Changing Trends: Preferring grey over black and white

Welcome to 11th post of Narrating The Dream. This time, we would be talking about the change the taste of the general media has undergone. It has been one of the major changes in people’s preferences and now everyone prefers it, thanks to one of the most silent transformations witnessed.

There was a time of ‘black and white’ characters with clearly defined boundaries that made them either good or bad. There were heroes (and/or heroines) and villains. But with passing time (and I don’t mean years or decades, some examples can be traced that are more than a century old), this preference has shifted to the grey characters. Anti-heroes, tortured or manipulated characters and villains who were once good and lost their way are now the ones people prefer.

Once, people preferred the well-defined heroes, the good guy with infallible morals and ethics who came out victorious (and with the girl) from the conflict while the bad guy was appropriately punished. They became inspirations for boys to imitate and girls to dream about. But it is never easy to pine for something so difficult to achieve.  The high ground of infallible morals wasn’t something easy to achieve or find. Reality doesn’t always gets everyone their happy endings. And so, people turned to the grey characters they could relate a lot more easily to.

These grey characters could be criminals with a code of honor, good guys with a dark aspect of personality, or some other combination of qualities both good and bad. They felt more like us humans and so could be easily related to and were likable. And with this rose the concept of heroes, or anti-heroes, who had a troubling past and a weakness/duty that stopped them from changing their ways. These stories would often be of their struggles, and not all of which ended on a heroic note.

That’s reality for you. But what about the effect these grey characters have on us, something we might not even realize at all? The lines of good and evil often blur as we end up with us rooting for the one through whom we heard the story, even if we don’t agree with their choices: the little choices that slowly blur our sense of right and wrong. Until we might end up rooting for someone who we would never like to know in real life.

The choices we make defines us. And what some of these troubled ‘souls’ go through does not justify their actions even if they later repent. Because though we may like to believe otherwise, there are some things, some actions that we can never forgive, forget or move on from. But do we realize this?

Commonly, no. We judge everyone through the eyes of the narrator, even if we know that narrator is not a reliable judge of a character. It is a sign of author’s excellence to be able to nudge the reader’s thoughts and opinions. And so we, somewhere along the way, end up accepting and agreeing with their choices, even the inhuman ones. But what if you look over at the same story from a different set of eyes? You’d be shocked and appalled. And the worst thing is, sometimes the book may be over, but the lines it blurs between good and evil in our mind doesn’t get restored instantly. And in these vulnerable mindsets, we are most prone to doing the things we otherwise condone.

This post isn’t going how I initially planned. It seems my hands took over somewhere along the way.

So what do you prefer? A hero with unattainable ideals or a man who is mixed in shades of grey, committing things in fiction that would be unforgivable in reality?


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