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
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.
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.
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.
This one is more impressive to kids if you go movie by movie.
- 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.”
- 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…
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”).
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.