We all know the typical morally grey protagonist pretty well I’d say. They usually have a traumatic backstory, where they perhaps had a more idealistic view of the world and then suffered a terrible tragedy sending them into a more nuanced world of justice. Perhaps they are a reluctant hero, or an antihero, trudging along with their own goals in mind and begrudgingly engaging in acts of righteousness on behalf of others. And then here comes a corruption plot line, and suddenly a character that is almost certainly morally grey flares up in anger and rebellion against that specific corruption.
I want to focus on this corruption subplot for this post and talk about how morally grey characters face corruption. I find it interesting in characters like Tea from The Bone Witch series, who fight against corruption but are regularly turned away and lied to. Tea takes potentially dangerous power into her hands but does minimal harm with it because her ending goal is to end the corruption of those that threaten others in her life. I feel like this is an almost common motivation for morally grey characters. They spend their lives not really picking a side, then when faced with an act of corruption or a corrupt organization, they rebel in order to save those they care about.
What’s really interesting to me is when an otherwise morally grey character takes a hard stance against such corruption. It stays in line with moral greyness when a character faces off against a corrupt person or organization due to caring for another–they only take a stance because of their affection or love for an important person. But what is far more interesting is when a character is morally grey because of what they are willing to do to fight the one thing that crosses a line for them: corruption. By this I mean a character that otherwise doesn’t seem to take a hard stance against certain acts. Corruption is too much for them; they can’t stand the injustice of a corrupted organization telling them what to do.
What are your thoughts on morally grey characters and their juxtaposition to corrupted antagonists?