I think it is almost universally accepted that heroes should have flaws. Perfect people are boring and unbelievable so everybody needs a weakness. But is the converse also true? Is it necessary for every antagonist to have some kind of redeeming quality? Or is there a double standard in which it is acceptable to have purely despicable characters, even though it is unacceptable to have purely virtuous characters?
Personally, I think pure evil is just as silly as pure goodness. That said, I've seen it work, but it's usually in some sort of alegorical sense.
Stephen King toys with the idea a lot in The Stand.
They could be as morally reprehensible as you want but you also have to make them interesting enough to read.
Like Renfield said, they gotta be interesting. They could probably be completely amoral/evil, but remember that they're heroes in their autobiographies.
Take a look at real-life evil. Jeffry Dahmer - was every action evil, I assume that his day-to-day activity wasn't so evil? Hitler - he painted, if I remember correctly, and certainly thought of himself as a savior. John Wayne Gacy was a clown at kids' parties (how creepy is that?!). Stalin liked to tap dance and help out at soup kitchens -- okay, I made the Stalin stuff up.
But like McKay said, you could do pure evil allegorically. As long as the Dark Lord likes to tap dance.
Not to be a prick, but if you want to talk about what's "acceptable," a great portion of this website would not meet someone's criteria. That's just to say (like others have) that they have to be interesting. I don't believe it's impossible to have a purely good character who is fun to read about, but their actions would have to be something less familiar than your standard Superman plot.
Besides, if that adage about flaws has become common enough and people go long enough without ever reading a story about someone who's purely good, such a story might actually have novelty on its side as a draw (like having outright villains for protagonists used to, and still can I guess.)
Doesn't half the writer's wisdom have to do with the fact that stories do not need to (and often should not try to) exactly replicate reality? Can't that apply to characters? I've heard it both ways: Your characters should be more "everything" than real people / Your characters have to be relatable. Do I really want to read about someone exactly like me, but smarter and funnier and better-looking? Can I really relate to an ancient, immortal, unfathomably evil, multi-dimensional alien? As with everything, it depends on the specifics.
I think it's entirely possible to write a good story about an absolute Good-Guy; maybe not everyone would like it, but nobody likes everything and nothing is liked by everyone.
(I don't mean to be argumentative for the sake of it; I'm just one of those guys who don't like to take stuff for granted.)
Man, what a great question. If you went back in time, so fat that there were no back boned creatures on the planet. So far back that even flora and fauna looked alien. The only thing that would look like what it does now would be sharks. So perfect were they from the outset that the have evolved little. It just happens that they are perfect killers, and we find that sinister. A serial killer, for me, would be more frightening if there was no reason, No mental trigger or lever - he killed because he liked it. So the flaw becomes a sum of the whole.
Flaw's in heros are different, because you want that recklessness. We live in a world where largely we do as were told, the heros often are more like who we'd like to be like more. The career minded, suck-up, do everything perfect, always lucky, always gets a break. We see that day on a daily basis, and often want to find a chair and beat him to death. The people we like have flaws. Irrespective of good or bad, the just have to be amplified.
Some people just want to see the world burn.
Anything can work, question is how you do. I think that characters have to have style, not flaws or virtue.
What I want in a hero is the same thing I want in a villain, but in different measurements.
I want somebody I'd fuck.
I wouldn't fuck Mr/ Goodie Goodie with no vices or flaws. He'd bore me. He'd probably suck in bed.
I wouldn't fuck the eptiome of pure evil, either. I want to respect myself in the morning--I don't care how flexible she is.
Ya get me?
I don't think the Joker is a good example. We know he's crazy, something happened to him (we don't know what...) so there is a reason to have sympathy, I think. It's not easy to have symapthy for him, but if we broke it down to the fundamentals, he would be a victim at some point in his life--if not currently, because Arkham definitely isn't giving him what he needs.
"I wouldn't fuck Mr/ Goodie Goodie with no vices or flaws. He'd bore me. He'd probably suck in bed."
Renee, if he had no flaws, he'd have to be awesome in bed. Hence no flaws. If he sucked then that would BE his flaw.
Oh, good point. What I meant was I'd fuck Dean Winchester.
I had to Google that.
AND WE JUST TALKED ABOUT IT!
Which reminds me of some Twittering I need to do.
@Sparrow - But isn't that his super power?
Do you mean the Joker's superpower is that he's crazy/a victim or that Dean Winchester's superpower is that most women would fuck him?
Either way, yes.
@Sparrow - Normally I don't read fanfics or cross overs. You put that one together and I'll think about it. I just meant isn't attracting women Dean's super power? I mean I get why a hot, confident, guy with money to burn get women but in the show it's border line magic.
He's ridiculously sexy, drives a black 67 Chevy Impala and listens to 70s and 80s rock. That's more like a formula for a guy I throw myself at, rather than magic.
I'm not arguing that. Don't forget the fact he saves innocent people's lives all the time, yeah he'd get chicks. I'm saying girls who don't know any of that dig him after, "Hi," when he's covered with monster goo.
@Sparrow - You saying you'd fuck the nameless dude in Malice then?
Same with chicks. Tank Girl - god yes!!!
Ha! I suppose I would. We discussed that. He's flawed all to hell and back, but he's got a heart of gold. Assuming he's good looking, and in this make believe world where he actually exists, I am single--sign me up! You know, after he has a shower and heals up.
@Dwayne--it seems like magic to you because you're a straight male. If you were rocking a pair of ovaries, you'd probably get it. Especially if you were rocking a pair of ovaries and saw him shirtless...
That's the point I'm making Sparrow. Shirtless, yeah I get it. Any of the stuff I get, sure. But I've seen some really good looking, in shape men with money to blow get turned down. Often happened when they are covered with something disgusting. Or forget to show off. Dean has a bunch of stuff that would work, but his power is he doesn't have to use it.