Monday, May 4, 2015

On The Importance of Hawkeye: The Everyperson

Between work and the horror that is spring/summer, I managed to catch a chance to see Avengers 2.  And then I came back the next day to watch it a second time.  Needless to say, I don't have any complaints about the film.  If anything, I walked away happy because one thing was done right: Hawkeye served as the everyman of Age of Ultron.

I use that term because its the closest thing I can think of to describe what I liked about his character building in the film.  Here is the normal guy of the team, who only uses bow and arrow.  Here is the essence of the Hawkeye I've read in the comics: grounded and always striving to do the right thing despite the mistakes he makes.  Everyman characters like that always are there to help the audience identify with them.  The everyman (or everywoman, or everyperson I suppose would be better, even though I can't think of that many female versions of the trope compared to the standard cutout ones) serves a critical role in big , epic stories.  These are your Samwise Gamgees, the "normal" character.  The one who doesn't seem that special.

That's key because the character proves to rise above what you think they could be.  They don't fail.  And we identify with them.  The everyperson is us, the one who stands up and does the epic thing no one else was expecting of them.  The first time I became enamored the trope was with Babylon 5- Vir Cotto, who was just a minor character in that series was pivotal because he was the everyperson of that story.  Ordinary,  but capable of doing more than others might think of him.

But the sad thing is its hard to use the Everyperson trope in RPGs.  I mean, in one way, all player characters are Everypeople in one way or another.  But they also tend to be somewhat superheroic.  And the players expect them to be... well, characteristic of things beyond what other character would be capable of.

It's unfair to think that lessens PCs in some regard.  By their very nature, PCs already do what everyperson characters are intended to do: help the audience identify with a character who proves what we all want to believe: we are better than what our doubts say we are.  It is the point of the exercise in one fashion: stories help us become more than we are.  Roleplaying Games sort of can do this as their main point.  So trying to make a character- whether an NPC or PC, as an everyperson doesn't really work, on paper anyway.  There is room for me to be proven wrong, of course.

This goes back to a worse problem, and that is using a trope or stereotype as the basis of a character. Characters, rpg, novel or otherwise, should be themselves.  Looking to just create a character based off a checklist or using a trope like a cookie cutter misses the point of characterization altogether I think.  Yes, you can design a character to fit a trope, but that is different than just duplicating something like one might extract a clone from the cloning vat.

Shouldn't we aim for magic, not something off a xerox?