Cracked nuts

Modern storytelling focuses on characters overcoming their own inner conflicts, even as they overcome the conflict that drives the main plot. There’s nothing wrong with this except when, as a kind of storytelling orthodoxy, it eradicates other compelling ways to depict character. Tolkien gave us a few characters who were simply excellent, not without grief or doubt but with no moral weaknesses to prevent them from acting well in the extremely difficult circumstances the book describes. Faramir, Aragorn, Gandalf, Treebeard, even poor Sam: in Peter Jackson’s films these are all less excellent than they really are. But while Jackson makes the best characters less good than they are in the book, he makes no evil character less bad than he is in the book.

What does it tell us about our own era that our villains can be thoroughly evil but our heroes can’t be thoroughly good?