Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Psalm 37:37, “Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.”
The White Knight protagonist is the brave, noble one. In fiction he’s classicly written as the handsome prince or regal warrior, ready to slay the dragons and save the damsels. His virtues are many. His flaws are few. He’s bold yet polite and driven to do what’s right because it’s right. So why does our modern world treat him like a punching bag? It’s trendy now to hate or satirize this character. Many say his outdated chivalry and suspicious ‘goodness’ is not realistic to life, and still others often consider the White Knight protagonist as the ‘boring’ member of their cast. That he’s so consistently ‘nice’ everyone knows what he’ll do before he does it. As a result, most people tend to prefer the more relatable Likable Rogue protagonist over him. He’s out of fashion for being ‘too perfect’, but to me, as a Christian, I find that incredibly sad.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a lot of Likable Rouge protagonsists. (Han Solo and Megamind to name a few.) They can make for great protagonists and provide fantastic theming opportunities for the Scripturally lead author. However, the White Knight exhibits Christ-like behavior better than the Rogue does. To watch a character type originally meant to symbolize ultimate good get slapped around so much feels like a slap against every characteristic Jesus wanted us to adopt. Besides, we’ve all seen White Knight protagonists that were both compelling and interesting. (Captian America, Bilbo, and Hiccup for example). Unfortunately, the White Knight is marginaliy misused or unused. In fact, I’m starting to think this lack of well written White Knights has negatively impacted our culture.
You see, characters are serious business. They say something within the theme of the story they’re in, and our overabundance of poorly written Rogues have been perpetuating a dangerous message. They say that continued unethical behavior is acceptable so long as you like puppies or save the world or something. It says it doesn’t matter if you lack respect for rules or people. Just so long as there’s someone worse than you for you to oppose that’s all that matters. Ladies and gentleman, that’s the new moral standard that kind of hero has set in our minds today.
Now, I’m not arguing that we should never have Likable Rogue protagonists ever again. Like I said. A likable Rogue protagonist can be positively effective if written with a Biblical framework in mind, but I’m focused right now on arguing for the resurgence of the White Knight. For there are very relevant messages they can deliver that few other protagonists can.
#1. The Power of Inspiration
This is the easiest and most common positive use of the White Knight protagonist. They are inspirational. They inspire the other characters. They inspire us. That’s obvious. However, let’s expand this element of the White Knight character. What inspires them? You see, the true White Knight’s unbreakable will is founded on a belief. Not in the belief that their victory is guaranteed but in the belief that there is a higher standard. They understand that there is something (or someone) greater than themselves. Evil can win for a day, but the White Knight knows they can never win the war because an active righteousness is at work. It’s what makes their constant sacrifice of life and limb worth giving. For without this belief, what need is there to be noble? What’s the point in loving others? Why sacrifice pleasure to preserve yours and other’s dignities if it’s just a man-made concept? I have yet to hear a story dedicated to addressing these questions in complete accuracy because most writers can’t really identify this greater power. Christian Creatives, we can. That ultimate power is, the Biblical God Himself. The way I see it, a White Knight in the hands of Scripturally lead writer can explore this truth. It’s important to inspire others to higher virtues. However, it’s equally if not more important to be inspired yourself - not just by any old random belief - but by the Biblical God Himself.
#2. Ultimate Perseverance
Let’s face it. Being kind all the time is difficult. If anything, it can be draining. A lot of people have grown up erroneously thinking people are born inherently good, and their bad choices are a direct consequence of their negative environment. God’s Word, however, says our heart’s every desire is for self, and it’s only by God’s grace that anyone can do anything good or nice at all. Even by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the Bible still describes the Christian’s pursuit of righteousness as a discipline. However, because of the lie, most people think being good is easy. In fact, the same people who don’t understand this to be false, fail to understand the inner struggle of all Christians and don’t know how to write this very real aspect into a White Knight. They assume to be good you just have to be good, thus the illusion of a one-note character. Little do they know what we know. To be a genuinely good example in public and in private is hard. It doesn’t come naturally, and relies on something more - the strength of God. If our White Knights are written more honestly, then their story arch might hit closer to home than most would expect. It might even get them thinking over their heart’s true condition. It’s certainly a topic a Likable Rogue isn’t as well equipped to showcase.
. . . . . To Be Continued in Part 2: https://flyingfaith.wixsite.com/flyingfaith/post/return-of-the-white-knight-part-2
How would you use a White Knight protagonist? What other unique story opportunities can you find for this type? Who are already your favorite White Knights in fiction? (Examples: Captain America, Bilbo Baggins, Hiccup, etc.)