A Dreamer Walking

The Diamond in the Rough!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on December 4, 2010

There are many different ways you can go about creating your protagonist. Sometimes the protagonist consists of somebody who is shy and meek; a character who does not believe in him or herself and through the movie somehow finds his or her voice.  The protagonist can also consist of the fallen hero; a character who had everything and lost it and through out the movie finds a way to get it all back and then some.

This post however concerns the protagonist who is the “diamond in the rough”. The character that we the audience usually finds snobbish and self observed at the beginning of the film. He often lives his life in a way that most of society frowns upon. The character has a sort of “me Vs. the rest of the world” mentality. These type of protagonists are often the most complex and hardest to buy into. If you do not go about telling their story and expressing who they are in just the right way, you will end up having a audience who is not interested in your film and frustrated rather then sympathetic towards your main character.

Above you can see four examples of the “diamond in the rough” type characters I am trying to describe in this post. I call them “diamonds in the rough”, because of their rough blocked off outward attitude they usually have when the audience first meet them. These type of protagonists usually have had hard lives, where they have grown up in abusive or neglectful situations and have needed to rely on their hatred toward the world to survive.

Out of all the characters you see in the picture above, Aladdin is probably the least oriented toward the character I am trying to describe. However, I felt the need to put him in sense I was taking from a phrase once used to describe him.  Even though Aladdin was more likable then the rest of the characters you see in the picture, when we first meet him it is obvious that he is considered a sort of outcast towards the society he lives in. Aladdin was a outcast because he was a lowly street urchin who stayed alive through stealing food from the local market. He is angry at the rest of the world because of the way they treat him. Aladdin is a very insecure character and he expresses his insecurities by trying to pretend to be someone he is not. This is how he blocks both the characters in the story and us the audience from discovering who he really is. In the second act of the movie Aladdin tries to woo Princess Jasmine of Agrabah through pretending to be a prince. Aladdin builds a relationship with Jasmine on lies. He is hiding from who he is because he thinks he by himself is not good enough.

Charlie Babbitt on the top right of the picture is another character who does not think very highly of himself. Charlie hides his insecurities through his selfish greed which blocks anyone from being able to see who he really is. Charlie is a character that the audience doesn’t really like at the beginning of the film. He too is part of a business that we as a society do not look too highly upon. He is a ruthless cars salesmen who can talk his way in and out of anything. Unless, he is stuck with a character that can not be swayed.

That is exactly what happens when Charlie Babbitt is reunited with his long lost autistic savant brother Raymond Babbitt. Because of Raymond’s autism, Charlie can not reason with him. Raymond has his routine and it must be followed. This consistent and very innocent character that comes into Charlie’s life completely turns Charlie around and allows him to find redemption and see humanity in life.

This leads to the next big thing you must have with “a diamond in the rough” type of protagonist. It is vital you have a constant character to balance the “rough” character out. In the movie Blood Diamond, Danny Archer (bottom left in the picture), played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a ruthless con man in South Africa. His job is to find and smuggle diamonds into countries like the UK and America. Naturally we do not think very highly of Danny at the beginning of the movie. What changes Danny is his companion Solomon Vandy. Solomon is a Mende Fisherman who’s only goal in the movie is to find and save is lost son. At the beginning Danny cares little for Solomon. Danny’s only goal is to travel the land in order to find a extremely valuable diamond that Solomon had stolen away. Through out the story however, the integrity of Solomon can’t help but impact Danny in very profound ways. Because Solomon is a constant and selfless character, he is able to impact Danny. You must have one or more of these characters when dealing with a “rough” type of protagonist. Because of the relationship Danny has with Solomon and the charm that Leonardo DiCaprio brings to Danny’s role, we buy into his character at the end and are rooting for him to do the right thing.

Charm is the last thing you need to have for these “diamond in the rough” type roles to work. On the bottom right of the picture I posted you can see Pvt. Trip, played by Denzel Washington. It is common now a days to see Denzel play roles like Pvt. Trip. In the 1989 movie Glory, Pvt. Trip is a young black man who signs up to fight in the civil War.  Pvt. Trip is a rebel. The fact that he is black makes him a outcast and because of the prejudices that have been unfairly thrown onto him, Pvt. Trip builds up a attitude that defies almost all authority. Pvt. Trip makes fun of other black solders for trying to act like white men, he disrespects authority, and tries to pick fights for no reason. It would be easy to not care for Pvt. Trip, but Denzel brings a charm that demands our attention. Little by little we see the abuse he has taken from the world and the reasons to why he hates it. Little by little we see Pvt. Trip change. He is changed by the constant characters around him. Through the attitude and the defiance we begin to see a human. And at the end he does the right thing. This is the key. Seeing and believing the change of Pvt. Trip is what makes him work as a protagonist.

Yes, the character needs to be a jerk. We do not need to like him or her at the beginning of the film. In fact, some of the entertainment comes from us not liking him, or in other words, “loving to hate him”. But slowly through out the movie we need to be able to see into the soul of the “diamond in the rough” protagonist. Yes, by definition the character is “rough” and hard to get to know. But, we need to slowly figure out how to get through the rough part and find the beauty on the inside. The movie needs to be about pealing off layers so the true character can be seen.

All these characters were hard to figure out at the beginning of the film. However, through out the film we see more depth. We see why they are the way they are  and we begin to see the good they are capable of. Then we begin to see them choose to do the right thing and we buy into it. The “diamond in the rough” character is often the most fulfilling protagonist you can have because of the complete turn around the character goes through. The contrast from the beginning of the film to the end of the film is the most extreme. Yes it is hard to have the audience go from hating a character to loving him. But, if you as a filmmaker are able to do just that, you have created the ultimate redemption story and your audience will leave the movie theater extremely satisfied.

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