I'm a fan of stories told from multiple viewpoints.
(Note: To clarify, I do not enjoy omniscient POV. When I say multiple viewpoints, I'm referring to novels where there is a clear shift in POV, ie: at the beginning of a new chapter or scene. Head-hopping causes me to throw the book across the room.)
For me, a central conflict is infinitely more interesting when I'm able to sympathize, or at least understand, different characters' interpretations of the situation. In the end, there are very few truths in life. Perceptions, ideologies, right verses wrong: all are highly subjective and relative notions.
I was thinking this morning about it while watching Good Morning America. The show highlighted yet another side to what's becoming the multi-faceted story of "modern folk hero" Steven Slater. He is the Jet Blue flight attendant who lost his cool on August 9th, cussed out the entire plane of passengers, grabbed his carry-on luggage and a couple brew-skis, deployed the inflatable emergency exit slide, and used it to deplane.
The original story, told from Slater's POV, alleged that upon arriving and taxiing to the gate, a passenger stood and opened the overhead luggage bin before the fasten seatbelt light was turned off. According to Slater, the passenger argued with him and her luggage fell from the bin, striking him on the forehead. He snapped, fed up with a career of dealing with rude, unruly passengers, and acted out the climactic scene of his original production "Take This Job and Shove It."
Today, Good Morning America interviewed a passenger from that flight, who told a different story. As the GMA website recapped, "Witnesses have also told police that it was Slater who was rude to passengers, and the cut on his forehead came at the beginning of the flight, not during an altercation with a surly passenger after the plane landed, as Slater has claimed."
What's fascinating about this story is the incident took place within the tight confines of an airplane, yet it's very difficult to sort out what really happened. How could one person claim the suitcase conked Slater on the head, and others claim it didn't happen?
And around the globe, news audiences are interpreting this unfolding story according to their own past experiences and personal codes of ethics. Flight attendants have been quoted as applauding Slater's actions, understanding how much they have to put up with in their service-oriented careers. Others feel dealing with rude customers is part of the job and those in service industries have to handle themselves with professionalism, at all costs. Whether Slater is a hero or a villain is becoming a lively debate.
In fiction, we should remember that no conflict exists in black and white. Life is like that: complicated, subjective, and messy. By allowing the reading into the minds and hearts of different characters, we explore the shades of gray in every incident. In turn, the emotional impact on the reader will elevate, and the story with ring true with authenticity.
So what do you think? Is Steven Slater the hero or the villain of his story?