The Queen – Power of Conscience

The Queen, written by Peter Morgan, directed by Stephen Frears and starring Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen, is a pitch perfect character study.  Anyone interested in writing complex, interesting characters that are fully formed three-dimensional human beings must see this film. The Queen is a masterful example of character development.
The film takes place in August 1997, in the days after Diana (divorced from Prince Charles), dies as the result of a car crash in Paris.  At the same time, Tony Blair settles into his new position as Labor Prime Minister.  Blair makes a stirring and immensely popular speech in tribute to Diana, no longer the Princess of Wales but forever “The People’s Princess.”
The Queen and Royal Family, at Balmoral Castle for the summer, opt to maintain royal protocol in seclusion.  They are publicly silent about Diana’s death. Many people felt Queen Elizabeth acted in a cold and disconnected manner immediately after Diana’s death. They saw her as a villain in Diana’s story.  But there are two sides to every story.  And…
Every Antagonist is the hero of his or her own story.
Stephen Fears’ brilliant film looks at the story from what was the commonly supposed antagonist’s point of view.  We see behind the stiff royal veneer and into the heart of the complex human being that is Queen Elizabeth.
In the film, the Queen has her own emotional journey during the tragic events that ended Diana’s life.  She wrestles mightily with her own internal values.  Queen Elizabeth makes a leap at the end of the story that requires as much strength and courage as any epic physical battle.
Her action in making that leap defines what it is to be a good leader.  In what must have felt like a moment of personal defeat, Queen Elizabeth emerges publicly triumphant, her reign is secure.
General writing note:  It is a great exercise to look at how your story might play out from the antagonist’s point of view.  What is his or her emotional journey?  If it is just a one-note descent into evil, your antagonist is a cardboard cutout rather than a real human being.  With what competing internal values does your antagonist wrestle?
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Great characters wrestle with competing internal values.
Queen Elizabeth is portrayed as a Power of Conscience character.  (In my view of television and film there are Nine Character Types, each with their own internal competing values, worldviews and emotional journeys.)
Power of Conscience characters function as the voice of moral authority in a story.  That clearly is how the character of Queen Elizabeth sees her role in the world.
The Queen says repeatedly that dignity, reserve, proper conduct and devotion to duty define the good example that exemplifies her moral authority as a leader.
Her restrained actions in all things are perfectly in sync with her philosophy.  Her formality, insistence on protocol, and proper conservative dress physically define who she is and what she represents.
When Diana dies, Queen Elizabeth’s subjects require something more from her.  They need emotional solace, personal connection and a sense of shared grief.
Tony Blair suggests that to be a good leader, in this particular moment, Elizabeth must reach out in a way that is the antithesis of how she sees her role and how she defines her own good example and leadership.
His advice flies in the face of everything the Queen believes is right.  He suggests that her definition of her duty and what is proper must now give way to the actual needs of her subjects.
Her choice, as presented, is  will she serve royal protocol or truly serve her subjects?  Blair believes the survival of the monarchy is at stake.  Her own survival as a leader is at stake as well.
Great characters have mixed motives.
When Queen Elizabeth returns to Buckingham Palace at Blair’s very insistent recommendation, she sees the angry notes left on the flowers at the palace gates.  We watch her begin to comprehend how out of touch she is with the sentiments of her people.
We also see the potential reservoir of good will she can tap, when the little girl offers the bouquet of flowers.  After Queen Elizabeth offers to place the bouquet at the gate, her people finally show their respect, by bowing and curtsying as she passes.
Queen Elizabeth sees that she has no moral authority if her subjects dislike and resent her.  She cannot be any kind of a leader if her people abandon her emotionally.
Against every instinct that was born and bred in her, against all her past experience and against all the advice given to her by both her husband and mother, Queen Elizabeth makes the speech that she must make to reconnect with her subjects.
Is her leap also an act of personal survival?  Absolutely.  People rarely have singular motivations in the choices they make.  Most motives are mixed.  Queen Elizabeth’s choice isn’t any less courageous and requires no less strength for being mixed.
Her action is also a classic paradox of great storytelling.  In what Queen Elizabeth views as a moment of personal defeat is, in fact, a moment of public triumph.
She gives her subjects what they truly and deeply need in a time of trouble and turmoil.  Her action is the definition of good leadership.  She emerges triumphant and we can’t help but love and respect her for it.
General writing note:  Actions that spring from motives that are purely noble don’t contain the shades of gray that depict both the shadow and light in every human being.  Actions that spring from mixed motivations are much more fascinating to watch.  A bit of shadow often makes the light more clearly visible.
A character’s greatest strength is also his or her greatest weakness.
Queen Elizabeth’s sense of decorum, dignity, reserve, devotion to duty and her sure sense of what is right and proper are her greatest strengths  as a monarch.  These great Power of Conscience qualities helped her lead her people though good times and bad.
In this moment of crisis, however, she relies on  these strengths to a fault.  These very traits cause her trouble because, in the extreme situation of Diana’s death, they make her appear as if she is cold, lacking in human care or feeling, rigid and inflexible and is simply substituting stiff and stuffy standards of protocol for genuine human connection.
Diana’s death creates the crisis that forces Queen Elizabeth to surrender all those qualities that had been her salvation in the past.  The public response Tony Blair suggests would make her feel exposed, open and vulnerable.
The crisis demands she surrender all her strong defenses.  By allowing herself to be more open, and therefore more vulnerable, she emerges stronger than ever.
General writing note:  Find ways to turn a character’s best qualities against him or her.  Explore the dark or troublesome side of your character’s strengths. Discover ways to create a crisis situation that force your character to sacrifice or surrender those qualities.
Make your character take some significant action that makes the character feel open, exposed and vulnerable.  Turn that openness and vulnerability into the character’s ultimate salvation.
For more information on how to create the internal dynamic tensions that make characters complex and fascinating order the Character Map eBook.
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The_Queen_etb_ScreenwritingDecorum is the Highest Duty

The Queen, written by Peter Morgan, directed by Stephen Frears and starring Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen, is a pitch perfect Power of Conscience character study.

Anyone interested in writing complex, interesting characters that are fully formed three-dimensional human beings must see this film. The Queen is a masterful example of character development.

The film takes place in August 1997, in the days after Diana (divorced from Prince Charles), dies as the result of a car crash in Paris.  At the same time, Tony Blair settles into his new position as Labor Prime Minister.  Blair makes a stirring and immensely popular speech in tribute to Diana, no longer the Princess of Wales but forever “The People’s Princess.” Read the full story »

Terminator Salvation vs Star Trek – What Is Fair?

Terminator_Salvation_John_Connor-etbscreenwritingThe Importance of Worldview

I had an interesting question forwarded by a reader on FaceBook. I described John Connor (Christian Bale) in Terminator Salvation as a Power of Conscience character. Power of Conscience characters are most deeply concerned about rightness, fairness and the higher duty involved in anything they do. (See Conscience Blog Posts). The question was: Aren’t all characters to some degree “fair.”

The answer of course is, yes! But the key factor is: How does that particular Character Type define “fair.” That definition varies widely. Each Character Type views the concept of fairness very differently and acts accordingly. Let’s look at Terminator Salvation and Star Trek for examples.

Power of Conscience ETB Screenwriting

Power of Conscience

A Power of Conscience character (John Connor in Terminator Salvation) values doing good, the higher duty and moral correctness most highly. Fairness for this character is doing right by others. Fairness means taking the moral high ground in any decision.



Power of Idealism ETB ScreenwritingPower of Idealism

A Power of Idealism character (Marcus Wright in Terminator Salvation and James T. Kirk in Star Trek) values individuality, personal excellence and authenticity most highly. Fairness for this character is persevering the unique rights of the individual. Fairness means allowing each person to decide his or her personal destiny according to one’s own uniqueness and standards of excellence (even if the individual choice rebels against the rules, norms or morals of society).


Power_of_Reason ETB ScreenwritingPower of Reason

A Power of Reason character (Spock in Star Trek) values objectivity, expertise and rationality most highly. Fairness for this character is deciding purely according to the facts and not being swayed by emotion. Fairness means looking at a situation objectively and proceeding logically (even if that decision is personally or socially painful).



Power_of_Will ETB ScreenwritingPower of Will

A Power of Will character (Nero in Star Trek) values strength, power and territory most highly. Fairness for this character is what preserves the strong, culls the weak and decisively leads the pack. Fairness is the law of the jungle and survival of the fittest. Fairness means the biggest most powerful dog wins. (“Win or die there is no compromise”).



Fairness Depends on Point of View

These are four very different ways of looking at and defining “fairness.” Each of these characters would make a very different determination about what is fair and would take very different actions given exactly the same set of circumstances.

It is very tempting, individually, to believe that everyone views “fairness” exactly as “I” do. In fact, different Character Types view philosophical concepts like fairness, love and social or personal responsibility very differently. They each have very distinct ideas about how the world works and very specific ideas about what is owed to the self and to others. It is this distinctiveness which will clarify, sharpen and set your characters apart from general stereotypes when you are clear about your character’s type.

Terminator Salvation – Idealism vs. Conscience

terminator-salvation-etbscreenwritingTerminator Salvation is a solid satisfying summer hit. It’s also a great illustration of the difference between a Power of Idealism character, Marcus Wright (played by Sam Worthington) and a Power of Conscience character, John Connor (played by Christian Bale). Although both men (and both Character Types) are honorable, how each views honor is different. Each man’s emotional journey therefore is distinct.

We first meet a morose Marcus Wright on death row. Dr Serena Kogan (played by Helena Bonham Carter), a researcher who is dying of cancer, makes a passionate appeal to him to be part of a larger project or greater vision. Marcus agrees to “sell” his body to science for a kiss. He kisses Dr. Kogan deeply and says, “So that’s what death tastes like.” This doomed romantic moment is exactly what appeals to and defines a Power of Idealism character.

When Marcus awakes decades later, he finds himself in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by a vicious, relentless, red-eyed mechanical army churning through the remains of human-kind. Marcus begins a long tortuous journey to discover who and what he is and how he fits into this horrifying new world.

Power of Idealism ETB ScreenwritingPower of Idealism characters are most deeply concerned about authenticity, personal identity and the individual vs. society. These characters strive to find their place in the world— Who am I and where do I fit in?— while being acknowledged as unique, special and one-of-a-kind.

When Marcus discovers his extraordinary but horrific nature, he rebels. Dr. Kogan tells him he was designed for a unique purpose and that there is only one of him. He is indeed one-of-a-kind. Marcus refuses to be defined by his circumstance or situation. He will not submit to a larger crushing authority or an inescapable technological imperative. He will define himself.

In true Power of Idealism fashion, Marcus defines himself and becomes the stuff of legend through sacrifice. What makes him human is his heart— both metaphorically and literally. He sacrifices his heart so that the Resistance might live. It reminded me of one of the Psalms: “I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me.” Marcus Wright’s heart melts and he pours his life into John Connor and the hope of the Resistance.

We meet John Connor as the voice and moral authority of those fighting against the machines. At the climax of the movie, the larger Resistance leadership argues to strike a death blow against Skynet when Skynet’s defenses are down. John refuses to do so because such an attack would result in the deaths of masses of human prisoners trapped inside Skynet’s fortress city. John argues that if the Resistance fights with the same cold calculation as the machines– they are no better than machines.

Power of Conscience ETB ScreenwritingPower of Conscience characters are most deeply concerned about rightness, fairness and the higher duty involved in anything they do. Although he wants desperately to end the war, John is not willing to do so at the expense of what he believes is mankind’s higher value of respecting human life. No one is expendable. All human life is precious. He tells those under his command to stand down. They respect John’s moral vision and choose to obey.

Power of Conscience characters believe they are their brother’s keeper. They feel responsible for the greater good and for doing good. These characters wrestle with how far they should go in seeking justice and fairness for others or in standing up against evil. They worry about and struggle with what is the higher duty and what exactly is required of them in response.

Doubt – Truth vs Conscience

Doubt-etbscreenwritingThe movie Doubt, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, has an emotional disconnect at its core– in the most unsuccessful sense of the word. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) is a Power of Conscience character at the center of a Power of Truth story. She is the wrong protagonist for the film and this mistake fatally skews and distorts the story’s emotional focus. It makes the ending feel false (or as described by various critics– “a cop out”). Here’s what went wrong and why.

Meryl Streep plays a classic Power of Conscience protagonist. In all the reviews and press information her character is described variously as: stern, rigid, inflexible, intimidating, judgmental, authoritarian, single-minded, strict, moralistic, harsh, punitive and punishing. Early in the film, she glares at children whispering, fidgeting, slumping or snoozing in Mass and admonishes them with a variety of hisses and thumps on the head or raps on the knuckles. She describes herself a number of times in the movie as “certain” or having “absolute certainty.”

Power of Conscience ETB ScreenwritingPower of Conscience characters see something and immediately “know” if it is right or wrong. If they witness an action or activity they view as improper, immoral or corrupt and they are compelled to act. These characters simply cannot stand by or be silent in the face of perceived injustice or wrong-doing. Inspector Javert, in Les Miserables is another example of a hardened, unforgiving and unrelenting Power of Conscience character in pursuit of a “wrong-doer.” Less dark versions of this Character Type in religious life are Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons and Thomas Becket in Becket. Both men defy a king whose actions they judged as immoral or improper. Both men died as a result.

Suspicion or doubt, by their nature are at the heart of a Power of Truth story. The Story Questions in a Power of Truth film are: Who can I trust? What is really going on here? Did I really see what I thought I saw? Who is my ally and who is my enemy? When does loyalty look like betrayal? When does betrayal look like loyalty? How can I be really certain of anything? What does it all mean?

None of these questions occur to Sister Aloysius. She never doubts her own judgment. She is unwavering in her pursuit of what she “knows” must be the corruption at the heart of Father Flynn’s actions. She is single-minded and sure of herself. She is absolutely determined to root out wrong-doing wherever and however it rears its head in her school.

Sister James (Amy Adams) is the person plagued and tormented by each of these Power of Truth questions. She is torn and doesn’t know what to believe. It is very difficult to suspect someone you genuinely like and admire of a horrible act. Sister James likes and respects the warm charismatic Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the parish priest at the center of the controversy. The pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church turned on the difficulty those in authority had in believing that competent, well-respected and well-liked priests could also be bad men with deeply criminal impulses.

Power of Truth ETB ScreenwritingIf the story is about really is about doubt, then the ages and positions of the nuns should have been reversed. Sister James should have been the older school principal and protagonist. Sister Aloysius should have been a younger gung-ho Power of Conscience nun. If Sister James had been goaded into accusing Father Flynn, despite her uncertainty and doubt, then it would be entirely credible that she would be tormented about whether or not she did the right thing.

A Power of Conscience character cannot be the protagonist of a Power of Truth film without causing an emotional disconnect. That’s why the ending of the film feels so contrived and false. We never quite believe that Sister Aloysius, who is so certain in all things, would inexplicably dissolve into tears of doubt and remorse once she had accomplished her goal– removing a man she believed to be corrupt from her school.

If this is Power of Conscience film then the central issue is not doubt, it is the dangers of executing a God-like judgment of others. If the harsh unyielding Sister Aloyius is the protagonist, then her character should have been proven wrong with horrible results. Her hard, unrelenting, moral certainty should have been her tragic downfall.

Wesley Morris writing in The Boston Globe about the film says: “…The truth is that Sister Aloysius’s steely single-mindedness is actually quite simple, which is why the movie’s (and the play’s) abrupt final scene is a cop-out.”

Raising the Bar – Not Bochco at His Best

raising-the-bar-etbscreenwritingAccording to Media Post Publications: “TNT’s Raising the Bar (Steven Bochco’s new legal show) rocketed to a record-setting 7.7 million viewers in its early September premiere. But in the most recent outing–week four– the show’s viewer balloon has much less air–now down to 2.3 million viewers in its most recent outing (this past week).”

Why aren’t viewers more enthused? Want a quick take-away line: The audience needs to be actively concerned about a character’s sanity, safety or soul to be truly engaged.

Power of Idealism

Mark-Paul Gosselaar plays the show’s hero and nominal protagonist, Jerry Kellerman, a lawyer in the New York City public defender’s office. He is a classic Power of Idealism character. Kellerman is rebellious, passionate, intense, short-tempered and given to explosive dramatic grandstanding on principle. Think of a late-twenties, at the beginning of his career, John McCain with floppy (slightly greasy) hippie-length hair and a baggy suit. Not a pretty sight, and for my taste, an over the top portrayal. There’s too much flailing about and not enough deep smoldering danger, which is key to the most delicious angry young man characters.

Power of Conscience

Jane Kaczmarek, plays Judge Trudy Kessler, Kellerman’s nemesis with an Ann Coulter-style mean streak. Judge Kessler is a Power of Conscience character gone a bit to the Dark Side. She is smart, inflexible, harsh, a stickler for rules and proper conduct and very concerned with “judicial process.” She’d be much more interesting if her desire to rise in elective office were driven by duty and sense of mission rather than the desire for personal accomplishment. She’s a bit blurry right now. Hillary Clinton at her steely best would be a good model here.

Power of Ambiton

Melissa Sagemiller plays Michelle Ernhardt, Kellerman’s girlfriend, and a young prosecutor. She is a beautiful highly-motivated Power of Ambition character who will do anything for a “win.” She is willing to bend the law until it breaks, play fast and loose with the facts and wants to rise quickly in the prosecutor’s office. Not suprisingly, Ernhardt and Kellerman repeatedly clash but their arguments are predictable.

Not Enough Personal Urgency

Unfortunately, everyone is pretty much a stock character without the deep rich internal conflicts so viscerally present in Bochco’s sensational NYPD Blue. There is little personal urgency for any of the characters. The audience doesn’t need to worry for principal character, Jerry Kellerman, like they worried for Andy Sipowicz. The wrenching internal struggle for the character is absent and so the audience’s emotional bond is weak.

The setting has urgency and certainly, crime and punishment is always a high stakes arena. That’s not enough. The audience needs to be actively concerned about a character’s sanity, safety or soul to be truly engaged. The audience should be forced to tune in because personal disaster is always right around the corner. It’s like cheering for your favorite sports team– if you don’t tune in and personally “will” them to victory they could lose! And if they lose, then next time they need you all the more!!

Lack of Complexity

Equally problematic for Raising the Bar, are its rather pat simplistic stories. Everything gets wrapped up neatly in less than 44 minutes. I understand the need to have “stand alone” episodes for commercial reasons but short-cutting story and tidying loose ends in a hurry can cripple authenticity and credibility. Too often the show does this and doesn’t “feel” real. The iconic Law and Order, an endless replayed staple on TNT, does this much better.

The degree of “innocent” accused criminals also hampers authenticity. It is stereotypical to portray everyone represented by the public defender’s offfice as guilty. But it begs credulity to believe so many of those charged are somehow “not guilty.”

Most of the cases have a racial angle and reach for social significance, a Bochco trademark. But in Raising the Bar the really tough questions of racism and the wrenching struggle to protect the rights of individuals vs the safety of society are not tackled in a complex, emotionally gut-wrenching way. NYPD Blue had a much more intense, multi-layered and explosive take on racism that brought the topic alive and made it feel real and very urgent to the story.

At this stage, the show lacks sufficient authenticity and personal urgency to be a hit. I don’t feel compelled to tune in and it looks like many viewers who initially gave the show a look aren’t compelled to come back. Raising the Bar has a second season order but Bochco and company will have to dig deeper if they want a third season.

What Happens in Vegas

WhatHappensinVegas ETBScreenwritingA very long international flight is the perfect time to catch up on movies I missed the first time around.  On this trip I managed to catch up with a high-spirited Romantic Comedy romp that turned out to be a really enjoyable surprise.  The film has its flaws, particularly in its rather pat ending.  The finish is predictable and lacks that little extra twist that lifts this kind of story above the ordinary. But the film does have its virtues.

Joy McNally (Cameron Diaz) is super-conscientious career woman engaged to a man who is exhausted by her organized, detail-oriented uptight attitude.  She is a Power of Conscience character who schedules a meeting with her fiancee to “make a plan to make plans.”  Fed up, he breaks up with her in her apartment hallway.  Joy is humiliated that all their friends are listening as they wait inside for a suprise birthday party for HIM.

Jack Fuller (Ashton Kutcher) has the opposite problem.  He is “not serious boyfriend or husband material.”  He is a Power of Ambition character who is so afraid of failing (and proving he is a loser) that he never takes a gamble or finishes anything.  He is fired by his disgruntled fed-up boss, who also happens to be his father.

Feeling devastated, they both head to Las Vegas to (literally) drown their sorrows. A computer error is the “meet cute” that throws them together in the same room. The two spend a drunken night of true confession and “my life is crappier than your life.” They wake up to discover they are married.

A 3 million dollar jackpot won with Joy’s quarter but played by Jack lands them in front of a judge, in an argument about who can claim the money.  The judge decides that they should remain married for 6 months and attend counseling sessions before splitting up either the money or the marriage. Neat as a pin Joy moves into Jack’s sloppy and disgusting bachelor pad.

Over the course of the film there is a real exchange of gifts.  Joy learns to be less uptight and driven to prove her “worthiness.” Jack learns to believe in himself enough to put his talent on the line.  He becomes the woodworking craftsman (and artist) he was meant to be.

Jack Fuller is a refreshing take on the Power of Ambition.  This Character Type is usually portrayed as an eager young striver in the Tom Cruise mode of Jerry Maguire or Rain Man. Instead, Jack starts out squarely in his fear.  He is paralyzed by his utter conviction (and his father’s belief) that he is a failure.  When Joy speaks up on his behalf, Jack is astonished.  At a corporate retreat she makes him feel like a winner.

Joy is a more conventional Power of Conscience female character.  She is the good girl who works hard, is responsible and plays by the rules.  She is vying for a promotion in a job she hates because that’s the “right” thing to do. Jack teaches Joy the importance of loving what you do and finding time for family and friends.

Check this movie out. It’s not perfect but it hits enough of the right notes to be a fun romp and a satisfying bon bon of entertainment.

Revolutionary or Rebel

tom_joad_ETB ScreenwritingMy last day in Milwaukee is a sausage buying extravaganza.  I stopped at Usingers and bought several varieties with their own special spices.  Flying back to Santa Monica tomorrow.

I’ve been working on the final edit of the Power of Conscience eBook.  That particular Character Type is often confused with the Power of Idealism character.  The distinction between the two is subtle but clear. It is rather like the difference between a revolutionary and a rebel.

A revolutionary is someone who works for political or social change.  The orientation is toward changing and improving society.  The basic orientation of a Power of Conscience character is to seek moral and ethical perfection. They believe they could do better, others could improve and the world could be a better place.

A rebel is a person who resists authority, control, or tradition.  The orientation is more individualistic. The basic orientation of the Power of Idealism character is to seek aesthetic perfection.  Noteworthiness, rarity, distinctiveness, individuality and/or the unusual, idiosyncratic or eccentric are what these characters value most highly in themselves and others.

Power of Conscience characters cause revolution to conform society, as a whole, to a higher moral or ethical standard. Power of Idealism characters rebel against the status quo to resist authority or conformity and to promote or preserve their personal autonomy.

A Power of Conscience character looks at the world like this:

“Wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build– I’ll be there, too.”  Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) in The Grapes of Wrath

A  Power of Idealism character looks at the world like this:

Mildred: “What’re you rebelling against, Johnny?”
Johnny: “Whaddya got?”  Johnny Strable (Marlon Brando) in The Wild One

“And maybe there’s no peace in this world, for us or for anyone else, I don’t know. But I do know that, as long as we live, we must remain true to ourselves.”  Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) in Spartacus

The Dark Knight – Two Face & the Power of Conscience

Two Face ETB ScreenwritingThe Dark Knight is a huge blockbuster and a fascinating complex film.  One of the reasons it is so popular with audiences is the clarity of the Character Types in the story.  I’ll look at each of The Dark Knight characters over the next several days and discuss each Character Type in the film.

Let’s start with Harvey Dent/Two Face (Aaron Eckhart).  This character is an iconic Power of Conscience character.

Power of Conscience characters know instinctively if something is wrong, unjust, unfair, improper, corrupt, evil or out of line.  Their judgment and response is swift and immutable  These characters are propelled forward by personal outrage and moral indignation, usually on another’s behalf.

Harvey Dent’s moral condemnation of crime fuels him to clean up Gotham and make it safe for ordinary citizens.  He is a vigilant prosecutor of evil.  He catches and punishes criminals within the strict confines of the legal system.  He is a “white knight” and a moral hero.

After he is burned and Rachel dies, Dent moves toward his Dark Side and becomes Two Face, a twisted vigilante and self-appointed judge, jury and executioner.  As Two Face, he is a fascinating counterpart to Batman.  (More on the Dark Knight in a later post.)

Harvey, or any other Power of Conscience character, moves to the Dark Side by believing the ends justify the means (evil behavior for a moral purpose).  The burning question for these characters is how bad a thing are they willing to do for (what they consider) a good cause? What ends justify what extreme means? Incrementally, they stumble down a slippery slope taking actions which they feel are justified, until they become exactly like the oppressors, persecutors or criminals they once loathed.

Harvey moves toward his Dark Side because of his outraged sense of fairness and justice.  He explains:  “You thought we could be decent men in an indecent world. But you were wrong; the world is cruel, and the only morality in a cruel world is chance. (holds up his coin) Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.”

The “fair” and impartial flip of a coin will be his “moral compass” from now on.  He is a man without mercy or compassion.  There is, however, no true justice without  the humanity of those qualities.  There is only revenge, which is a bitter poisonous force of destruction.

He will be a fascinating villain to watch.

The Power of Conscience character will be covered in great detail in my forthcoming eBooks on The Nine Character Types