I've decided to devote this post to a question that has been rolling around in my head for a little while. I think it is a good question, and one that needs to be answered.
Where have all the good characters gone?
By good, I don't mean well-constructed. There are plenty of those. I mean good as in "good vs. evil."
It seems to me that the modern era has, to a great degree, left the idea of goodness in the dust. It is viewed as a cliche, because today's audiences have been jaded into thinking that such goodness is not actually attainable.
Gone is the true hero, the character who does what is right, who overcomes evil both within himself and without. He has been replaced by the antihero, the bad boy who embraces his flaws and strives for an end that justifies the often nefarious means by which he achieves it. That is a great shame.
Antiheroes are interesting, don't get me wrong. I must admit to myself that I have often been fascinated by their complex motivations and intriguing personality flaws. The draw of the antihero is, of course, relatability. In the antihero we recognize parts of ourselves, and that is an asset to any storyteller.
But there is a certain quality a white knight possesses that an antihero does not, a purity that the audience should long to aspire to. That quality is in short supply today. Instead, we have V, Wolverine, and Sam & Dean Winchester. Well-constructed characters all. Works of art, even. But only "good" in the sense that they are protagonists.
Allow me to clarify something at this juncture. When I speak of the white knight, I do not speak of a character that is completely, perfectly good. This extreme is responsible for the categorization of the white knight as a cliche. I speak of a character that, while flawed, is cognizant of his flaws and actively pursues the right thing. I can't think of many who fit that description.
The time has long passed for some new, real heroes to enter the scene. Guess I'd better start writing, huh?