Lights, Camera, Action
In elementary school, I started reading Harry Potter. At the beginning of the series, I despised Severus Snape, whom I thought was a vile and evil man. However, as the series progressed, I came to understand him, sympathize with him, and even empathize with him. This idea that this man could do such awful things in the name of love utterly confused me and simultaneously fascinated me. From Frankenstein to Edward Rochester to Fleabag, morally ambiguous characters have been a source of interest to not only me, but people around the world.
Hello! My name is Anavi Chitnis, and throughout the next twelve weeks I am going to be uncovering what the components are to morally ambiguous characters, like Severus Snape. However, I will more specifically be focusing on how to create a morally ambiguous female character. To give you some background about me, I adore film and television of all genres (my favorite movie is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Film analysis is a hobby of mine that I have loved doing since I was fairly young, and I wanted to be able to translate that passion into a project.
After spending the summer watching shows like House M.D. and Sherlock, I started to take interest in morally ambiguous characters. The concept of morally ambiguous characters came to me while I was watching Sherlock, as I loved Sherlock as a character, and even more so, I found myself loving him when all of the other characters in the show hated him. Through my project, I want to understand what it means to create a morally ambiguous character and how this translates in a character study, which is essentially a detailed background of the character.
Significance of Research
In 2022, the American film industry was worth almost $43 billion1. More than half of Americans watch somewhere between one and four hours of TV each day 2. It is safe to say cinema is a large part of American life, and despite this fact, 42% of streaming shows featured a female protagonist, 27% of cable shows, and only 24% of broadcast shows3. Understanding female representation and creating a character who is morally gray can help create more awareness and compassion towards women. By highlighting moral ambiguity, I can use this research to deviate from gender stereotypes4 where women see themselves fitting one certain character, and rather women in the audience can see themselves for the complicated and nuanced individuals they are. For future steps of this project, I would like to write a screenplay incorporating and highlighting my character.
Who am I working with?
For this project, my internal advisor is Ms. Srivastava, an avid film enthusiast. My external advisor is Amy Berg, a screenwriter at Paramount. She has written, produced, and created several TV shows, including The Alienist, Warrior Nun, Da Vinci’s Demons, and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Through both advisors, I will understand how to structure my research and analyze morally ambiguous characters. I also will understand the steps in which to create a character and how to make this character someone who we as an audience can empathize with.
Progress and Next Steps
This week, I am working on my literature review, in which I am looking at morality both from a psychological lens and from a cinematic lens. Next week, I will continue my literature review, by looking at female protagonists characters and morally ambiguous characters in television and film. I also plan to incorporate scripts into my literature review to understand how TV shows reveal aspects of morally ambiguous characters. After I finish my literature review, I plan to select the 10-15 movies and TV shows to analyze and eventually create a character study of a morally ambiguous female character of my own.
Thank you for reading! Tune in next week for more information!
- Rosal, Mel-Leo. “25+ Striking U.S. Film Industry Statistics : Facts About The Video Production Industry In The U.S.” Zippia 25+ Striking US Film Industry Statistics 2023 Facts About The Video Production Industry In The US Comments, Zippia, 7 Mar. 2023, Https://Www.Zippia.Com/Advice/Us-Film-Industry-Statistics/#:~:Text=The%20Film%20Industry%20is%20worth,Income%20of%20about%20%24718.7%20million.
- Commisso, Danielle. “Here’s What Watching TV Looks Like For Americans Today.” CivicScience, 21 Sept. 2022, Https://Civicscience.Com/Heres-What-Watching-Tv-Looks-Like-For-Americans-Today/#:~:Text=TV%20might%20be%20the%20most,Largely%20remained%20constant%20throughout%202022.
- Baysinger, Tim. “Streaming TV Shows Have ‘Substantially More’ Female Protagonists Than Broadcast Or Cable, New Study Finds.” TheWrap, 10 Sept. 2020, Https://Www.Thewrap.Com/Streaming-Tv-Shows-Have-Substantially-More-Female-Protagonists-Than-Broadcast-Or-Cable-New-Study-Finds/.
- Wühr, Peter, Et Al. “Tears Or Fears? Comparing Gender Stereotypes About Movie Preferences To Actual Preferences.” Frontiers In Psychology, U.S. National Library Of Medicine, 24 Mar. 2017, Https://Www.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/Pmc/Articles/PMC5364821/.