What makes a character deep?

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In the pirates thread most people are clearly in agreement that Barbossa is not deep. It seems to be very easy to tell when something is not deep. However, very few have offered up counter examples. What I want to know now is, what is deep? Is this a real thing, or just some intangible that nobody can actually pin down.

What makes a character deep? Give me an example of a deep character and explain what gives them their depth.

Did you even read the thread? There were plenty of counter examples given. Here's more on mine:

Watchmen:

The Rock:

Inside Man:

The Usual Suspects: (seriously don't read this if you haven't watched it. Just watch it already)

Silence of the Lambs:

Hitchcock

When a character's motivations are more complex than twirly-mustached "because I'm EEEEEEE-VILLLL!" and square jawed "It's the right thing to do because everything I do is right and if I don't do it, it's not right" is the first step. But it goes farther than that. Motivations driving actions is easy. The hard part is shaping that motivation through experiences, matching why a character feels one way because of what they went through. Think more Hummel (from The Rock example) and less Broly (I hate this man because he cried when we were babies even though another man tried to stab me to death).

It goes even further when a writer compliments and clashes a character's motivations with their personality. To keep using Hummel, he doesn't use the typical channels other people might, like the courts or the press. Instead, he resorts to what he knows. He's a soldier, his motivation must therefore be solved with a military answer. But that course eventually conflicts with his personality. He's a soldier, but one with a moral code. When he must choose between his motivation (proving he's not bluffing to spur action for his goal) and his personality (not being a mass murderer of American civilians), he has to weigh and choose one.

Now let's look at Barbossa. His motivation? Be a captain. Now, we can argue about whether or not he'd have that motivation if Jack was a more ruthless pirate ("It's exactly that attitude that lost you the Pearl. Men are so much easier to search when they're dead."), but ultimately throughout the series his goal remains the same: captain a ship. To my knowledge (never saw Stranger Tides), he never wavers from that motivation. We don't get any information on why he feels that way or what his past experiences were before he became Jack's first mate. And we never see his personality conflict with his feeling towards being captain.

So, short answer: Barbossa's a one note man, and a deep character needs a combination of personality, experience, and motivation to all influence and conflict with each other.

irishda:

Now let's look at Barbossa. His motivation? Be a captain. Now, we can argue about whether or not he'd have that motivation if Jack was a more ruthless pirate ("It's exactly that attitude that lost you the Pearl. Men are so much easier to search when they're dead."), but ultimately throughout the series his goal remains the same: captain a ship. To my knowledge (never saw Stranger Tides), he never wavers from that motivation. We don't get any information on why he feels that way or what his past experiences were before he became Jack's first mate. And we never see his personality conflict with his feeling towards being captain.

So, short answer: Barbossa's a one note man, and a deep character needs a combination of personality, experience, and motivation to all influence and conflict with each other.

To be fair Barbossa motivation is to become human also I do consider Barbossa to be somewhat of a "deep" character but I don't find his motivations to be deep.

Also I would like to add Yoshikage Kira from Diamond is unbreakable as "deep". I find his need to have a normal life while killing women to be interesting and as the series goes on you seem him change a bit and adapt to his surroundings.

PapaGreg096:

To be fair Barbossa motivation is to become human also I do consider Barbossa to be somewhat of a "deep" character but I don't find his motivations to be deep.

Also I would like to add Yoshikage Kira from Diamond is unbreakable as "deep". I find his need to have a normal life while killing women to be interesting and as the series goes on you seem him change a bit and adapt to his surroundings.

Yeah but that's pretty much under the one movie. Looking at it colored through the rest of the series, it's clear he just wants to be human so he can experience the perks of being an alive captain. Hell his first words when he's brought back are, "So what's become of my ship?"

I think a good and simple barometer is whether or not you can imagine the character outside of their property. Can you imagine (classic) Kratos NOT being on a blood fueled revenge quest? Can you imagine him chilling out on a Sunday (or whatever the ancient Greek equivalent of that is)? Not that this immediately makes a character "deep", but it can function to at least give them some dimension, which is a good start.

I've always seen depth of character, in this case a villain, as to be one of three things;

1: Explicit narration - The worst kind of deep.

e.g. "They want the thing because [insert reason here]..."

2: Allusion through protagonist agency - The best kind of deep.

e.g. She went to the apartments of where the suspect stayed over the last twelve months. Little nooks and crannies of the landscape, mostly dilapidated, and all with views of a city that one could only remark as monstrous. Encompassing its inhabitants within in its eternal hunger for money, land and people. Producing only iniquity and unbridled decay in its rampant consumption.

She didn't find anything concrete, but she felt as if she could get inside his head now. What he was thinking as he gazed out over a city he felt alienated from, that he would come to loathe, as he hatched that scheme of his in his head--or possibly even before it.

She was convinced she had her man, but now she had to prove it.
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Basically presenting the above without directly telling someone...

3: A combination of 1&2 - The most difficult kind of deep, and can possibly be the best or worst.

e.g. "They still don't understand. Why can't they understand!?"

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I'm going to give an example out of anime, to prove that I'm fair by giving you an example of an anime despite not liking it, and show you what I mean of no. 3 of a really deep villain...

And that is Patlabor 2 ... but actually both Patlabor 1 & 2 are really good movies with really good villains. One of whom is already dead before the movie even really starts ... it's brilliant. It's like a forensic examination of the mind of a madman, trying to piece together what they were trying to say about the nature of the world, and from that determine the motives of their activity and what they did and hoping to achieve.

It really really works...

In Patlabor 2 the villain ofthe piece is introduced right at the start. A Colonel Tsuge as part of the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force detachment connected to a UN peacekeeping mission 'Somewhere in Southeast Asia' ...

The mission is an utter catastrophe, and Tsuge is assumed to be one of the few survivors of that particular skirmish.

I won't spoil the movie, but from there through the orchestration of a couple of terrorist attacks, exploiting the corruption within the various branches of the Japanese police and shadowy connections between the military and government that date back to the postwar period ... Tsuge essentially 'brings his war back home.'

He orchestrates a no-win scenario through his strategic use of terrorism, technology, and banking on the corruption at the heart of Japanese government, and essentially creates a no-win political crisis event. Whereby the government will likely collapse under its own weight of deception.

No one wants to back down, no one wants to surrender, and no one wants to shoot and invite a catastrophe. And so the collapse of civil government by default.

A situation he himself felt betrayed to by his superiors in Southest Asia that saw some of his men die.

And fr most of the movie the protagonists are merely reactive to this plot, asthey themselvesare embroiled between a political stand off by the Japanese Diet, military who feel unjustly villified and persecuted for incidents they had no hand in, and the police who out of that corruption acted rashly and tried to arrest key members of the JSDF.

One that eventually leads to the concession of the Japanese Diet, a vote of no-confidence in the police (of which nearly all of the protagonists belong to), and martial law. It's a pretty good ... I won't call it a pure 'political thriller', but it's in that genre nixed in with 'cop drama'. There's very little action beyond the first few minutes, and the brief bursts of orchestrated horror and the finale ... It's just a good villain in a pretty good movie.

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I will say that because of movies being a visual medium predominantly, that allusion is easier to create in videos than in books. You can present the scene from first person perspective as you navigate the ruins of a villain's childhood home without either the protagonist or a writer just narrating at you.

Through careful shot composition and good acting and direction, you can also create a dual visual narrative of a marriage between environment and the person that sells an indefinite connection between protagonist and antagonist as they feel an almost shared event beyond thestrictures of time and distance.

Which helps illustrate the differences between both character(s) in full.

With clever use of a soundtrack and muted background and speech, you can even almost construct an alien mindset in the viewer. Make them isolated and slightly uncomfortable in the process. Which is particularly difficult outside an audiovisual format.

Casual Shinji:
I think a good and simple barometer is whether or not you can imagine the character outside of their property. Can you imagine (classic) Kratos NOT being on a blood fueled revenge quest? Can you imagine him chilling out on a Sunday (or whatever the ancient Greek equivalent of that is)? Not that this immediately makes a character "deep", but it can function to at least give them some dimension, which is a good start.

Really? Why? I can hardly imagine a Catholic priest inside a Buddhist temple ... but if you could would that give you any actual inference of whether they are at all that well constructed? And even then, making the arguent that a character is 'deep' by removing them out oftheir environment, and yet exist in another without cognitive dissonance whiplash doesn't really tell you much.

If anything, that barometer could exist for incredibly shallow characters.

Take a background extra out of LotR movies and insert them in the modern world, you basically just have hyper expensive cosplayer. And I've seen enough of them to buy that type of 'character'...

Addendum_Forthcoming:

Casual Shinji:
I think a good and simple barometer is whether or not you can imagine the character outside of their property. Can you imagine (classic) Kratos NOT being on a blood fueled revenge quest? Can you imagine him chilling out on a Sunday (or whatever the ancient Greek equivalent of that is)? Not that this immediately makes a character "deep", but it can function to at least give them some dimension, which is a good start.

Really? Why? I can hardly imagine a Catholic priest inside a Buddhist temple ... but if you could would that give you any actual inference of whether they are at all that well constructed? And even then, making the arguent that a character is 'deep' by removing them out oftheir environment, and yet exist in another without cognitive dissonance whiplash doesn't really tell you much.

If anything, that barometer could exist for incredibly shallow characters.

Take a background extra out of LotR movies and insert them in the modern world, you basically just have hyper expensive cosplayer. And I've seen enough of them to buy that type of 'character'...

Within the confines of their respected setting obviously, hence why I said 'the ancient greek equivalent' in regards to Kratos. If you have a catholic priest character and you can't imagine (or don't ever show) him wearing regular clothes and just doing some groceries it could mean he's pretty one-note. Same for a LotR character. If you can only imagine Gandalf doing grand wizard shit, and not, like, I don't know, washing out his beard or organizing his residence (if he has one), that would make him kinda one-dimensional.

Casual Shinji:
Within the confines of their respected setting obviously, hence why I said 'the ancient greek equivalent' in regards to Kratos. If you have a catholic priest character and you can't imagine (or don't ever show) him wearing regular clothes and just doing some groceries it could mean he's pretty one-note. Same for a LotR character. If you can only imagine Gandalf doing grand wizard shit, and not, like, I don't know, washing out his beard or organizing his residence (if he has one), that would make him kinda one-dimensional.

Do we really want to go down that road, however? Like let's take an inverse look of instead of Gandalf, Tolkien's incredibly problematic ideas pf the world and why the characters aredoing things in it.

If I took orcs from Tolkien's incredibly fucking racist ideas of the world ... I also don't buy his portrayal of orcs in the modern world. Any orc. Tolkien was incredibly racist.

Or the specific quote...; "The Orcs are definitely stated to be corruptions of the 'human' form seen in Elves and Men. They are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes; in fact, degraded and repulsive versions of the [to Europeans] least lovely Mongol types."

Yeah, that level of racist. Like, explicitly racist. In a way that would make Lovecraft blush. So basically visually recreating an image of all the fights that thecharacters got into with orcs, and how they're presented, do they suddenly seem so 'deep' a characterization of them now that we've ported in the world as is into the setting?

Kind of puts a new spin on heroic Caucasian types slaughtering hundreds of them for the sake of rebuilding a monarchy, right? And this is the guy that fucking hates allegory. LotR is basically a man with an axe to grind about that one time people like me kicked the shit out of Europe.

I swear ... you pillage your way across Europe once and you never hear the end of it...

Addendum_Forthcoming:
snip

Uhm.. am I missing something? When did this become about racism? Maybe you just needed to get that off your chest, but I don't see how any if this correlates to what I said.

Casual Shinji:

Addendum_Forthcoming:
snip

Uhm.. am I missing something? When did this become about racism? Maybe you just needed to get that off your chest, but I don't see how any if this correlates to what I said.

It's not about racism. It';s about environment. Your argument as is was whether you can imagine the charactersdoing something else beyond the environment they had beencast in. Thatthey have been modelled in. And I think that's a broken idea precisely because that presupposes that they can exist as well rounded characters outside of their native realms to begin with.

Quite specifically, you brought up LotR ... on the flipside, I made an argument about the environment of LotR through the author's eyes and values of how he saw its environmental context itself.

This is why I don't think your argument works, because (hopefully) people with modern values and with modern ideas towards our own humanity can't actually imagine the environment as is in any of Tolkien's imaginings of his own books. Hopefully ixnaying, you know, all the incredibly awful stuff that would legitimately kill any of its own romantic notions.

In short ... I think you'rewrong about how important environment is to a character. Environment is everything. I legitimately don't want to read about Gandalf washing his beard. I also don't legitimately see Medieval-esque hygiene as being portable to our world, either. I can't seeTom Bombadil just nipping off to the shops to buy a packet of Pringles.

Gandalf does all Gandalf things becaue the books set up what Gandalf is precisely contained in its own narrative. Books expand what he does. Even expand on what wizards actually are. But Gandalf who is Gandalf can only be realized in his own setting.

Addendum_Forthcoming:
It's not about racism. It';s about environment. Your argument as is was whether you can imagine the charactersdoing something else beyond the environment they had beencast in. Thatthey have been modelled in. And I think that's a broken idea precisely because that presupposes that they can exist as well rounded characters outside of their native realms to begin with.

Quite specifically, you brought up LotR ... on the flipside, I made an argument about the environment of LotR through the author's eyes and values of how he saw its environmental context itself.

This is why I don't think your argument works, because (hopefully) people with modern values and with modern ideas towards our own humanity can't actually imagine the environment as is in any of Tolkien's imaginings of his own books. Hopefully ixnaying, you know, all the incredibly awful stuff that would legitimately kill any of its own romantic notions.

In short ... I think you'rewrong about how important environment is to a character. Environment is everything. I legitimately don't want to read about Gandalf washing his beard. I also don't legitimately see Medieval-esque hygiene as being portable to our world, either. I can't seeTom Bombadil just nipping off to the shops to buy a packet of Pringles.

Gandalf does all Gandalf things becaue the books set up what Gandalf is precisely contained in its own narrative. Books expand what he does. Even expand on what wizards actually are. But Gandalf who is Gandalf can only be realized in his own setting.

I never talked about them leaving their setting, I'm talking about if the character can be seperated from the story's main plot and still function. Not the setting, the main plot.

Question, if a character is a metaphor for a deep concept, does that make him/her deep by proxy?

Casual Shinji:
I never talked about them leaving their setting, I'm talking about if the character can be seperated from the story's main plot and still function. Not the setting, the main plot.

That's not what you wrote though.

"Can you imagine them outside their own property."

How else is someone meant to interpret that?

I literally can't buy Gandalf as Gandalf without LotR. Generic fantasy Gandalf isn't the same. Like Elminster of the Forgotten Realms setting. It's why D&D Wizards are worlds away from Tolkien wizards. I also can't imagine Gandalf in FR. For starters, Ride isn't a class skill for Wizards 3.x.

I also refuse to pretend dehumanized, racist ideas of East Asians as any of the orcs in the trilogy or Hobbit. I will in fact ixnay Tolkien's ideas of his own property to make it more palatable.

Drathnoxis:
What I want to know now is, what is deep? Is this a real thing, or just some intangible that nobody can actually pin down.

Character development, or psychological depth, would mean expanding and explaining someone's personality and behaviours, usually with context of their past experiences (which determine current behaviour). This seems to be the sort of thing we're talking about here most. Movies are often not great for this sort of thing, because they are relatively short to be able to explore complex personality. Stuff like action movies tend to be very poor, because they have a lot of time that needs to be devoted to action scenes rather than character. If you want to see good character depth, you really need to watch a character study film - "Up In The Air", "There Will Be Blood", etc.

So to take The Silence of the Lambs (film), for instance, Lector is not deep at all. He's really just a in intelligent and socially sophisticated mass murder, but in personality barely more deep than the T-Rex from Jurassic Park or Michael Myers from the Halloween series. The most deeply detailed character of the film is Clarice Starling.

* * *

On top of this there might also be plot depth, or intellectual depth, of course. And I suppose depth in a sense of subtlety - leaving the audience evidence to work things out for themselves rather than just telling them, although that's usually more a thing for literature than movies.

A simple way to think about it is, try describing a character to someone as if they were an actual person. However, you can only talk about their character. Personality, desires, preferences, hangups... All internal stuff. Official titles, things they do in the story, things that happen to them, and their reputations don't count.

The longer it takes for you to properly do their character justice, the more deep they tend to be. A common criticism of shallow characters is that they can be described in a single sentence, or sometimes, even a single word.

Also, if you're the writer or creator, you'll have to keep in mind that you can only describe traits that are actually shown in some way in the movie/book/video game. Things you wrote in their bio don't count if the viewers/readers/players never saw them.

Addendum_Forthcoming:

Casual Shinji:
I never talked about them leaving their setting, I'm talking about if the character can be seperated from the story's main plot and still function. Not the setting, the main plot.

That's not what you wrote though.

"Can you imagine them outside their own property."

How else is someone meant to interpret that?

Then I probably worded that phrase incorrectly. In that same post however I stated that it needs to be that setting's equivalent, and in subsequent posts its clear what I meant by that.

I've never seen any character as deep. But then again I dont see people as deep either.
People aren't that complicated, and it seems that a lot of what people think of as "deep" is just non sequitur personality traits clashing with others.
Ozy from watchmen. Hes a complete genius, and a complete idiot. Wow, how deep.
No, that's just bad writing.

Ah, now I see where this question came from. The problem there is, you're asking about what makes characters deep, when the discussion from earlier was about what made motivations deep.

Of course, the two could be linked, since motivations are a part of character. Some people summed it up pretty well. Often deep motivations mean having a goal as a means to achieve another goal, which is tied to something more personal. Often, the more complex the personal thing is, the more deep it can be.

The issue with the pirates from Pirates of the Carribean was that their personal motivation was to be able to keep enjoying the perks of being pirates. To be able to partake in hedonistic pleasures. Basically, the same motivations an infant would have if deprived of anything pleasurable.

If the captain wanted to break the curse so he could perish, and join a loved one in some afterlife he believe in, that would still be somewhat deeper than the primal desire to escape an eternity without pleasure.

I feel to be deep implies multiple dimensions to a character (because its depth as well as length and width, you see). Barbossa's motivation is basically just "well this sucks". Is he going to be less of a ruthless bastard when he breaks the curse? Will he have learned anything? Do his actions give him any pause for thought? No, because his character doesn't have that depth. Sure you could say lot of things about the message behind how he was written, the difference between living and just being alive, but Barbossa himself is kind of shallow.
Voldemort would be in the same category. The story around him can evoke a lot of discussion about pride and hubris, about the blinding nature of prejudice and such, but Voldy himself is really kind of one note "hahaha! I am teh evulz!"

You want a character thats deep, I'd suggest Zuko from Avatar. He is constantly challenged and finds his situation changing around him..and reacts, grows and changes in turn in response. The Zuko of the first season is very different to the Zuko of the last season

sageoftruth:

If the captain wanted to break the curse so he could perish, and join a loved one in some afterlife he believe in, that would still be somewhat deeper than the primal desire to escape an eternity without pleasure.

It would be deeper, but it would be also more trite. I think Barbossa's motivation isn't deep, it's just appropriate for a conventional pirate trapped in an unconventional situation (and that was a good choice for that movie).

Silentpony:
I've never seen any character as deep. But then again I dont see people as deep either.

Uh-oh...

People aren't that complicated, and it seems that a lot of what people think of as "deep" is just non sequitur personality traits clashing with others.

Actually, yes people are complicated - although perhaps some more complicated than others. But if people aren't complicated or deep, necssarily they are easily understood. And yet the level of miscommunication, misunderstanding and the vast research of zillions of psychologists for over a century is nothing if not extremely powerful evidence that humans are not simple at all.

Agema:

Silentpony:
I've never seen any character as deep. But then again I dont see people as deep either.

Uh-oh...

People aren't that complicated, and it seems that a lot of what people think of as "deep" is just non sequitur personality traits clashing with others.

Actually, yes people are complicated - although perhaps some more complicated than others. But if people aren't complicated or deep, necssarily they are easily understood. And yet the level of miscommunication, misunderstanding and the vast research of zillions of psychologists for over a century is nothing if not extremely powerful evidence that humans are not simple at all.

It really depends on what you mean by simple, or even deep. I think alot of what people think of as deep are simple character traits or personal preferences, that in and of themselves are very easily understood. Even the ones that seem contradicting are simple to understand.

Someone has arachnophobia? Check, fear of spiders. They have a pet Tarantula. Check. Its not some great theory on the complexity of the human condition and what does this mean for me!! Its just two facts, both simple.
Miscommunications and misunderstandings aren't deep or complex, they're simple.
'Did you say you hate cheeseburgers?!'
'No, I said I love them.'
'Oh, okay.'

See? Simple. People are not that complex.

I think the popular conception of "deep" characters is just a quick measure of whether some thought is required from the consumer to understand those characters. More thought = more deep.

Barbarossa's motivation may be compelling, but it's pretty simple to understand, and there's not much else to his character (in the first movie).

This is seperate from the conversation of "how much thought is required to make a character deep", which is where much of the debate on whether a character is or is not "deep" takes place.

My trouble with a lot of "deep" motivations and characters is they just revolve around someone blaming someone/thing else and that's now why they act like an asshat. Bad parenting, bad government/rules, bullies, bad treatment by corporation, etc. It all seems the same.

The obvious problem being that this is what causes most people to do stupid things so I don't usually see things as deep. Complex may be a better term for me.

The other problem I have is the 'One Bad Day' syndrome of blaming everything on one event. Usually that's just the last straw.

I think this is a good example of a simple measures of depth. It's certainly not the only one.

* Can you have an actual discussion of the thematic or narrative meaning of a character beyond their role in the plot.

* Is it possible for two people having this discussion to disagree based on their own personal perspective outside the piece of media in question, while both being equally knowledgeable and well informed.

Silentpony:
Ozy from watchmen. Hes a complete genius, and a complete idiot. Wow, how deep.

That's the thing though, he's really not an idiot.

Silentpony:
I've never seen any character as deep. But then again I dont see people as deep either.
People aren't that complicated, and it seems that a lot of what people think of as "deep" is just non sequitur personality traits clashing with others.
Ozy from watchmen. Hes a complete genius, and a complete idiot. Wow, how deep.
No, that's just bad writing.

So just to be absolutely clear, you see no difference in character depth between a saver of lives breaking his moral code by making the decision to murder millions in order to bring an end to the threat of annihilation for billions and the immense self doubt that decision instills...

...and a hunter that wants to kill the wabbit?

Yes or No answer, please.

Casual Shinji:
Then I probably worded that phrase incorrectly. In that same post however I stated that it needs to be that setting's equivalent, and in subsequent posts its clear what I meant by that.

Oh, fair enough. Hrmn ... honestly given how batshit insane the mythology of the world I don't buy Gandalf as is to the world with half of the Gandalf to the trilogy. You know, except all that time where he's basically talking himself up. I forget the exact quote.... Something-something most badass thing before the eye of Suaron something-something.

Or how kind of funny and weird it is that Aragorn basically flashes his sword at everyone and is all; "You can look, no touchy..."

Paraphrasing and hyperbolizing. Why is it people take these books so seriously, again? With the right extras and with only a moderate embellishment of story direction, tone and script, I reckon you could transform LotR into a semi-faithful series of comedic musicals about a bunch of people suffering a crippling case of overinflated egos and initially being sent away on a suicide mission just so people could finally be rid of them.

The funny thing is it's not too dissimilar from another instance in the actual canon of the distant past.

Addendum_Forthcoming:
Why is it people take these books so seriously, again?

Historical reasons, I think, the first successful fantasy books of that kind, and (unfortunately) the template for fantasy forever after.

Silentpony:
Miscommunications and misunderstandings aren't deep or complex, they're simple.
'Did you say you hate cheeseburgers?!'
'No, I said I love them.'
'Oh, okay.'

See? Simple. People are not that complex.

That miscommunication/misunderstanding was not deep, no.

Squilookle:

Silentpony:
I've never seen any character as deep. But then again I dont see people as deep either.
People aren't that complicated, and it seems that a lot of what people think of as "deep" is just non sequitur personality traits clashing with others.
Ozy from watchmen. Hes a complete genius, and a complete idiot. Wow, how deep.
No, that's just bad writing.

So just to be absolutely clear, you see no difference in character depth between a saver of lives breaking his moral code by making the decision to murder millions in order to bring an end to the threat of annihilation for billions and the immense self doubt that decision instills...

...and a hunter that wants to kill the wabbit?

Yes or No answer, please.

I see a difference in that one is a "a saver of lives breaking his moral code by making the decision to murder millions in order to bring an end to the threat of annihilation for billions and the immense self doubt that decision instills" and the other is "a hunter that wants to kill the wabbit"
Those are, in fact, different words meaning different things. And I'll grant one is more complex than the other. But no, they're not deep in any way.

evilthecat:
I think this is a good example of a simple measures of depth. It's certainly not the only one.

* Can you have an actual discussion of the thematic or narrative meaning of a character beyond their role in the plot.

* Is it possible for two people having this discussion to disagree based on their own personal perspective outside the piece of media in question, while both being equally knowledgeable and well informed.

Silentpony:
Ozy from watchmen. Hes a complete genius, and a complete idiot. Wow, how deep.

That's the thing though, he's really not an idiot.

Ozy fails. That's the thing. He's a genius in that he managed to concoct a plan to out-think a literal God character who can travel through time and be everywhere in the Universe at the same time, and gets that same God to kill to protect that plan. Genius!
But failed to think one of his fellow crime-fighters would keep a journal, and would give that journal to the press. Remember Watchmen ends with the implication that tomorrow everything gets undone, the Cold War is back on, Ozy is exposed and Dr. Manhattan is free. All of it undone by a single journal that the smartest man in the world never saw coming.
That's not a complex character. That's bad writing.

Silentpony:
But failed to think one of his fellow crime-fighters would keep a journal, and would give that journal to the press. Remember Watchmen ends with the implication that tomorrow everything gets undone, the Cold War is back on, Ozy is exposed and Dr. Manhattan is free.

When is that implied?

Again, the implication here is rather barefacedly addressed through the conversation between Ozymandias and Manhattan. Adrian, in his only moment of weakness or doubt, asks John whether he did the right thing in the end, to which John replies that nothing ever ends, before teleporting away and leaving Adrian alone and unsettled. It's a great character moment because it reveals Adrian's flaw, that he was so fixated on that moment and preventing that disaster that he never looked ahead of it. He never fully understood the weight he was taking on, or the full implications for what he might also be responsible for in the future, by virtue of taking responsibility now.

But this isn't just a character flaw, it's also a metanarrative critique. Stories are written to have an ending, which means normally in order to make that ending satisfying everything is tied up and resolved, with no loose elements. The only reason to leave anything outstanding is to bait or tease a sequel. Watchmen's resolution is left intentionally open in accordance with the themes of the previous conversation, the story ends but it isn't resolved, the consequences are unknown and unforeseen.

We have no idea what the implications of Rorschach's journal will be. Heck, we don't know when it will even be discovered because we don't actually see anyone reading it. Rorschach never had all the information when he was writing his journal and true to form he sent it to an extreme right wing tabloid with little integrity. I mean, if you were to speculate on everything we know, the chances are Rorschach's journal would be declared a hoax, but perhaps enough people would believe to sow doubt. The journal is an intentional unresolved loose end intended to illustrate the explicit theme of doubt and unpredictability which has already come up several times in the story.

It's not bad writing. Bad writing would be writing a story with no themes, no ideas and nothing to say. Having characters who are perfectly consistent and "realistic" is often the opposite of good writing. Part of fiction is that characters can be "heightened" versions of real people.

Besides, Ozymandias being unable to predict Rorschach's actions. Gee, I wonder if that was foreshadowed in any way. Perhaps if one of them was literally named after and wore a mask based on a projection test in which a person ascribes meaning based on one's own personality characteristics onto an otherwise meaningless image, that would be an explicit enough hint..

Silentpony:
I've never seen any character as deep. But then again I dont see people as deep either.
People aren't that complicated, and it seems that a lot of what people think of as "deep" is just non sequitur personality traits clashing with others.
Ozy from watchmen. Hes a complete genius, and a complete idiot. Wow, how deep.
No, that's just bad writing.

He still manages to finish his plan, while explaining it to the heroes, so that alone puts him above most comic book villains.

And the extreme measures are kinda justified(from Ozymandias' POV), because he didn't have other, less violent means, like, let's say a magical glove that makes anything possible with a snap of a finger.

Thaluikhain:

Historical reasons, I think, the first successful fantasy books of that kind, and (unfortunately) the template for fantasy forever after.

'Of that kind', yeah ... but generic high fantasy is kind of... Ehhh? Personally I preferred Fair Folk mythology and folklore. Fairies are great. My dad used to tell me stories of Aos Si, and living fortresses of orchards and fruit.

High fantasy is like ... see there's a problem with pure narration and zero allegory. Lovecraft has more in common with ancient stories of the 'Good People' and 'Fair Folk' than anything Tolkienesque.

And honestly, nothing in LotR is anywhere as mysterious, or amazing, or alienesque as some of the stories and pre-Christian/post-Christian adoption tales of the old mythological figures and various things that haunt the nightmares of Man and seek to spread misfortune and beautiful madness.

LotR and high fantasy in general has kind of damaged that storytelling relationship to the mythological past of Western civilization.

The old tales of the 'Fair Folk' were simply better because they dealt with crippling notions of suffering, injustices they couldn't understand (like birth defects), or simply the terror of sapience. And fanciful stories of beautiful madness, of wrenching the spirits of people, of frighteningly beautiful vistas beyond the horizon that will tear the soul asunder with its own insignificance...

That's better than Ringwraiths.

With pure narration, fine ... you can build up the world and construct it, and paint asuper detailed picture. But the whole point of fairytales was to inspire dread, disbelief, fear, and a terror of the unknown and the safety of shuttering the windows at night and bolting them ... otherwise the fates you might visit on your baby sibling (or yourself) if you fail to do so.

Which, you know ... is horrible to tell a child, but the thing is at the same time those types of fairy tales are better. And everybody can do with more of those types of 'Elves' than whatever garbage of pure narration.

What makes a character deep to me is when they have a clearly enough defined character that you can imagine them in any situation, and then plausibly derive how they would act in such a situation. Hell, isn't this the very basis of all fan fiction? CasualShinji already said pretty much this, but let's see a couple examples:

Let's take Rorschach from Watchmen, for instance. Now let's say he's taken to Hobbiton. Out of his world, out of his element. He'd probably be uneasy, and still be constantly on the watch for "evil". He wouldn't be comfortable in the joviality and happiness of such a place, and would probably think there's something wrong with it.

Let's make the reverse and drop Gandalf in New York City. Depending on where he'd be in the plot of LOTR, first he'd likely try to communicate with anyone he knows. He'd try to figure out where he is and how to return to Middle-Earth. But he probably wouldn't be too much in a hurry to turn down an evening at a jazz bar, or seeing the sights.

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