My husband surprised me once by saying one day, “I like Alexis.”
What, really? My husband usually hates that sort of thing. I wasn’t even allowed to watch Dexter when he was around.
“As a character,” he hurried to say.
Then a reviewer asked me if it was okay to feel bad for Alexis.
Alexis basically stalked, killed, kidnapped and continually rapes Seraphin. He’s made it impossible for Seraphin to ever leave him, first by making him a vampire, and second by making him hate himself. He forces Seraphin into bed, and he can be brutal during sex when he’s angry. (Although rape is rape whether gentle or harsh, let’s just make sure to add that in.)
Alexis isn’t just an antagonist — someone’s who actively works against the protagonist, but is actually not all that bad (like in my The Diary That Must Not Be Written — working title).
Alexis is, quite frankly, evil.
But on the other hand, he’s a very charismatic and forthgoing character. He’s a master of himself and everyone around him. He’s charming, he’s fashionable, he’s witty, he’s funny. He protects Seraphin from Master Leveque (and has received the proper coo-dos from readers for that… I’m sure there’s a wise proverb about this).
And he’s completely head over heels in love with Seraphin. He couldn’t be with just anyone — it has to be Seraphin. He demonstrates this again and again, showing his fear of Seraphin leaving him. His fear that Seraphin might want to leave him.
Well, the line between love and obsession is pretty thin, especially where Alexis is concerned, anyway.
No one loves a good man
On the other hand, no one seems to like Alexis’ foil, Master Leveque. While Alexis is morally bankrupt, Master Leveque has devoted himself to his god and chosen to dedicate himself to caring for orphans like Seraphin. He’s a fine, upstanding, moral creature who is only trying to protect his former pupil. Master Leveque tries to do what’s right.
And yet, while no one remarks that they like him or they don’t like him, I get the impression that they don’t. It might be Master Leveque’s definition of morals, which are Le Chasseur’s. All sodomy is evil. All vampires must be evil. Master Leveque would not make a distinction between someone forced to be a vampire and someone who chose to be. He would not distinguish between Seraphin wanting to be with Alexis and Seraphin being forced to be with Alexis. Well, okay, he would, because in one Seraphin is a victim and in the other Seraphin is just plain heretical.
Alexis, on the other hand, has no moral compunctions on love… well, obviously. Men, women, as long as he gets who he wants. If Seraphin chose to be with another, Alexis would not take that lying down.
Do we just like villains?
Do we just love the unapologetically evil? Like House, or Sherlock, or Sebastian from Black Butler. We’re tired of listening to the so-called heroes, we don’t want to be perfect, and the dark side is just so much more fun.
Or is Alexis just that charismatic?
I can’t say whether it’s OK to like Alexis Braud. I even sort of like Alexis. He’s such a fun character to write… sometimes. He started off as my wince of an Oscar Wilde-esque character in another series, who just seemed to there for comic relief (he wasn’t, and it was actually vital to their character and character depth, but I didn’t realize this until later). It seemed like they were offering a horrible stereotype of gay men up for laugh. I didn’t like it.
So what did I do? I made him evil. And then eviler, because in the first draft, he came off as being the type who really would have accepted ‘no’. I couldn’t just have Seraphin suffer so much only to be told ‘whoops, you could have stopped being continually raped at any time, you silly thing.’ Seraphin may have chosen not to do anything — but it’s not as black and white as that.
As such, while I say like or not like Alexis all that much, it’s also important to recognize NOT liking the things that he’s done. One can’t just wave away the mental and physical torment that he’s caused Seraphin. He’s trapped Seraphin in his own hell.
I find it’s all too easy to see the bad in people we don’t like, and see the good in people we do like. There’s even a My Little Pony episode on this, so you know it’s true.
We can easily rant and rant about the evils that people we don’t like are wrought (like ranting about Bush, or muttering, “Thanks Obama,” whichever side of the coin you fall on), compound upon all the evils, and never remember the good that they have done.
Alexis is a likable character. He has depth. He’s complicated. He does terrible, terrible things, but he’s also funny and charming. People like him. It’s just important to remember that as much as we might like him, we can not condone his actions.
So can we feel sorry for him at, um, spoiler?
Well, it’s sympathy that makes us human. I just finished reading the end of one book where the villainous character was brought down. There was a whole lot of things that made that villainous character to become the brutal bastard he was. He was made with a defect, and those who made him with that defect rejected him for that defect. Mocked him for it. And then they had all of his verbal abusers who also were the people who were afraid of him, hunt him down. Like a sport. And I felt really, really bad, even though he ate people’s souls.
It’s the sympathy that makes us human. It’s the lack of sympathy (or perhaps just being so wrapped up in delusion) that made Alexis unable to see that he was hurting Seraphin, and that that was a bad thing.
So I think it’s OK to have the same caveat — like him as a character or not, feel sorry for him, but… what he did just wasn’t right.
Of course, I can’t really just dictate whether it’s ok or not. It depends on each person. What do you think – is it ok to like Alexis Braud?