Ha! I haven’t done this kind of posts in ages! Can you believe I used to do a post like this every damn day? Anyway, today I am going to be talking about a very common trope in all types of fiction. Comics, movies, tv shows, cartoons, mangas, animes, novels, whatever. You will find this trope everywhere! By the way, bear in mind that this post will contain minor spoilers for the season three premiere of Rick Morty and major spoilers for season one of Attack on Titan.
Now, what trope am I talking about? Well, you already know, cause you read the title! That’s right, I’m going to be talking about what is known as the Main Character Armour trope. Now, what exactly is main character armour? It’s, basically, when in a work of fiction, you will see that there are characters dying here and there, but it’s as if the main character has some sort of special armour that doesn’t allow them to die. In this post, I will be giving you my opinions on this trope and whether or not I think it’s a good thing.
I guess that I should probably start off by giving you some examples of main character armour. The first one that comes into my mind is The Walking Dead. Both the comics and the tv show, but it’s a bit more blatant in the comics, since they have more characters. In the tv show, the HBO suits just ask Robert Kirkman which characters are the most popular and should be in the show. But, anyway, no matter how many characters become walkers, no matter who dies, Rick Grimes will always live. Even if the walkers learned to operate nuclear weapons, Rick would still probably find some sort of super-safe bunker.
Another example that I’ll go with is Rick & Morty (ha, I chose two separate franchises with a main character called Rick!), purely because of how much they mock the idea of main character armour. In the absolutely amazing season 3 premier, we get a scene with Morty shooting Rick. However, Rick stands up and it turns out that it was only a fake gun that Rick handed to Morty to cause a distraction. Classic Rick & Morty humour.
Now, do I think that main character armour is a bad thing? Well, honestly I think that it’s a rather necessary element in order to be able to tell a good story. If you don’t have a main character, you can’t really have a story. However, I think that there are definitely situations when it’s taken way too far. For example, as I’ve mentioned before, in The Walking Dead. It’s fine at the beginning, but eventually, so many characters come and go that it’s just absurd that Rick Grimes would survive all of this.
But, what happens when there is no main character armour? Well, some interesting stuff can definitely happen. Anime fans will recognise that shock when Eren got devoured only five episodes into the first season of Attack on Titan. Of course, he came back a couple episodes later, but we still got to see Mikasa take over as main character from him. I mean, damn, it sure was interesting when he did die, but would it actually be a good idea to kill off the main character halfway through the story? Wouldn’t it feel like all of that build-up was for nothing?
A lot of the time, the main character of a story is initially an underdog. As humans, we enjoy seeing an underdog succeed at something. So, it can make us subconsciously enjoy a story more if an underdog manages to do something that the rest of the characters cannot do, for example, survive. But it could be kind of underwhelming to see an underdog just die.
But, of course, the main character is often very far from being an underdog. Nobody would consider James Bond or Rambo any kind of underdog. Some stories are made interesting by showing us a main character that we can root for because we sort of feel sorry for them, while some stories can be made interesting by allowing us to root for a character that is so clearly better, stronger, more powerful than us. In that situation, main character armour would be a lot less noticeable, but is it okay to get rid of it completely? Well, personally, I’d say no.
Sure, if there was no main character armour, the stakes would be much higher in a story, but without it, there wouldn’t be a character for us to follow. Nobody wants to read a Sherlock Holmes story where Sherlock is dead. Nobody wants to watch a Mission Impossible movie where Ethan Hunt is dead. We need to have a character who we can follow the plot with. And it’s usually better to have that one main character for the whole story, so that we can get to know them. I mean, sure, they could kill off the main character and give the main character title to a supporting character, but we already knew that original character. We don’t know much about this new character and a good time to give them the spotlight definitely isn’t halfway through the story. Or is it?
Practically the only way that stories sometimes give another character the center of the stage is with legacy. If you read comics, chances are that you are very familiar with this. A character passes on their mantle to another character. In a way, they are also passing on their main character armour to another character. Now, the character can either pass on their mantle in a very literal sense like in comics, or in a more symbolic sense like in the new Star Wars movies. For example, Han Solo figuratively passing on his mantle to Rey and Finn.
I’ll have to stop it here, because this post is getting extremely long, so I’ll make this into two parts (maybe even three). My next post is going to be my review of Wonder Woman, so definitely stay tuned for that. Anyway, I hope that you all enjoyed this post! Also, please let me know what you think of it in the comments! Share this post on your social media if you feel like you want other people to know about it. Talking about social media, don’t forget to like me on Facebook, follow me on Instagram and subscribe to me on YouTube. But that’s it from me for now. See thee soon!