IAN: Hi.  Ian Dawson here.  I hope you’re enjoying the posts for Main Character May and finding them useful when thinking about the protagonists in your stories. 

So far, we’ve explored the basics of character arcs and how they can guide a main character’s evolution and growth over the course of a story. However, there are instances where a main character might not change, which leads us to today’s audio blog.

Protagonists that have a neutral arc are also known as Catalyst Heroes.  According to Christopher Vogler, these are heroes who “may act heroically, but who do not change much themselves because their main function is to bring about transformation in others” (Vogler 44).  

The most common example of the Catalyst Hero is James Bond.  From Dr. No to Die Another Day, James Bond was given a mission, dealt with complications, reversals, and other issues, and by the end of the story, had neutralized the threat, killed the Bond Villain, and ended up with the Bond Girl.  

This was the formula for most of the Bond franchise, except On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the Daniel Craig Bond films.  But you can see while watching the majority of James Bond adventures that his character doesn’t change or evolve as the story unfolds.  He’s there on a mission, and that’s what he does.

Similarly, Bart in Blazing Saddles is also a Catalyst Hero. His actions cause others to react and change over the course of the film, while he remains the cool guy he was when we’re first introduced to him.  As the story progresses, he changes the attitudes and actions of Mongo, Lili, and the townspeople of Rock Ridge to get their help in saving their town from Headly Lamarr and his devious plans to run a railroad through their town.  Through it all, Bart doesn’t change who he is or what he does.  It’s everyone else who evolves as a result of knowing him.

Finally, two more examples of the Catalyst Hero can be found in the action films The Equalizer and Nobody. In both movies, the protagonist is already equipped with the skills and knowledge to execute and survive any obstacle. As the stories unfold, our protagonists use those skills to impact the lives of those around them—both good and bad people—with the ultimate goal for both main characters being a total annihilation of the threat they’ve been presented with.

The next time you watch a movie, consider how the main character changes throughout the story.  If they don’t, you might be watching a movie with a Catalyst Hero.

See you next time!

Sources:

Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Michael Wiese Productions, 1998.

Check out the posts from this past week by clicking the links below the transcript for this audio blog:

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