Does your hero need to change?
Updated: Jul 31
Based on the movie Becky, it doesn't appear so.
Movies, novels and comics to an extent, are based around a character who need a change, they go on a journey, learn a lesson and return a better person. Or at least that's what we thought.
The 2020 film Becky, a thriller/action/horror genre mix, which challenges the hero's journey principal.
The title character, Becky, an angry and disconnected teen stays with her Father, father's new girlfriend and her son in their holiday house. During this time, a group of convicts escape and break into the house to retrieve an important item. What the convicts don't anticipate is one very bloodthirsty teen, Becky.
The teenager's killing spree is not necessarily to save the family, but to seek revenge channeling the angry from her Mother's passing.
Why is this a problem?
To be honest, it may not be a problem, depending on how much you value a character's arc. Becky starts the film as an angry and bitter teen and she ends the film as an angry and bitter teen.
A traditional character arc would see Becky start with resentment to her Father, ignoring her father's new girlfriend and when it become too hard, run away. Once the bad guys arrive, Becky would return, save the family and learn the lessons - forgiving her Father and releasing her Mother.
The filmmakers chose another path.
Becky's arc hinges on a single moment involving Apex, the antagonist's main henchman.
During the second Act, Becky is caught by Apex, he's a big and threatening guy, and things look grim for our hero. Before Becky is torn in half, Apex, realises his ways and lets Becky go. Before she leaves, Apex delivers a message along the lines of 'you have a choice, don't be like me'. Quite powerful coming from a man who earlier had killed two children.
Taking a moment to mull over the decision, Becky decides her usual trait of running away. Then she continues her revenge plot, violently stabbing pencils into the eyes of bad guys.
Becky's moment of change arrives at the end of the final Act; after everyone has been killed (violently might I add) and her father's girlfriend and son are saved. Hooray!
Perfect coincidence, Apex returns, this time he attempts to connect with Becky, lay down his words of wisdom as a changed man. With a smoking pistol in her hands, Becky is offered a choice - lower her gun and complete her character arc or kill Apex.
She kills Apex in a split second.
The death of Apex indicates Becky's choice to not change, her character experiences no growth, learns no lesson, yet I find myself unbothered.
The question I ask, does a protagonist need a character arc?
I always believed they did, yet, at the end of Becky I didn't feel empty, but I didn't feel anything and maybe that is the why you need a character arc.