Lucy Crowe's Nest: Anatomy of a Bad Man

Monday, February 10, 2014

Anatomy of a Bad Man

 “You gonna cut down a tree that size, you better be sure you bring a very big saw.” 

 He tips his head to one side and pins the camera with an emotionless stare, eyes like a cobra's fixed on a bunny. His voice? Pitch perfect, mellow as butterscotch schnapps. He has the smooth inflection of a Baptist preacher, utterly mesmerizing. A cruel mouth and a chilling intensity running just beneath the surface of his cool.
I give you Boyd Crowder. Whether he’s preaching the Good News or elbow deep in his latest massacre, we love him.

Who watches “Justified”? If you don’t, and you have even the teeniest creative bone in your body, I urge you to tune in. Just for Boyd. Here is a bad man the likes of which we haven’t seen since Bruce Dern gunned down John Wayne in front of God and everyone on the Sunday night movies. Except we hated Bruce. It was clear that we should – after all, he was The Bad Man.
            Boyd Crowder smudges those lines, and as a writer I find this feat most intriguing - not to mention well nigh impossible. Boyd came to us, of course, through the impeccable writing skills of the late Elmore Leonard, and has only been enhanced by the talents of Walton Goggins, who brings him to life on the screen - six feet of rangy height and hair-on-end.  Is that insanity in those cold eyes? Most likely.

            What’s to like? It may just be the voice. I am a sucker for a beautiful accent, and Boyd’s lovely southern tenor is to die for. But I think it’s more than that. The writers have taken great care to keep us, the viewers, invested in the life of this character. This is to say that they have gone to a good deal of trouble to make him a full-fledged, three-dimensional human being.
            Nobody did that for Bruce Dern, and I’m sure it makes all the difference.

             We have trailed Boyd now through four seasons, marking his progression from white supremacist to Born Again and finally to all out bad-ass. We’ve watched him gain and lose fortunes, find and discard religion and maybe even fall in love. Through it all, we have come to know him - and yes, even to like him – and I have come to believe that a shared humanity is the best possible feature a writer can bestow upon a bad man. The lesson, I think, is to make The Bad Man a Real Person. And real people suffer all sorts of real woes, from financial ruin to failed love; these tragedies allow us to bond with The Bad Man and even to sympathize with him.

            Not to mention, of course, if you make your Bad Man as cool as Boyd, everybody across the board is going to love him.
Even if he is rotten to the core.


Related Post and Video:  Tips on Character Development (video featuring clips from "To Kill a Mockingbird")

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