An Atypical Hero…

I get to start out a great month here on Contemporary Romance Café! We’ll all be talking about characters from movies and television shows, and I have the privilege of first post of the month!

So…from this big, wide world of characters, I choose to write about… (drum roll, please) … Ssweeney3weeney Todd. (Yes, I’m weird. I’m well aware. I’m writer; you shouldn’t expect “normal.”)

For those of you unfamiliar with the character, his original name is Benjamin Barker. Poor Benjamin is wrongly imprisoned by Judge Turpin for many years. The judge, you see, has the hots for Ben’s wife. Once Ben’s freed, he returns to London in hopes of reuniting with his beloved family. Alas, he’s told his wife committed suicide and that his daughter is now a ward of the judge, who has a pedophilia thing going for her. Heartbroken and furious, Ben resumes his profession as a barber, but now he goes by the name Sweeney Todd. He plots revenge against the judge. Nasty, throat-slashing while in the barber chair revenge.

The problem, however, is that his rage fills him. Consumes him. He misses his chance with Turpin, so he still plans and plots—only now he kills other people. First victim is a man who’s blackmailing him. Then one-by-one, his other customers fall to his straight razor. The bodies would be piling up if it were not for his accomplice, the charming Mrs. Lovett. Dear Mrs. Lovett owns a small restaurant below the barber shop. She makes pies. From meat. From any kind of meat. Cats. Rats. And when she falls for Todd and he commits that first murder, the body of his victim disappears about the time Mrs. Lovett starts serving some rather sumptuous new pies.sweeney5

Now, I know what’s you’re thinking. Why in the hell would I pick a murderer as a character to discuss on a blog? For pity’s sake, he’s horrible! Actually, that’s exactly why I chose him.

He’s not horrible; he’s a hero. Nothing but a misguided, put upon hero.

His character intrigues me, and I find myself drawn to him. Why? Let’s put aside the fact he was played by Johnny Depp. (Yum.) Sweeney Todd is a good man deep down inside. He was wronged and lost so much time with his family simply because a man with political power lusted after another man’s wife. The injustice makes me bristle, and even though he becomes a monster, I can’t help but feel what he feels.

sweeney 4To me, that’s the sign of a great character! Besides, I kill lots of people in my books. Muahahaha…

When I read, I often put myself in the place of the heroes and heroines, trying to understand what motivates them, what drives them to do what they do. If I can make that empathetic link, I enjoy the story—even when that character does something so stupid I want to pull my hair out. (You’re running upstairs when you’re all alone and hear a noise? Dumb ass!) With Sweeney Todd, I can put myself in his shoes and find that I understand his rage. He’s lost so much—worse, it was wrenched away from him. And while he suffers, the man who wronged him thrives.

It’s just so…wrong, damn it!

I won’t toss in any spoilers, but let me say this. The ending “fit” the character. To me, that’s why both the character of Sweeney Todd and this movie (the play is great too!) are so wonderful. The creator made me not only understand but LIKE a murderer.



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An Atypical Hero… — 4 Comments

  1. I have to admit I haven’t seen Sweeney Todd, but your description here is fascinating. I believe that if you give your characters good reasons (or justifications) for the things they do, any action is believable, and in this case, even heroic. Thanks for this look at Sweeney Todd, Sandy!

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