1. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    What Can We Learn From Goose?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Bone2pick, Dec 7, 2021.

    There's a prevalent storytelling opinion—you may have encountered it—that "good" characters suffer an unavoidable issue, a narrative design flaw — they're boring. Dull. Unrelatable. Predictable. And the folks who believe that often promote the superiority of "morally grey" characters.

    The purpose of this thread isn't to undermine that opinion, because it's largely (if not entirely) subjective. So why bother? That said, while ruminating about great/iconic supporting characters in films this morning, I became somewhat fixated on Top Gun's Nick Bradshaw, aka Goose. And I realized that, despite the character being a good friend, a good husband, and seemingly a good father, I've never heard anyone accuse him of being boring. On the contrary, he's universally treasured by fans of the movie.

    Why? What exactly is it about Goose that makes him one of, if not the most, likable and memorable characters in Top Gun? When compared against his peers, he's not the most competent. He's certainly not the best looking. He's depicted as uncomfortable in certain social situations. He's humble. He's a clown.

    I'm perfectly aware that Goose isn't unique, and that there are plenty of other interesting "good" characters. The purpose of this thread is merely to consider what we as storytellers might can gain by examining those characters? By putting their characteristics under a microscope, might we discover some approaches to help us write more memorable and more endearing boy scouts and girl scouts?

     
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  2. evild4ve

    evild4ve Active Member

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    Isn't Goose made morally grey by his humility, discomfort in social situations, and the imperfection of his competence?

    Those things might not seem much, but he's a supporting character in Top Gun. If he was the main character instead of Tom Cruise, those attributes might give rise to all sorts of interesting problems and character conflicts. On the type of analysis I think the OP is opposing, if Goose became the MC, his negative attributes might have to be given more emphasis to prevent the story becoming boring.

    By extension, a technique to produce a supporting character of this type might be subtraction. I mean like: if Goose is a flawed human being whose flaws are purposefully cropped out of the story so that killing him off can provide a stronger plot device into Tom Cruise's character arc. Personally I would often do a character like that as a pen portrait of somebody real: so that their diction, mannerisms and perhaps biography will fit together convincingly - IMO for this type of character authenticity is more important than the ability to carry the story, and the subtractive approach can work with almost any person as the subject of the pen portrait.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2021
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  3. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    the main reason people like goose is because he dies.. if he'd lived he'd have been another supporting cast character no one cared about.

    Gooses only purpose in the plot is to die and thus motivate maverick - its basically fridging (or would be if he'd been female)
     
  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    Every time I watch it, I think maybe--just maybe--Goose will survive the ejection this time. Catch the canopy with just his shoulder or something. And then, nope.
     
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  5. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, I always feel like this too. "This time Mozart is going to live!" Or the ending of Pan's Labyrinth. I try not to think about that one . . .
    It's strange, there's really a part of me that hopes for another outcome even though it's impossible.
    Like, I hope this doesn't happen, but it always does.

    [​IMG]
    (snap!)

    Goose has to die so that the crew can succeed. He absolves them like Billy Budd. haha
    Maybe there's something to that though. Perhaps we recognize his archetype and that appeals to us on a primal, mythological level.
    We want to see the Innocent punished, the King dethroned, the Lover jilted. That's always good for story.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2021
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  6. hmnut

    hmnut New Member

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    I think there is a lot of unpack in the falsehood of the idea of 'good' characters are 'boring' logic. Any writer who believes that is a hack, there I said it. Just writing 101, these characters are great as foils to a morally corrupt society, and they are awesome when the society around try to force them to be morally grey, and there is a crowning moment of awesome when they reject it saying "No! I will not bend, I will not break, I will always do the right thing."

    That's the general.

    Speaking specifically of Goose.... it's even simpler.

    He's a supporting character. I would say even the argument @Bone2pick is making (which I agree with) doesn't really apply to Goose, his role is to be Maverick's friend. He's not morally conflicted nor does he have any major character flaws, but he also doesn't have an arc, he doesn't go through anything nor is he challenged to make any character defining decisions. His role is to be Maverick's wingman literally and figuratively (okay he wasn't his wingman he was his co-pilot, but it sounds cooler to call him a wingman).

    As @evild4ve mentions if Goose was the main character the story might focus more on his character flaws and Goose 'overcoming them (or not).' This isn't to say he wouldn't remain 'good' but to say it's easy to write a supporting character without devoting much time to their internal struggles thus making them good and interesting at the same time isn't as challenging because you're not expecting much from them.

    Another character who pulls this off well, and is possibly the archetype for it is Samwise from lord of the ring. The entirety of Frodo's story is about how he is a good man (hobbit) but even he can begin to be broken and corrupted by the ring. If Frodo's story was about how he was unflinchingly good while carrying the ring, it would (probably) be boring (or that aspect would be boring). So Frodo carries the Ring... but what does Sam do? Sam carries Frodo.

    Both Samwise and Goose do the exact same thing, they remain loyal and supportive of their friend (the main character) who is going through a difficult time.

    I also think both examples show two very obvious things you can do with your loyal friend support character, either they fall creating a darkest moment for your main character forcing the main character to now rise above another tragedy, or the main character falls (or at least stumbles) and the support of their friend helps them across the finish line.

    "The Goose" (should be a term in TVtropes) is a great character to have in your story, like the wise mentor but less likely to have a stick up their butt.
     
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  7. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    Eh, here's how I see it: the only way my Goose example wouldn't "apply" is if the majority of the takes claiming that good characters are less interesting than morally grey (or bad characters), qualified their position as only pertaining to main characters. And I can honestly say that I don't remember ever encountering that qualifier. Maybe you have? Otherwise it's moving the goalpost.
     
  8. hmnut

    hmnut New Member

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    @Bone2pick I have already stated I believe people who say "good = boring" are hacks. I specifically said how I think a "good" main character can be interesting, and using Goose (and Samwise) I have said how 'good' supporting characters can be interesting, and I express the difference between them.

    The difference being I can see it is slightly 'harder' (but not impossible) to make a 'good' main character interesting, while for a supporting character it is fairly common and fairly easy.

    If hacks don't see the difference, THAT'S BECAUSE THEY'RE HACKS!!!!

    Hacks inability to qualify their positions has nothing to do with me trying to analysis what makes a character work and what doesn't. I also don't care what their qualifiers are, because they are wrong. I have no interest in defending or defining their qualifiers because their qualifiers are obviously stupid.

    If I moved the goalpost it's because hacks put the goalpost in the wrong spot on the field, now that the goalpost is in the right spot, we can have a fair, fun and interesting game.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2021
  9. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    You did. I wouldn't be comfortable characterizing those people as "hacks," but otherwise we obviously agree on the above. You also stated the argument I made didn't apply to Goose, and I merely contended that without the addition of the 'main character' qualifier, it does.

    Moving past that hiccup, I feel the real meat on the bone of my original post is my raising of the question — what can we learn or gain from deconstructing widely-appreciated, important good characters?
     
  10. evild4ve

    evild4ve Active Member

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    The OP I thought virtuously distanced itself from the ancient and prevalent theory that character flaws are necessary to storytelling. When people advance the view that "good = boring" they will usually be tracing descent from Aristotle's Poetics [1453a ff.], and talking about main characters and whether good main characters make the story-as-a-whole boring. IMO there is no need for them to add qualifiers - and conversely we shouldn't straw-man anyone by saying that they extend the theory ignorantly to all characters, whilst also limiting it ignorantly to character-level interest value, and lastly limiting it ignorantly to good-bad morality leaving out other types and basis of flaw.

    Rather, it's that the OP needed to qualify (and it did qualify!) that minor characters were in scope and that it's about the interest value at (only) the level of the character.

    And the OP's question of what are general characterization techniques that can be learned from Goose and similar characters has eminent merit. The mention of literary theory is surely only its window-dressing.

    Sam Gamgee is certainly a flawed character - in that he is an unrefined bumpkin. I can't though think of anywhere that his flaw changes anything in the story. He's a bit like A.A.Milne's Kanga in being book-dumb but always mysteriously right. And if his flaw doesn't change anything in the story - that opens Tolkien to a charge of Sam Gamgee being less interesting than he could have been. He might add to the interest value of the story as a whole - but this thread is about character-level boringness.
     
  11. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    @evild4ve Whenever I've stumbled across your comments on this forum I've struggled to understand them. And unfortunately your replies in this thread haven't proven any more accessible for me. I do apologize for that; it's undoubtedly my fault. But it is the reason why I couldn't engage with any points you might have already raised, or might raise going forward.
     
  12. MartinM

    MartinM Member

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    @Bone2pick

    You make a really good point here. Goose empowers Maverick in all areas of life. Mav would not have done or achieved his skills without Goose. This proved post death. The example of Sam in LOTR in a very similar way with one character empowering the other.

    Look at ICEMAN and his number2 (can’t remember call sign). Both these characters exactly the same and we still get number2 empowering ICEMAN visibly in the story. We as a viewer can see it. These two seem in total sync with each other, and yet are the villains. Imagine the story told from ICEMAN’s POV we should get that same bitter rivalry reflection of Mav and Goose just without Goose’s family background.

    All four characters are the same and yet they are not. Only Goose has the family giving the viewer empathy making his death that much more tragic. This makes the story arc weak and unrealistic.

    Let’s change the dynamic slightly...

    In the bar scene when Mav and girl are in the bathroom, we have Goose come out of a cubical with a bird. Immediately his death scene doesn’t impact nearly as well. However, at the funeral we see ICEMAN’s number2 comforting the widow enraging Maverick...

    Goose is too good, but any flaw added to create character depth must be balanced back out...

    MartinM
     
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  13. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    Hollywood?
     
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  14. MartinM

    MartinM Member

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    @Homer Potvin
    Wife slapped me saying 'Slider' was Iceman's RIO
     
  15. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    Maybe I don't understand what "morally grey" is -- I fail to see how any of those attributes in any way makes Goose morally grey.
     
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  16. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Goose is "The Innocent", not the "Good". He's the happy idiot, the Bambi that gets stomped by Godzilla. His role is to pull the rug out from under Maverick, and us. The producers broke our trust in the bond of friendship for the sake of cynicism. We gave them millions for it. There were a million ways to use Goose to zap Maverick into a different state. Rant Rant Blah Blah :)
    Carry on
     
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  17. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    Right. There was a Hollywood, though, right? Was that Cougar's RIO in the opening scene?
     
  18. MartinM

    MartinM Member

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    Top Gun (1986) - “Cast” credits - IMDb

    @Homer Potvin here I'm not engaging the wife again.

    @Bone2pick
    Just finished the Get Back Series on The Beatles. Very good, but doesn't George Harrison's character remind you of Goose?
     
  19. evild4ve

    evild4ve Active Member

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    Well, for example, a lack of confidence that extends to his competence as a combat pilot could endanger the lives of the other pilots he serves with.

    The problem, I think, is that "morally grey" and "good" overly limit the analysis of character flaws. People forget modern and ancient virtue ethics: in which the "hat" Goose wears, the side Goose fights on, and even the consequences of his actions might not matter if he is an unconfident person who isn't living the good life. On a Thrasymachean morality he might not just be "grey" but positively wicked since (they would say) there was nothing stopping him from becoming the Wing Commander, but he allowed himself to die a humiliating death: not in combat but accidentally whilst at the rear and in a subservient role.
     
  20. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    All of that would apply in what Nietzsche called master morality, but it doesn't according to modern ideas—his slave morality. And that's what Hollywood movies and modern storytelling are built on. Today master morality is considered evil (but then, I am speaking to evild4ve :D). It's different in the military I'm sure, but then we can't handle the truth as Nicholson would tell us. Weird to think about, because military service would be a mix of both.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2021
  21. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Thinking a little more about it, modern movie/story morality is a mix of both, because generally, at least in action movies, the hero needs to embody at least some elements of master morality to defeat evil. Example, the Hercules show from the 90's—a bizarre postmodern pastiche where he was a roaming bodybuilder Jesus preaching peace and love (values the mythological Hercules would have reviled) but he accomplished it by being strong enough to beat the crap out of the bad guys and rescue the weak and defenseless. So yeah, a weird mix of the two that's actually self-defeating if you look into it. What good are those pacifist values if they must be enforced through violence? And what then does the hero actually become? Disguised master morality, wolves in sheep's clothing...
     
  22. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Next round of thoughts on it—Of course, if you have bad guys with guns, then you need good guys with guns, right? The strong must protect the weak and defenseless. Uphold the law. That's the police, right? Or random heroes. So modern morality really is a mix of the two, and doubtless they're abstractions anyway in order to clearly be able to think about the issues. But real-world morality can't be so simple. Apparently the Biblical passage about the meek inheriting the earth was misinterpreted—what it actually meant was Those with swords who are trained in using them but choose not to until necessary. Those capable of violence who use it only in the service of Christian principles. Pure pacifism leads to utter defeat, and pure master morality to tyranny.
     
  23. MartinM

    MartinM Member

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    I think we are mixing up/looking too deep at Goose whether it be his competence as a combat pilot (showing lack of confidence) or believing in his slave morality. Don Simpson did exactly what @Some Guy said and pulled the rug out from under both Maverick and Us. The blindside hit caused by our affection for a loved one. This is Don’s Master Morality screwing with his paying audience.

    Focus people, Maverick Goose Iceman and Slider are all exactly the same character. They are highly trained, disciplined individuals that unquestionably rely on their partner’s ability while they do their own jobs. Nobody is carrying anybody else; it simply couldn’t happen in any operation.

    That means the close bonds extend out of work as well. They are brothers in every sense of the word. The bar scene proves this with the planned attack to get the girl using a song. What would not happen in real life post song is one brother dropping a 20 on the bar having to leave so he can tell a bedtime story to his baby daughter. Two elite Navy Pilots should be chasing tail together. There is no separation between work/play/family life it is all one…

    Don Simpson makes Goose super Good here adding a family, but unrealistic. Maverick’s master morality should be tested or at least questioned. If I was Mav, would I chance doing risky maneuverers like a fly-by or giving the Bird to a MiG just for kicks that might result in a loss leaving that baby girl an orphan? How fucking inconsiderate is Maverick or is he just doing his job? Goose’s character is OVERPOWERED and flawed. He should be chasing tail. If he wants to raise a family, he would not be at the pointy end of the US Navy armed military deterrence. Goose can’t do both and yet that is how he’s portrayed to just pull at the audiences’ heart strings.


    Isaac Asimov – “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”
     
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  24. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    This point reminded me of a thread I had considered making here months ago, more or less about the merits of sacrificing realism in human behavior (or their circumstances) for greater emotional payoff. I never created it because I doubted it would get any traction.
     
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  25. evild4ve

    evild4ve Active Member

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    But tyranny is an expression of weakness. Wouldn't Nietzsche's overhuman want to be the author of his/her own life rather than a tyrant over weaklings and parasites?

    Returning to Top Gun, though, I wonder if there is a thread of virtue ethics: in the way the film showcases the strength and bravery and youth and physical beauty of America's warriors.
    On that reading, Goose's mild-mannered kind of goodness isn't enough to 'earn him a place in Valhalla': and he has to be killed off because he isn't fierce/strong/bold/machoistic enough to hold up as an example of the film's warrior-aesthetic.

    If something like that is at play in the film, it mightn't be altogether surprising. The US Navy's support was key to the production, and it was given a significant role in approving the script. Which isn't to say Top Gun is propaganda, just that the film's morality might include a virtue ethics on which Goose is flawed or in a grey area, rather than simply "good."
     

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