Morally grey characters, what classifies them as one? These are characters that cannot be categorized confidently as either good or bad. They are the ones the readers and viewers find thoroughly interesting because of the complexity. Over the years, I have always found myself swooning over that one character that neither stands in the right nor in the wrong. It’s a weird thing but these are the personas that give a reason for the stories to continue. I know for a fact that morally grey characters have more fans than the heroes and the villains. Instagram posts and Tiktok comments constantly buzz with discussions on the admirations of these characters and I know this because I myself have found myself enthusiastically contributing to some of these discussions. For those that still haven’t unlocked some of these characters in their books or movies, be warned, there are some major spoilers. Now that we know what they are, let’s dive into my favorite part, talking about some of my favorite fictional morally grey male characters!|
1. Loki (MCU)
I love that I’m starting off with Loki because out of all the characters in this list, he is my favorite. Loki is the son of Laufey, the frost giant and the adopted son of Odin, the King of Asgard. He is also brother to Thor, the God of thunder, but that’s all he ever felt he was, a mere shadow in the presence of his brother. This sparked every bit of his insecurity, the need to control, rule, manipulate, and best of all, to instil fear. As he mentioned to one of the agents of TVA, Mobius, he does not enjoy hurting, but it’s all just a cruel illusion, to conjure fear in the weak. If he was truly a ruthless Villain, he would not have tried to save the people of Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok, he would not have given the tesseract to Thanos to save Thor, he would’ve not protected Jane Foster from the dark elves and most importantly, he is the sole reason why we have the Avengers today. Even though it was not his intention, had the God of mischief not showed up with an army of Chitauri, we would not have our awesome team of super heroes. But then again, he led the frost giants into Asgard, took the throne of Asgard, tried to take over earth and will forever feel responsible for the death of his mother by directing Kurse to where he thought Thor was and suffer the guilt of leading Kurse to his mother who then dies. Who is Loki to you? A perfect Villain, a flawed hero, or as I would say a heroic Villain?
Anyone who knows Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, knows about a certain Slytherin boy who is not only the nemesis of Harry Potter, the chosen one but is the chosen one himself, by Voldermort, to assassinate the one wizard he fears the most Albus Dumbledore. Draco is the last person anyone would want to be friends with. He’s rude, demeaning, snobby, and absolutely spoiled. He comes from a family of witches and wizards who are much more cruel than him, so obviously we couldn’t expect any less from him. But, that’s not all about him. Since a young age, he has always wanted the love of his father, but Lucius Malfoy only ever cared about fitting in among the death eaters and serving the dark lord. As Draco grew up, his world only shrouded with more darkness. He only ever almost committed his crimes and never did he ever wholeheartedly give into the darkness. He hates Harry and we know it. He ratted out Dumbledore’s army to Umbridge, he snitched on the trio at every chance he got, he bullied anyone he doesn’t like and hates anyone who is not pure blood. He is a menace alright, but, he helped Harry by not identifying him to the death eaters, he warned Hermoine about the attack during the Quidditch World cup, he befriended Moaning Myrtle even though she’s a mud blood and the best of all, he couldn’t bring himself to kill Dumbledore. He only held out his wand ready to strike because if he didn’t complete the task, his family was in danger. Draco is both an insufferable bully as well as a sweet boy who has been through too much. What’s your take on Draco?
Alright, please hear me out. I know that a huge lot of you will heavily disagree with this but just let me explain. Joe Goldberg is an average guy who just goes through his days trying to make a living with the one thing he knows best, books, and just like anyone of us, yearns to find the love of his life. He just has a different take on it. I think the right word here is ‘grotesque.’ He does all sorts of criminal activities like stalking around, breaking in, kidnapping, attempting murder and of course, murdering. But in his heart and mind, he is only doing all those things for the benefit of true love. Heavily problematic and even though he’s a red flag is sticking its redness into our eyes, he has done some pretty good stuff. Yes he murdered many people around Guinevere Beck, but he had Beck’s back with Peach’s toxicity. Even though his method was questionable, he did save a little boy named Paco from his step dad who was extremely abusive. He tried to expose Hendy for taking advantage of all the girls who trusted his help in their careers and for a bonus, he saved Ellie from enduring a traumatic night with Hendy. Love may have killed off Delilah, but Joe was the only one who worried for Ellie and did his best to keep her provided financially. He knew his son wouldn’t have a good life for as long as Joe or Love was in the picture, so he did what was best for him. I’m not saying he’s a good guy, but he’s not the worst. He’s a psychopath no doubt, but his character complexity doesn’t allow us to confidently take a side. Thoughts on Joe?
This character is one of my personal favorites, Luke Castellan. Luke is the son of the messenger God Hermes and the vessel of the powerful titan Kronos. Luke ran away from his family at the age of nine after an incident that drove his mother crazy. He resented his father, an Olympian God, for not answering his prayers or aiding him. Eventually he began resenting the Olympians for the terrible parents they were. When he failed on a quest that was set out for him by his father, it furthered his hate towards them so much that he accepted the proposition of the Titan King who was known to be the foe of the Olympians. After joining forces with Kronos, he began plotting his revenge against the Olympians and anyone who sided with them. His body was set to host the Titan King and it was nearly done. However, despite his deep rooted resentment against the Gods, he plunged a knife in his heart to stop the Titan King from completely possessing his body and in that process saving the world from total destruction. If he hadn’t taken his own life, the chances of the world being saved from the evil forces would have been slim to none. Is he the antagonist that was set to end this world or is he the true hero of the book, sacrificing his own life for the world?
Yes, this is the second MCU character in this list but it’s not my fault that Marvel gives us such admirable morally grey characters. Technically, Namor remains a hero to his people until his world collides with that of the Wakandans which is when his ‘not so nice’ side emerges. Namor and the Talokans reside in the dark depths off the coast of Central America. When the US government gets closer to identifying the existence of his world, he takes care of it violently, yet, silently such that no one knows who or what caused the destruction. This shows us that Namor would do anything and everything in his power to protect the anonymity of his world and himself. Even though he blatantly threatens Wakanda to hand over the scientist who built the Vibranium detector, he only seeks alliance with the nation because he knows it would benefit his kingdom greatly. But as soon as he finds out that Wakanda was never going to cooperate, he strikes upon the nation mercilessly with his wrathful army. Namor is definitely the nicest in this list because every bit of his actions are only the echo of his care and concern for his kingdom. He is a morally grey character because of the chaos he instigated in the movie ‘Wakanda Forever.’ His character has sparked debates among many. When the Wakandan princess was rescued by Nakia, two of the Talokan ladies were killed in the process. Namor took it as his personal mission to avenge their death, the people whom he spent his entire life protecting. But then again, even though he is so virtuous, he lost the support of many when under his strike, Queen Ramonda abruptly passed away. He was entirely too chaotic and it’s hard to place him into categories of good and bad because he does not aim to be good. He only aims to protect his kingdom and anything that might become a threat to his people, easily became his unfortunate enemy. Do you think Namor is a Villain all over or just a Villain to those that deserve it?
This was just a rough list of my top favorite morally grey characters. Morally grey personas exist in our lives too. It doesn’t take much to recognize one. It might be our friends, an acquaintance, a family member, an enemy or even better, we ourselves could be one of these characters because we are capable of heroic acts and villainous sins. We don’t always turn out to be good guys in everyone’s stories. Sit back and think about the morally grey ones in your lives, the ones that we neither hate nor love.