25

Context:

In the NBC television series Chicago P.D, the character Sergeant Hank Voight (played by Jason Beghe) is a dirty cop who is associated with shady, unsavory characters in the Chicago underworld, regularly breaks police protocol and takes bribes.

However, despite his ruthless, morally ambiguous methods, Voight is extremely dedicated to the victims of his cases. Furthermore,he goes out of his way to protect and help vulnerable young people, and does have his fellow cops' and Chicago's best interests at heart.

So in the above context, what positive, negative word or phrase can be used to describe a person like Sergeant Hank Voight who despite being corrupt is a kind person ? While researching, I came across the word Maverick in the thesaurus.Can the word Maverick be used in this context ?

Example Sentence :

Sergeant Hank Voight can be described as a ___________

So based on the context,in this sentence above, what word or phrase can be used ?

  • 51
    ... chaotic good :P – as4s4hetic Aug 22 '17 at 13:23
  • 3
    What is morally ambiguous about taking bribes? – thomj1332 Aug 22 '17 at 14:12
  • 2
    @thomj1332: Did the gift/bribe change his behavior? Or was he going to do that thing anyway for a better/valid reason? – Ben Voigt Aug 22 '17 at 22:50
  • @MetaEd - You wrote "Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered". As you can see, when I posted this question, I had already provided a detailed example of a scenario where this word can be used. Consequently, I'm unable to understand why you have put this question on hold. – DSarkar Aug 25 '17 at 15:51
  • 1
    To summarize the word request and phrase request tag wikis: Please describe exactly in what context you want to use the word or phrase--generally we want a sample sentence. Specify the criteria you'll use for accepting answers. Detail the research you've already done (trips to the thesaurus, etc.) List words or phrases you've already considered but rejected, and explain why. Provide information about the connotation, register, and part of speech you are looking for. – MetaEd Aug 25 '17 at 17:31

12 Answers 12

18

After searching through many nine alignment memes trustworthy sources, I've found that Seargeant Hank Voight could be compared to other fictional characters such as:

  • Han Solo
  • Robin Hood
  • Batman

All these characters are not afraid of breaking the laws of the government but are also eager to help those in need.

These people could be described as heroic outlaws.


@thomj1332 Suggested that I add

Chaotic good, which I originally suggested as a joke since I thought it was only used in certain role-playing games, but it seems like these character tropes are also used on a wider scale.

  • 6
    At least two of those would surely never accept bribes, even if they intended to do good with the proceeds, can't speak for Han Solo... – Spagirl Aug 22 '17 at 16:03
  • While I'm not too sure about the fit of some of the examples to the specific situation (though they may well fit the D&D alignment profile better), the phrase "heroic outlaw" does seem to suit. – Glen_b Aug 23 '17 at 5:12
  • I disagree with 'chaos good'. They don't break rules that have a moral aspect, and bribes (here's money to look away while I do something wrong) are high on that list. +1 for anti-hero, however. – mcalex Aug 23 '17 at 7:52
  • 2
    I think outlaw doesn't fit this as the subject actually represents the law. – Communisty Aug 23 '17 at 9:15
  • 1
    @Communisty And yet the character frequently breaks the law despite representing it. Thus the oxymoronic "heroic outlaw" is quite fitting. You don't need to be infamous to be an outlaw, you just need to be a law breaker. Being infamous is just commonly a part of being a criminal. – talrnu Aug 24 '17 at 16:05
34

Anti-hero (wiki)

An antihero, or antiheroine, is a protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, or morality. These characters are usually considered "conspicuously contrary to an archetypal hero". Although antiheroes may sometimes do the "right thing", it is often for the "wrong reasons" and because it serves their self-interest rather than being driven by moral convictions.

From LiteraryDevices:

An anti-hero is usually given the most prominent role after the protagonist and is represented as an amalgamation of both good and evil. Instead of having two different people to represent two extremes, an anti-hero combines both into one person and thus shows the real human nature.

Specific example from ScreenSpy:

It’s more of a Breaking Bad replacement than a companion piece for Chicago Fire and we understand this from the moment we see our anti-hero Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) roughing up an informant. Read more at Review: NBC’s Chicago PD Is a Cop Show From Another Era | ScreenSpy

  • 1
    Antihero doesn't require a hyphen. Otherwise, when talking about characters in works of film or literature, antihero seems the most sensible fit to me. – R Mac Aug 22 '17 at 18:04
  • @RMac I think this might be somewhat region dependent. From a user of US English I wouldn't be at all surprised to see "antihero" but if someone local did it, I'd find it weird in the same way I wouldn't expect them to spell it "ante-hiro". – Glen_b Aug 23 '17 at 4:58
  • 7
    I've never watched the show, but this definition says that antiheroes often do the right thing for the wrong reasons. The OP suggests that the cop is very dedicated to his victims. This is something I would expect of someone who really does care; it seems like a bit too much effort for fulfilling one's self interests. – Dog Lover Aug 23 '17 at 7:33
  • 2
    The character sounds like more of the opposite; doing the wrong things for the right reasons. – Erik Aug 23 '17 at 8:24
  • 2
    "Right thing" and "wrong reasons" are super vague and subjective. An antihero sees "right" where others see "morally ambiguous". An antihero does morally ambiguous things because they believe it's the best way to do good, which is what others would consider a "wrong reason". Nitpicking the definition over the meaning of these terms is pointless. The core of the definition stands: "conspicuously contrary to an archetypal hero". – talrnu Aug 24 '17 at 15:58
19

In film, these types of characters are also known as flawed heroes.

(See this article about The Flawed Hero).

All great (and even not so great) works of fiction have flawed characters. It is especially important that the narrative's protagonist be flawed. Without a character flaw, there is nothing for a character to overcome. As humans, we are all flawed creatures. Consequently, it is nearly impossible to identify with a character that is flawless. Character flaws can range from minor, to major, to tragic.

  • 1
    Interesting that the quote points to a flawed hero's flaws as things to be overcome - I think most depictions of flawed heroes don't seek to overcome their flaws. At most they struggle with guilt, but rarely seek to change their ways as that would eliminate what makes the character interesting (and kill the chances for a sequel). – talrnu Aug 24 '17 at 16:09
9

The cop show cliché is to call them a maverick. In fact in this definition, they use maverick detective as the adjective example.

  • 9
    As from the linked dictionary definition, "An unorthodox or independent-minded person." This does not imply someone who'd be a dirty cop. A maverick cop would be more like Eddy Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop. – icc97 Aug 22 '17 at 21:32
  • @icc97 An independent-minded cop deviates from the many rules set to guide cop behavior. Maverick makes no implication of the degree or nature of this deviation - one could merely bend the rules, and another could abandon them entirely, and both could be called mavericks as long as they keep their job at the end of the day. – talrnu Aug 24 '17 at 16:13
  • @talrnu I would say that doing something unorthodox is still sticking within the rules of the game. If a maverick went so far as to start cheating, I'd say renegade would be a better term. But further to that there's nothing to imply that a maverick is a kind person which is the other half of what the OP is asking for. – icc97 Aug 24 '17 at 21:50
9

He could also be described as paradoxical.

From Merriam-Webster:

[...] 3: one (such as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases.

3

Loveable Rogue (Wiki)

The lovable rogue is a literary trope in the form of a character, often from a dysfunctional or working-class upbringing, who tends to recklessly defy norms and social conventions but who still evokes empathy from the audience or other characters. The lovable rogue is generally male and is often trying to "beat the system" and better himself, though not by ordinary or widely accepted means. If the protagonist of a story is also a lovable rogue, he is frequently deemed an antihero.

This would describe someone like Han Solo, mentioned above. And Chaotic Good, also previously mentioned, is a popular alignment for rogues.

2

I would go with the suggestion in the comment by @asasahetic : chaotic good is in many role playing games - for example the famous dungeons and dragons - the alignment attributed to a character who has a ( non-egoistic ) moral compass but does not believe that strictly following some set of rules or laws will be the most efficient in being moral.

This is as opposed to the lawful good alignment who also have a ( non-egoistic ) moral compass but mostly thinks the only right thing is to follow the rules or the law.

1

I don't think such a word exists in English. The closest I could think of is vigilante (wiki) (wiktionary).

From Cambridge Dictionary:

a person who tries in an unofficial way to prevent crime, or to catch and punish someone who has committed a crime, especially because they do not think that official organizations, such as the police, are controlling crime effectively. Vigilantes usually join together to form groups

While not a perfect match, it works in your example. In a broad sense it falls short of meeting your requirements as actions taken in pursuit of a perceived greater good are not always kind, nor are isolated acts of kindness always of noble intent.

Vigilantism by definition necessitates acting outside of the law of the land. Whether or not this constitutes corruption varies according to circumstance. In the instance of someone being a law enforcement officer as you described, explicitly acting outside of the law in pursuit of one's own ideals would usually imply a high degree of corruption.

A fairly recent example from popular culture would be the lead character from Dexter:

the series centers on Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a forensic technician specializing in blood spatter pattern analysis for the fictional Miami Metro Police Department, who leads a secret parallel life as a vigilante serial killer, hunting down murderers who have slipped through the cracks of the justice system

Corruption often involves personal gain. Another recent example which more clearly highlights the personal gain aspect would be Raymond Redington from The Blacklist:

Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader), a former U.S. Navy officer turned high-profile criminal, voluntarily surrenders to the FBI after eluding capture for decades. He tells the FBI that he has a list of the most dangerous criminals in the world that he has compiled over the years and is willing to inform on their operations in exchange for immunity from prosecution

  • Judging by the answers that have been posted before yours, it would appear that such words do indeed exist in English... – 0xFEE1DEAD Aug 23 '17 at 13:47
  • 2
    Judging by the shortcomings in all of the answers - which I have also outlined in my own - such a word still does not to my knowledge exist. Specifically the post asks for a word meaning kind and corrupt. None of the answers - mine included - address this without caveats. – nathanchere Aug 23 '17 at 13:53
  • nathanchere is correct; no single word(s) describes exactly this type of person. A reader/listener hearing the suggestions would require further explanation to understand exactly what type of person was being described. – user1359 Aug 23 '17 at 16:38
  • 1
    @user1359 if all you read was the title, I would agree. However, in the context of a movie/TV show, as described by OP, the word is anti-hero or maybe chaotic good. – 0xFEE1DEAD Aug 23 '17 at 17:02
  • This question appears to be a case of poorly chosen wording - the asker used kind when the body of the question clearly suggests it should have been heroic. Getting hung up on the semantics of a single word in the title is silly. – talrnu Aug 24 '17 at 16:21
1

Just to add to some good answers that you already have:

Fallen

to commit an immoral act

or,

Dishonored

1: lack or loss of honor or reputation

2: the state of one who has lost honor or prestige : shame has brought dishonor on his family

3: a cause of disgrace

or (see note at the end),

Sullied

to make soiled or tarnished : defile

or,

Tainted

1: to contaminate morally : corrupt scholarship tainted by envy

2: to affect with putrefaction : spoil

3: to touch or affect slightly with something bad

or less common,

Besmirched

sully, soil besmirching her reputation

NOTE: On their own both Sullied and Besmirched can be interpreted as the source of "contamination" having an external origin. In your case the character is self-inflicting its own faults. As so, and depending on context, I would have to consider my options carefully. Personally I like Tainted and Fallen for the description you've posted (don't know the character or its background so I'm just guessing).

  • These all apply to a cop who's lost their job or is on the chopping block. The character in question, however, manages to keep his more illicit activities secret and therefore maintains good standing with his employer. The only term here that comes close to being applicable is dishonored, but because he hasn't actually lost much honor if any, a more appropriate term would be dishonorable. – talrnu Aug 24 '17 at 16:18
  • @talrnu As I mentioned I don't know the character but I disagree that most of those words could not apply to a person who is not on the "chopping stick". This is specially true when dealing with fiction. Most characters are deliberately transparent to the viewer (or reader). I just read the OP description and thought about my feelings towards this person. I consider him both Fallen (because its a good person that followed a bad path) and Tainted (due to its ambiguous/contaminated morality). – armatita Aug 24 '17 at 16:57
1

Affably Evil. "A villain who's genuinely polite and friendly."

1

I haven't seen the TV show, but, based on the information provided in the question, I would suggest the following recipe:  Start with a word (or possibly a short phrase) that relates (only) the dark side of the character.  Other answers have suggested villain; I would suggest scoundrel:

Oxford Dictionaries

    A dishonest or unscrupulous person; a rogue.
Collins English Dictionary
    a worthless or villainous person
Macmillan Dictionary
    a man who behaves in an unfair or dishonest way
    • Synonyms and related words
      People who are considered dishonest or insincere:
      liar, cheat, hypocrite...

and append with a heart of gold:

Collins English Dictionary

    If you say that someone has a heart of gold, you are emphasizing that they are very good and kind to other people.
The Free Dictionary
    a kind and generous character   He plays the part of a tough cop with a heart of gold.

resulting in, for example, scoundrel with a heart of gold.

Notable usages:

NSFW Warning:

When I Googled “with a heart of gold”, I got many results for “Hooker with a heart of gold” and a couple for “Asshole Who Has A Heart Of Gold”.

0

I don't know of a single phrase that implies being kind but morally corrupt, however there are some well-known phrases that come close (including those given in other answers - +1 to Rupert for Lovable Rogue).

Rough diamond: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/rough-diamond [implies good intentions, but the 'rough' part is usually more about bad manners than immoral behaviour]

Cowboy (in the British sense) cop: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/cowboy [conveys the idea of being careless of the rules, but doesn't necessarily imply malicious intent]

Errant cop: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/errant [this is only very mildly pejorative, and is associated with the phrase "knight errrant", so it might come closest to conveying the sense that the person has basic goodness/kindness, although they break the rules]

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