealing. I asked my son, is the thief the guy Rapunzel falls in love with?

He turned to me, eyes round. "He's not a thief, mom."

"But he's stealing," I pointed out.

No, no, no, he's not stealing. There are bad guys with him, but he's not stealing at all. My son shook his head and absolutely refused to believe that the good guy was doing a bad thing.

I smiled and dropped the subject. Let him root for the bad guy. I knew that by the end of the story, the thief would be the prince.

Have you ever rooted for someone, knowing they were doing bad things but seeing their potential for change? Have you ever been like my son and completely blind to a character's/person's faults? What do you think about starting a character arc so completely down on the morality pole?


Tabitha Bird said…
Oooh, yes. I root for the bad guy all the time. I root for the bad guy in me :) Hopefully I will get where I need to go :))
Awww, perfectly said, Tabitha!
I loved this post, Jessie! And this is such a beautiful and insightful line: "Let him root for the bad guy. I knew that by the end of the story, the thief would be the prince."

Shows not only your wisdom as a mother, but as a story teller. :)

Tabitha's comment is amazing, BTW. How can anyone follow that? LOL

And yes! I often root for the bad guy. And I love to write them. *cough Morpheus cough*

Characters who are bad (as long as we see glimpses of good) are the most fun to write and root for, because we ache to see their potential for redemption realized. That's in our nature, I think. To want to find the good in others.
Terri Tiffany said…
I love where all of this story goes. The bad guy can turn around-- in all of us as she said.:)
YAY, you're back!!! I've been checking in daily to hear more from you, Jessica!

When I met my husband years ago he looked like the 'bad' guy, probably more like a 'dangerous' guy to a naive 20 yr old. He wore tight jeans and pointy cowboy boots, totally not what I thought I was looking for in a man. But something about him had me rooting for him (probably his blond locks that wisped around his ears)--he proved himself to be the good guy after all.

I've read many a book where the MC is low on the morality chart at the beginning, and it's the cause of that that hooks me right away, knowing he/she is going to grow leaps and bounds in the story, and they always do. Love those redeeming stories!
Unknown said…
Hey, this trick was mentioned in SAVE THE CAT but it was in reference to ALADDIN. Though in that case, he was less of a thief because he gave the stolen food to the two hungry kids.
I've missed things in friends I wished I caught earlier.

And like Tabitha, I cheer myself on all the time. Without God I'm hopeless in every sense.
~ Wendy
Anita, I think you're right. We long for redemption and love to see it played out in stories. ;-) You should check out Tabitha's blog. She's an amazing writer.

Terri, yep!

Eileen, yay, what a romantic story! I'm glad your guy was a true hero. :-) And yep, I should be back now, but mostly only on Wednesdays.
I've never read that book but after I wrote the post I did think about Aladdin. But like you said, he was doing it for the good of others and because he was truly hungry.

Me too, Wendy, on all your points.
Linda Kage said…
I actually love rooting for the good guy that does a lot of bad stuff; it makes everything good they do just so much gooder (is that a word?)
Jaime Wright said…
sounds like you have a formula for a great next hero in your books :)
Laila Knight said…
Sure. Every wonderful person took great strides to get there. Some started out as the black sheep or bad guy. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt.
Patti said…
Often bad guys make the best good guys in the end.
Diane said…
I'm always hoping for redemption in my books and real life. :O)
Aly said…
I have to admit, I rooted for Skylar on Heroes.
Ivana Watkins said…
I root for bad guys sometimes, but only because I always try to imagine myself in his position and understand what is "forcing" him to act this way. And also because I know that there's a bad guy inside of me too. Love this post.
Stephanie said…
I love seeing someone change for the better, grow and learn and become the person they were meant to be. If a character stays flat and never learns from the lessons that have been thrust at them, that's a boring read for me. Flynn is a thief at the beginning, but he's completely endearing! :)
Robyn Campbell said…
I love to root for the bad guy. I loved the horse. Isn't he awesome? His facial expressions. I laughed so much. :-)

I loved Jafar. What a cool bad guy. And Darth himself.

Terrific post. (Your boy will be all right.)
Deb Shucka said…
My favorite characters are bad guys whose hearts win out in the end. Purely good guys are boring. I see I need to watch Tangled. :-)
Hahaha, yes Linda, gooder is a word. *grin* We just made it one. I totally get what you mean!

Oooh, Jaime, you think so? Hmmmm...

Laila, you make a great point. Wonderful people are not accidents. They work at it. Great insight! Thanks for popping by. :-)
Patti, this is true. Maybe because they're more extreme. Some people sit on the fence but they choose a side.

Me too, Diane.

Aly!!! How could you!!! He was just BAD. Granted, I only saw the first season and I did feel kind of bad for him. lol Thanks for commenting. ;-)
Ivana, this is very true. It's always good to think about motivations. Thanks for stopping by!

Stephanie, I know!! LOL Very charming and roguish.

Robin, LOL, my kids LOVE the horse. I did too. I was laughing throughout the movie.
Deb, you might like it. It's about Rapunzel. :-)
Jennifer Shirk said…
I still want to see Tangled!

Your son is so sweet. :-)

I love rooting for the bad guy and any kind of redemption like stories. Because we're all bad (so of course a character like that is sympathetic) but there's good that can come out of us if we try.
I recently read, "Redeeming Love," by Francine Rivers. Need I say more?
Linda Glaz said…
Nicely said, Jess, and good that you waited with child's eyes to see what would happen.
Andrew said…
I've got to see 'Tangled'. I have a pit bull named Rapunzel.

Many, many years ago I worked personal protection (on behalf of Uncle Sam) for a 'bad guy'. He was not the sort you'd want to invite to your house, and yet... year he baked me a birthday cake. Yes, and sang 'Happy Birthday', and got teary-eyed.

There is a bit of the bad guy in all of us, and when we root for him, we have hope - and faith - for our own redemption.
Stephanie Faris said…
I root for the bad guy but they have to have redeeming qualities. At some point they have to turn it around, or I just decide I don't really like them after all.
That's true, Jennifer.

Love that story, Susan!

Hey Linda, thanks for stopping by.
Andrew, too funny about your pit bull!! I love the story too. It's very true about humans not being flat like we'd assume.

Oh yeah, Stephanie, there has to be that hope for redemption.
Anonymous said…
yes, stealing is stealing...but then why Robin hood was not seen as a bad buy? because he stole to give it to the poor so the point of stealing overlooked his good deed of helping the poor.

It's all about perception and what a person has experienced in their life...a person who has seen a lot of bad stuff will consider this stealing a minor offense but for a person who always walked the right path, stealing is unforgiven...
OH, yes. Either blinded by optimism or simply stupid, I root for the bad guy. So does Jesus.

Excellent post! Have a great weekend,
Rita Gerlach said…
In the recent BBC version of Wuthering Heights I rooted for Heathcliff, hoping somehow he would change into the kinder Heathcliff Sir Laurence O played in the 1939 version. This Heathcliff was cruel and obsessed to the point of insanity, and I began to dislike him. He was, to me, the bad guy in the film. The good guy? Cathy's husband. Heathcliff remained cold and cruel to the end.
Anonymous said…
hahaaa great question... you've sent me back to my teen years!!! lol totally blind by looks I was.
Julie Dao said…
I want to see Tangled SO badly! Everyone's been saying that it's great. And it's so cute that your son wanted to believe in that character :) He knows who he's rooting for, that's for sure! Hmmm... bad characters I've rooted for... well, I recently read "Vanity Fair" and I was totally rooting for the heroine, Becky, even though she's conniving and shallow and cold-hearted. There's just something about her that kind of makes you want to see her succeed.
Nancy said…
I do root for the bad guy when they have done something wrong but they have a good heart, like the prince in Rapunzel and little Oliver Twist who "picked a pocket or two." I don't root for them when they are mean or cruel. I just don't like that.
Naomi Rawlings said…
Cute post, and congratulations on your double semi final in Genesis. Awesome work!
Aww, thanks Naomi! :-)

Nancy, you make a good point. A kind character who does wrong things is easier to root for than a cruel character who doesn't break the law.

Julie, that heroine sounds a bit like Scarlett O'hara! LOL
Hi Dmeetri, good points! Robin Hood stole but he was helping others. In Tangled, I'm pretty sure the hero was just helping himself. LOL You're right though, perception is a strong factor. Thanks for popping by!

Hey Jeanette, yep, Jesus is awesome like that. :-)

Wow, Rita, that's interesting. When I read the book, I remember feeling bad for Cathy's husband and I did think Heathcliff was kind of cruel. I'll have to check out the older movie someday to get a new perspective on him! Or maybe reread the book, since it's been years.

LOL Michelle, weren't we all?? Heeheee
My thoughts turned to Oliver Twist while reading your post. Very interesting. I like a 'good' bad guy.
Karen Lange said…
Your son sounds like my nephew (he's 7). It's interesting where all these writing parallels pop up, isn't it? Do I root for the bad guy? Sometimes, it just depends.
Sally Chambers said…
Enjoyed your blog and loved this post, Jessica. The Lord looks at the heart, and I think your little guy sees with his.
Angie Muresan said…
It all depends. If I like the bad guy to begin with, yes. Otherwise no.
Karen Hossink said…
We saw this movie with our kids, too. And ultimately, I liked it. Though, I did cringe at the parts where the 'bad/good guy' was boasting about the merits of rebelling against one's parents. *cough*

As for rooting for the bad guy? Yeah. I always root for him to become a good guy *grin*

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