The other day, I was talking with my girlfriend when the topic of acting came up. I’m a student currently studying acting, and as such, I spend a lot of time thinking about people, their objectives, and how those objectives translate into actions. Currently, I’m in a show in which I play a pretentious little rich kid who toys around with others and then leaves them behind without a second thought. He’s a pathological liar and an alcoholic. He refuses to work and mooches money off of others, yet he thinks himself morally superior to everyone.I love playing him.

This character was the focus of my conversation with my girlfriend. One thing that always excites any actor is the day that they realize what makes their character tick. Understanding what motivates a character is a key element in creating a seamless performance, and it almost always creates empathy for the character. I call this the character’s redeeming value. The other day, while combing my script and doing some character research, I realized that the reason why this character was able to do things to others without feeling sorry for them. He had not yet figured out the concept that other people continue to exist even when you are not around. In a way, he hadn’t figured out empathy. I call this the law of human object permanence. It’s something that we all go through, and it helps us desire to better the lives of others. Knowing this allowed me to forgive the character for the things that he does. I am able to understand and appreciate him, even though he eventually causes the suicide of another character.

My girlfriend was unable to understand my appreciation of this character. She could not believe that every character has a “redeeming value.” In talking about this, I think that it is useful to consider the Kashiwagi Solution Model. One thing that KSM teaches us is how to analyze character traits without judging one to be superior to another. We are able to look at the choices that people have and simply see the different paths that each lead down, but we do not rank one path higher than another. I don’t have a mind-bowing solution here or some new and wonderful way of going about things that I would like to propose. I would simply like to pose a question to you, and ask that you think about the consequences of either answer.

Is there such a thing as a character (or a person) who has no redeeming value? Is anything ever objectively wrong?

As stated before, I don’t have an answer, but I do hope that it makes you think through the mind of another, if only for a short while.

Comments (5)

  1. Tamir Shargal

    Reply

    Hello, Chad. Grasping the concept of empathy can be a tough one, especially, upon accumulating much empirical data, when most people believe its synonym is sympathy, but this concept of redeeming value really cleared it up. For me, one’s redeeming value is the perspective which they have developed of the world. Another could find value in this one’s redeeming value, even if this one is morally despicable, simply from observing, or feeling, the world from a perspective different from one’s own. To wrap up, because information can be taken/accumulated from all perspectives, every single person has redeeming value. These people have never been at the same place, at the same time, viewing the same picture, so nobody is of no value, as their perspective can be learned from, and, thus, there is no wrong.

  2. Lauren Kaiser

    Reply

    I feel like every person has at least one redeeming value. However, I guess then you would have to define what “redeeming value” means, because it can be subjective. Someone who is considered a “bad person” by others might believe that they have a certain redeeming quality, but in the eyes of another, they might not see the same thing. This can depend on if someone is blind or visionary, because they might not be able to see that a certain quality they have isn’t actually a “redeeming value.”

  3. Shane C.

    Reply

    I really like the quote by Henry Ford he was a very inspiring man. As an answer to your question I do believe that every person does have a redeeming value. Although we may not always know or understand the motives behind others decision making we are not in a position to think our decision making as superior to others.

  4. Paulo Miro

    Reply

    It is interesting to think about every person/character must have, what you have chosen to call, ‘redeeming value’, as the part of someone that makes that person/character who they are. I believe, in accordance with what we have learned in class, that there must be a reason behind how a person is — and it must relate back to their initial conditions; this being their genes as well as the way they were brought up.

  5. Lauren Applegate

    Reply

    This is a very interesting point! I would answer yes to your question. Yes, I do believe that every character or person rather does have what you call a redeeming value. Every person has both good and bad in them. When people do things that we consider to be wrong, illegal or immoral, It is simply because they do not understand or know what they are doing is wrong. KSM teaches us that we are not to judge, and that there is no influence or change, however people can help others to understand reality and what is going on around them which can help that individual to realize what they are doing is in fact wrong or “harmful” to others.

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