So I'm watching a sci-fi flick with my kids and a new character appears on-screen. My son says, "Dad, is she a good guy or a bad guy?"
I could have replied, "Well, people are more complicated than those terms suggest, and good literature and cinema reflect that fact; they're more nuanced, and so that's a hard question..."
I could have added, "You should see all the fun debates on ELU about the use of 'guy' to refer to females!"
However, a) my son is five, and b) I was enjoying the movie too much.
So I said, through a mouthful of popcorn, which I continually advise my children against, "She's a good guy."
And that got me thinking: what other expressions can we use to talk about the cast of characters allied with the protagonist and the cast of characters allied with the antagonist? The only thing that came to mind was "white hats" and "black hats," which I assume come to us through cowboy movies. But surely that's not the only alternative.
I mean, our division of characters (and fictional worlds, not to mention the real one) into good guys and bad guys certainly predates these expressions, right?