When the heroes are bad guys

“Make your characters interesting.”

Don’t recall exactly where I got this little bit of writing advice, but I was thinking about it when a few someones came up to me and asked if I’d seen Lucifer. I think it was prompted by “The Devil You Know” (an unpublished short story of mine) which featured The Duke of Hades.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I’ve got the first disk of season one and I’m setting myself up for another Hollywood disappointment—my standards for anything coming out of Hollywood have fallen so much that I’d rather watch Korean dramas with subtitles (which I hate because they’re distracting).

Nevertheless, hat tip on Lucifer. I loved it. From the first episode. And no, it wasn’t all because of the eye-candy, or the arrogance, but because they somehow managed to make him interesting in a good way.

Plus, I seem to have a soft-spot for anti-heroes.

Exhibit one: John Ringo’s Ghost. This is the book that made me a John Ringo fan and I refuse to apologize for it. He did something aspiring writers should take note of—he wrote a good bad guy, a tortured soul (who may not be as tortured as he ought to be sometimes, but I’m good with that too) who strives to do good and isn’t some Gary Sue, or whatever the cardboard-character moniker-of-the-day is. And all the haters (which sometime seem legion) are nothing but an endorsement that he did it the right way.

Exhibit two: Susan R. Matthews’ Andrej Koscuisko. Despite the excruciatingly slow start, I powered through the first two books because the idea of a surgeon training to be torturer was not just too fascinating to put down, but she wrote him so well that I forgave the info dumps and it carried me through all the things I didn’t like. Just to be clear, it’s not torture porn, which I will NOT read or watch (I refuse to watch things like Saw or anything in that genre and stopped watching Walking Dead for this very reason). But the Fleet Inquisitor (Under Jurisdiction) series is, again, about someone who is inherently good but sometimes has to do bad things and pays a terrible price. Those differences matter.

Before getting into exhibit three, Lucifer, I must mention the fact that I’m not a religious person.

What does that mean? Well, it means I don’t go to church. I didn’t get married in a church, and some years I bother to put up a Christmas tree even though my kids are now old enough to know that Santa’s real name is “Dad.”

It also means that I’m envious of people who can make the required leap of faith and I think that Judeo-Christian values have brought the world more good than harm and are worth living by. I also think the scientific explanations for the creation of the Universe and the THEORY of evolution are just as much an article of faith as anything in the Bible. Minored in astrophysics, so I do know something about this, before someone jumps in and tells me to go take some science classes.

I see Nature’s God in the Golden Ratio, in mathematics, and I know that we don’t KNOW. We only theorize. And I don’t mix up theory with knowledge. “Know” is a very strong word in my world. And I’m not particularly big on faith, turning the other cheek, or forgiveness either. But I do know that our rights come from God, in no small part because I’ve lived the nightmare that comes out of “rights” coming from government. Make of that what you will.

So now that you know my take on anti-heroes and life, the Universe, and everything (with apologies to whomever I’m ripping off with that phrase), how did I end up liking Lucifer?

What appeals about Lucifer is the idea that Hell is a place where bad people go to be punished. And that the Devil likes his job. Because bad people do deserve to be punished. There is good and evil in this world and justice is NOT served when we pretend and equivocate that there isn’t good and evil. And unlike humans (whether judge, jury, or executioner), The Devil KNOWS. He has no doubts. Reasonable or otherwise.

I wonder if the appeal and popularity of this show rests in exactly this: that bad people will get their comeuppance and that there will be no doubt that they deserved it. What’s driving our craving for this?

A lack of justice in the real world perhaps?

That and maybe because Hollywood did use some of its “magic” to make him likable and entertaining.

They gave him a shit-eating grin, a total acceptance for who and what he is, and cast him not as some tempter, some trickster, but merely an agent of consequence.

Humans make their choices—they have free will after all—and they reap the consequences of those choices. That too is something that is sorely missing in the real world. In fact we seem to spend an inordinate amount of effort and treasure at insulating people from the consequences of their choices. So no wonder we enjoy the escapism into a world where that is not the case.

I also loved the idea that he’s totally upfront about who and what he is and yet few believe him, or in him. No one is asking us to believe that a pair of glasses keep everyone from realizing that Clark Kent is Superman. Also, the weaknesses of this character are far more interesting—see, there’s that word again—than Kryptonite. In fact they’re palpably human and I admit I’m a sucker for the fact that Chloe is his Kryptonite. Yeah, total sucker for romances. I can’t wait to see how it all pans out so I bought the entire set.

Hollywood, please don’t disappoint me.

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