Four Current Examples of Dynamic Characters

Dynamic and Static characters may seem like an easy-to-process concept, especially with some solid examples. However, you may run into the problem of your solid, perfect example becoming suddenly (or not – let’s be truthful with ourselves) obsolete.

Well, here’s where I come to the rescue. Without further ado, here are 5 examples of Dynamic characters that today’s youth will understand. The design is such that hopefully if you cover this list, at least one will hit students the right way, and you’ll have that “Ohhhhhh” moment!

Vegeta, Prince of Saiyans

Before

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Vegeta begins in an anime/manga called Dragon Ball Z, where he starts as a heartless alien prince hell-bent on destroying all life on Earth so it can be terraformed and sold to the highest bidder. He is cruel, sadistic, and arrogant. He shows this through his cruel fighting style, as well as his unflinching penchant for destroying those in a vulnerable position. A perfect example of this is when his partner – unexpectedly defeated by the heroes of the series – begs him for help. Vegeta pretends at first to help his long-time partner-since-childhood, then instead tosses him into the air and brutally destroys him in a blinding flash of power.

After

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This one is great because every time we see Vegeta, he is going through some kind of change. Like the next example, we almost never see the same Vegeta twice.

Vegeta is forced to fight on the heroes side repeatedly out of self-preservation, and somewhere along the way a change happens inside him that he has to wrestle with. It arguably begins when he marries one of the heroes, Bulma, and has his first child with her. He battles with his newfound affection and benevolence for Earth, and even tries one last time to turn to his evil self before eventually holding his son close and telling him he’s proud to be his father, and then subsequently sacrificing himself to save the Earth.

Iron Man/Tony Stark

This superhero is one that is always in a different part of his personal journey when you see him, and even though his first movie was about a decade ago, he’s still hugely popular.

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Tony Stark starts as an arrogant genius inheritor of a world-changing weapons manufacturer, Stark Industries. While the arrogant part of his personality takes a bit longer for him to adjust, his sense of responsibility for the world’s events begins when he is kidnapped and sees firsthand his company’s weapons being used in the Middle East to oppress innocent people.

After

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This one is more impressive to kids if you go movie by movie.

  1. Iron Man – By the end of this movie, Tony realizes that he cannot differentiate himself from the new task that he has before him in protecting innocent people. The last line is one that allows him to take responsibility for his actions and to truly own the changes he has gone through in becoming a hero: “I am Iron Man.”
  2. Iron Man 2 – Tony starts this movie as a superhero, but an arrogant one. Bit by bit, this comes back to bite him as he first gets outdone by a man who figures out his tech from his broken down hut, followed by losing everyone close to him. He ends the movie a more humble hero, leading to…
  3. The Avengers – By the end of this movie, Tony readily sacrifices himself for the good of humanity. He lives, but not because he wasn’t ready to die. In fact, he spends the 3rd solo movie freaking out about how traumatic this experience was. No matter what you think the catalyst is for his change, it’s apparent that the Tony Stark of the 2008 movie would not be prepared to do what he does in this film.

There are more movies, but I’ve got three more characters to go. Don’t be greedy!

Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow

Oliver Queen is a famous DC hero, but most kids will know him from The CW’s hit series, Arrow, or if they watch any of the other three or four shows that take place in the same universe. Warning: If you’re watching this show, I spoil it brutally here.

Before

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There are some obvious character changes here when it comes to Oliver before and after his father’s yacht, The Queen’s Gambit, is shipwrecked, marooning Oliver on the remote island of Lian Yu. Before the shipwreck, he is a fun-loving, irresponsible, selfish man who took his long-term girlfriend’s sister on a cruise for several days. Scandalous. However, there are less obvious changes that make this character dynamic. After 5 years of being away from home, Oliver returns as a figure known as The Hood, and begins to “save the city” by doing whatever it takes to destroy its criminal element – including eliminating people on a list that his father leaves him. While this may sound badass and hero-ish, this literally makes him a serial killer.

After

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Over the course of seasons of the show, Oliver decides that the killing must stop. He also makes several changes regarding his life of deception, especially when it comes to who he should trust and what it means to be in a trusting relationship. This conflicts often with his life as “The Hood,” and later “The Arrow,” and then even later, once he stops killing, as “The Green Arrow.”

He also vacillates regarding how close he keeps the people around him, starting with his bodyguard, Diggle, who eventually becomes the hero “Spartan,” and Roy Harper, who becomes the Red Arrow (known in the show as Arsenal). By 2017, the show has a “Team Arrow,” composed of Wild Dog, Mr. Terrific, the third Black Canary, Spartan, and The Green Arrow himself. This is a big departure from Oliver’s tendency to go it alone.

This team is eventually broken up due to a breach of trust; Oliver suspects one of his team is a mole, which leads him to spy on the whole team. This shows the struggle that Oliver still has with trusting others. He eventually reconciles with the team, even though they agree to go separate ways.

Despite this apparent failure of this team, Oliver of 2018 is a lot more compassionate, trusting, and responsible. He is even elected as the Mayor of Star City.

This version of The Green Arrow draws a lot of comparisons to Batman. However, one should note that Batman’s character tends to NOT change, even as the events of the two plots begin to look similar.

Marlin

Yeah, I know you know this one. We all know this one. This one works because a lot of our high schoolers were like three or four years old when Finding Nemo came out, so they’ll get it.

Before

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Marlin the clownfish is a paranoid, neurotic, single father who is terrified of the ocean and even more terrified of losing his son. This is mostly due to a traumatic incident in which a barracuda killed his wife and hundreds of his children, leaving only one survivor – his son, Nemo. As a result, Marlin is fiercely protective of Nemo, to the point that he stifles Nemo’s development. His fears are further exacerbated by Nemo’s apparent helplessness – one of his fins is tiny and underdeveloped (dubbed as Nemo’s “lucky fin”).

After

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When his son is picked up by divers, Marlin goes on a crazy odyssey to recover his son. He is forced to confront his fear of the ocean’s dangers, as well as confront the faults in his own parenting that led to this situation. This is further helped by his encounters with a regal blue tang named Dory, who tries to help him despite having a memory and attention span so short that she often requires the same type of supervision as a child. By the end of the movie, Marlin is more confident and assured of his own abilities as well as those of his son, and he happily allows his son to have experiences in childhood unmarred by fear. He also accepts Dory as part of the family, which displays his newfound openness and security, along with the development of his ability to trust.

Hopefully, between these four examples, you are able to successfully convey the concept of dynamic characters. I purposefully avoided famous literary characters, because I know pop culture references work better, plus now you can ask them yourself after talking about them with your class without you having given them the answer. I’ll write another soon, talking about some static characters you can use – these are remarkably a lot harder for some people to pull out nowadays.

You Don’t Like Sleep.

Sleep is a beautiful thing.  Sleep helps you lose weight, grow taller, heighten your senses, process memories, dump old memories – you get all that for SLEEPING, an activity that, in theory, takes little to no effort, and only requires you to take the time to do it.

When I was young, I squandered the opportunities to sleep as often as I could.  Well, according to my memory anyway; apparently, when I was a baby I was a very good napper.  I didn’t do any of that crib-climbing stuff that I watched my little brother do with fascination.  In fact, at one point, my mom said she put me on a mattress on the ground – no restraints, fences, nothing – and I made no attempt to escape whatsoever.  What a loser.  My brother in that same situation for one parent-imposed naptime was crawling out of there like Gollum.

But intellectually, I fought naptimes, and I stayed up late doing homework, IMing, gaming, binge-watching Netflix and staying up with my insomniac brother.  Over time, I kind of forgot what it was like to have a full, complete sleep.  Sometimes I noted that I was too tired to sleep.  Yep, in moments of extreme tiredness, my body would do things not conducive to sleeping.  My body was too sleepy to figure out how to sleep – short of collapsing in exhaustion when I finally hit zero.

It was actually my wife who pushed me to go to bed on time during my first two or so years of teaching.  I still remember what it was like that first morning after an eight hours sleep.  I had super powers!  My food didn’t drag me down, my senses were loading up my brain with information, my work got done so fast with my usual planning that I had all this extra time, too!  Life was… better!  Who wouldn’t do this?!

Now, sleep is one of the only things that I lack in my life.  Lack of sleep makes it hard to lose weight, work, and even spend time with my wife – which, because I’m suffering from lack of sleep, makes it so I have to make up for all of this by… you got it: NOT sleeping – which made it WORSE.  Yes, learn this lesson now.  Right my wrongs.  Not sleeping will make you so bad at being awake that you won’t get a chance to sleep.

So now I see these young teenagers every day at my work, and on the surface of it, it looks like they’re smarter than I was.  “I love sleep!” they’ll say.  Yet, day after day, students will wander into my classroom with half-lidded eyes and profess to long nights of Netflix, gaming and Snapchatting.  I thought you loved sleep?

When I love something, I prioritize it.  I make time for it.  That’s not what’s happening when my students are thinking about sleep.  They are doing things that aren’t sleep, and putting it off further and further, and only thinking of it wistfully because they’re bad at being awake.  “I can’t wait till spring break so I can just get some sleep,” which means that they can do all of their night time stuff and oversleep with no consequences.

So maybe it’s time to be precise: Do you love sleep, or do you hate waking up?

If it’s the latter, would you hate waking up so much if you just got some sleep?

Quote from New York Times Opinion this morning

The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.

Kylo Ren and Darth Vader (Not a Review)

This is not a review of The Force Awakens.  This is a discussion of Jacen Ben Solo’s arc.  Specifically, comparing it to the arc of Anakin Skywalker.  I don’t claim to have any kind of canonical authority, just an opinion with lots of facts to back it up.  Let’s start with the punk whiner baby first.

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I never really bought the Anakin to Vader transformation.  Don’t get me wrong, this kid had Dark Side all over him.  However, as far as character transformations go, Darth Vader was nothing like Anakin.  Anakin Skywalker was a whiny man-child with raging hormones.  He was angry pretty much all of the time.  His murders were crimes of passion.  His decisions were rash, bold, and improvised.  His major sin was Wrath, followed closely by Envy and Greed.

The taking of Tantive IV (by Jerry Vanderstelt)

Darth Vader may have been a servant of the dark side, but he always struck me as cold.  Darth Vader’s presence was chilling and inhuman.  He seemed to know your thoughts before you thought them.  He killed swiftly and brutally, punishing his opponents relentlessly.  He killed all who got in his way, even if it was his own subordinates giving a show of incompetence – he would dispatch them quickly, with the turnover for his second-in-command subordinate rank in any mission notoriously high.  Darth Vader did not yell in anger.  He did not cry out in rage.  Well, not after that first time.

That was the major problem.  Anakin Skywalker was supposedly seduced.  He was supposedly a victim.  Darth Vader is nobody’s victim.  If you look at Darth Vader, his character is completely different from Anakin’s in more ways than just which side he’s on.  When did Anakin become so cunning?  Using the torture of Han and Leia to lure his son via the Force so that he could ambush his son and freeze him in carbonite (The Empire Strikes Back)?  That’s not an Anakin plan.  That’s a Vader plan.

In fact, it’s a bit ironic that the Jedi Order promotes a lack of passion and serenity, because it almost seems like Anakin attains this by becoming what Obi-Wan called “more machine now than a man.”  As Vader, he feels no love, has no possessions, and feels no jealousy… or at least that’s the vibe that he gives.  For someone whose power flared the most in times of passion, Anakin lost everything that made him turn in the first place… and not just literally.

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… oops.

Would Vader, the villain of IV, V, and VI lose himself and kill his entire reason for turning to the Dark Side in the first place?  No way.  That’s some Anakin tomfoolery.  Vader is cool and calculating.  Vader does not look like someone who was just turned to the Dark Side.  Vader is a master of the Dark Side.

How does Vader find this mastery?  Could it be that some promises were kept between him and Sidious the Liar Who Transparently Offers You What You Want at That Exact Moment?  I read the Darth Vader book that supposedly takes place right after Revenge of the Sith in search of this answer, but to no avail.  Yes, it showed a bit of the Darth Vader Learning Curve, but nothing about how he went from the screaming, hormonal, unwieldy, potent, explosive rage monkey of unspeakable and often uncontrollable power to the icy, relentless presence of Darth Vader.  I’m pretty sure I saw Luke hit this guy twice with his lightsaber and he kept on coming.  Han Solo shot him, but he simply absorbed the energy of the blaster bolts into his hands.  (As Corran Horn would later learn to do to a greater extent.  Read I, Jedi for more info… you know, after you read the rest of the Jedi Academy books.)

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Enter Darth Caedus Kylo Ren.  Unlike Vader, this character is extremely angry.  All the time.  He is also conflicted, as if traumatized by the recent stress of turning his back on all that he was taught as a child.  The Dark Side is a big, powerful thing that he has just joined as an older person.  Not trusting its volatile nature save when needed in moments of sheer destruction, Ben Solo uses his lightsaber more than his Force abilities, which are fierce indeed, showing us some feats never used before.

Ben knows his grandfather was full of the same rage… yet Vader was obviously on point with his powers, never showing his emotions.  Never letting them consume him.  Ben is adamant about finishing Vader’s work.  He has vowed to learn from Vader’s mistakes too, as evidenced by the handguards on his saber that would easily prevent the wielder from getting his hand severed.  You know, like in every single movie so far.

(UPDATE 5/2/2016: I know that the official explanation is that the quillons of the saber is formed from raw power vented out the sides from the primary central blade.  Whatever you say, what do I know?  I’m only an expert in the LEGENDS of Star Wars, not the CANON.)

Ben Solo looks a lot like his grandfather in terms of style choices.  In fact, for those of us who just watched RotS, the resemblence is uncanny.  He has shown himself to be powerful and extremely angry as well.  Immediately we think of Anakin in his “prime.”

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Look at this beast.  In his prime, Anakin was uniquely gifted with powers of an unprecedented magnitude, even if they were not extremely diverse in variety as Ben Solo’s abilities.  He was a superb duelist, with Temple training and Jedi experience built in to his combat repertoire.  Anakin Skywalker, Hero of the Jedi.

But we know that Ben Solo is no Anakin.  He is not dogmatically sure that what he is doing is right.  He has no Padme to blind him.  We have no idea what Snoke used to get him… all we know is that for some reason, he identifies with Darth Vader on a near obsessive level.  Why?  Have they both experienced love?  Is he wondering how Vader could turn, and become so powerful as to master the Dark Side without any kind of doubt, such that he could kill his mentor – which perhaps Ben attempts to mirror in his father’s murder for the same kind of catharsis?

Well, for one thing, we know that Anakin’s story is not one of the best-preserved pieces of history in the Star Wars Universe.  Nobody seems to recognize Vader as Anakin… ever.  So really all the knowledge Ben logically has at this point is that Anakin became Vader in the pursuit of power… and according to Vader’s reputation, Ben has to assume that he got what he wanted.

Ben will never be Vader.  This has to eat him.  Maybe he’ll try cyborging himself one day in an attempt to try.  He wants to be Vader, but this is shown especially in the way he is only human.  He is injured twice by Finn, defeated by Rey, and let’s not forget shot in the side by Chewie’s bowcaster.  He can’t keep on coming like Vader can.  Not yet.

I think that when Ben finally finds out enough, and does enough, such that he can truly understand his grandfather, he will also find himself in a position more than ever to understand why Vader came back to the light.  I think Ben’s last moments will be those of redemption, even as we hit Episode VIII, where it’s – as Kevin Hart would put it – about to go down.

Every subject has its Phans.