A mysterious stranger walks into a lawless town. No one really knows who he is or where he has come from, but through his gruff exterior the locals can see he has a good heart and can help them defeat the local bandits and save the town before walking off into the sunset. In the era where everyone wants to know everything, where has he walked off to?
Media companies think that every character needs motivation and background to be who they are. Who are they? Where did they come from? Why are they who they are? But does it really matter? Do we really need to know what the backstory is in order to enjoy the movie? Does knowing about his/her childhood really impact where he/she is now in the story we are watching?
Two of the most popular characters growing up for me were Wolverine and Boba Fett. Wolverine, from the X-Men comics, was the feral berserker with metal claws from the Canadian wilderness with no memory of his history, which also meant the reader had no clue where he came from. Boba Fett was the bounty hunter with cool looking armor in Empire Strikes Back who had a few lines and captured Han Solo (Boba Fett was also the mail away toy before the movie was released, making children wonder who he was even more). Neither of them had known back stories, but they were mysterious and somewhat violent, endearing them to their audience.
Even Wolverine and Boba Fett were not immune to the need to explain away mysteries. Both characters had their histories explained in later stories. Wolverine’s childhood and formative years were later shown in origin miniseries and Boba Fett’s childhood origin revealed he was a clone in Attack of the Clones. Neither story does much to forward the character or add much to them, but it does subtract the mystery that drew in the fan initially, and a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle.
Would Clint Eastwood’s The Man With No Name be more interesting if his name was Jack and he had a misunderstood childhood that caused him to wander the Old West? Probably not. So then why does every character need a backstory? Why do we need to be force fed the entire story, rather than letting our imaginations fill in the missing gaps and pique our curiosity as to who were?
I would like to see the mysterious stranger return to exact his vengeance and help those in need (or carry out their nefarious deeds of villainous intent) with explaining every detail about them before they return to obscurity. Give us something to talk about and children to imagine with their action figures once more.