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5 Sci-Fi Characters Who Are Good Role Models (& 5 Who Aren't) – CBR

As many science fiction stories prove, being a good person and being a role model isn’t always the same thing.
There is a difference between being a good person and being a good role model. A role model is somebody whose behavior people should aim to emulate; they act in accordance with certain virtues people hold dear, such as honesty, responsibility, and conscientiousness.
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A good person is a far broader and far more nebulous concept, and while many people fulfill the criteria, this doesn’t mean that they are role models. Science fiction has long explored the morality of its characters, organizations, and even concepts, exploring whether seemingly well-intentioned behavior is good in the long run. As a result, science fiction is full of characters who make good role models, but also those who make bad ones, even if they are good people.
By the end of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka has become one of the closest things the ensemble piece has to a main character, with the show’s final arc focusing on her in the last days of the Republic. Even before this, she is a mainstay of the show despite the character’s young age.
One early story arc has Ahsoka making a grievous mistake that sees a battle plan go south and many people hurt as a result, which Ahsoka strives to learn from. Every mistake she makes, Ahsoka takes something from it, and rarely makes the same mistake twice. One of her most important arcs sees her show the value of independence by leaving the Jedi Order after they falsely accuse her of a crime, and do good from outside it.
There is no denying that the Doctor from Doctor Who has done a lot of good for the universe. They are one of the most feared and respected heroes across all of time and space. Entire species owe their existence to the Doctor’s actions, and they have saved the day countless times.
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Nonetheless, a recurring theme across the tenure of many Doctors is them questioning whether they are a good person. Numerous times, the Doctor avoids responsibility for their actions unless forced to, even point-blank stating a refusal to learn about the situations they bring their companions into – often hazardous to life – because it’s not the way they do things, despite how many times this often causes ruin for others.
When the crew of Nostromo comes up against a xenomorph for the first time, they are heavily underprepared for the encounter, being poorly-armed and trained, they go to pieces as the alien picks them off one by one.
Ripley first demonstrates her bravery in the face of the unknown in Alien, being the only one to survive and vanquish the xenomorph. She continues to up the stakes in Aliens, going hand-to-hand with a xenomorph queen in an exploding base. Although people are unlikely to end up in Ripely’s situation, her bravery and desire to protect others is to be admired.
It is the norm for protagonists across most genres that they’re good people. While perfect protagonists quickly grow boring, they typically need to maintain audience sympathy, and so they fall within the bounds that most people would describe as ‘good’, regardless of the shade of gray.
Rick Sanchez, of Rick and Morty, does not. Despite some humanizing aspects, most notably his love for his grandson, Rick is openly amoral and sometimes even cruel, often putting himself and others in great risk, or manipulating those he cares about for little more than his own entertainment.
The Martian is more grounded sci-fi than most, with both the book and the film following a botanist and engineer by the name of Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars following an accident whilst evacuating. In the least hospitable environment a person has ever had to survive, he spends over a year keeping himself alive before managing to escape.
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Obviously, he can’t do so without the aid of other people, and it is his botany and engineering skills that prove essential to the endeavor. But none of them would have helped if Watney hadn’t also been resilient enough to do what he needed to survive, including self-surgery, fasting, and farming using the least pleasant substances available. As such, Watney makes a superb role model.
All of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is sci-fi themed, but it is the Guardians of the Galaxy films that embody the genre, being galaxy-spanning adventures in the vein of ’80s space opera.
At their center is Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord. Although he is one of the more altruistic members of his team, he is still a self-admitted scoundrel and criminal. Even with his heart in the right place, he uses underhand dealings and tactics to get ahead, and when the chips are down, is shown to be unable to control himself, best exemplified with his sabotage of the plan against Thanos.
Sarah Jane Smith is best known as a companion of Doctor Who‘s Doctor, but is also the star in her own right of her spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which shows her as an active defender of the Earth against alien threats.
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Although she shepherds a cast of teenagers in her battles with aliens, Sarah Jane is always very clear about her morals and her lines in the sand. She takes responsibility for her actions, keeps the others around her safe, and refuses to let innocents be hurt, even if it seems a necessary sacrifice. Although slightly inflexible, there is no denying that Sarah Jane’s steadfast nature is to be looked up to.
Much of the cast of Futurama are flawed and somewhat selfish individuals who will do the right thing when it comes down to it. This is not the case with Bender, a robot who is open about the fact that, while he loves his friends, he has very few other cares in the world.
Although much of it is played for laughs, there is no denying that Bender is a criminal, liar, cheat, and a bad friend who betrays even his own son for his own desires. His affection for those around him is to be admired, everything else isn’t.
The ships and bases of Star Trek have had numerous captains, each of which has their own admirable traits and flaws. To many fans, Jean-Luc Picard, first introduced in The Next Generation, is held to be the most moral captain, with a firm, stern exterior hiding a deep compassion and respect for all life.
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Picard is certainly flawed, best exemplified in his interactions with his worst nemeses, the Borg, but he is always willing to overcome those flaws and sincerely make it up to anybody who is hurt by them. He always strives to do his best, never settles for half-measures, and becomes known as the Federation’s finest diplomat.
Firefly takes a less black-and-white approach to morality than a lot of science fiction. There is no doubting that the Alliance are underhand, corrupt, and heavy-handed in squashing dissent, but the characters the audience follows are, despite their moralistic view on freedom, thugs, fugitives, and thieves.
Both sides are shades of gray, and Malcolm Reynolds openly admits his flaws. Although amiable and ultimately altruistic, he is jaded and embittered by his past, and openly describes himself as simply an “okay” person. While accepting one’s flaws is admirable, embracing them and refusing to change is not.
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Isaac Williams is a movie-goer, TV watcher, journalist, blogger, gamer, comic book-fan, and roleplayer. He’s been a bartender and a waiter, and now he writes lists for CBR. He focuses on TV shows and movies. In his free time, Isaac can be found gaming, reading, playing D&D, walking Birmingham’s lengthy canals, and catching up on movies.

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