List of stock characters in military fiction

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This is a list of stock characters that are used in military fiction.

  • The Arrogant Pilot (aka Flyboy): this character arrives on base after the premise of the story has been established. The arrogant pilot, along with his distinguished training and combat record are gossipped about before he appears. Is disliked by fellow military due to his overconfidence and initially not trusted by fellow pilots. Traces of this stock character are apparent throughout the manga “Area 88,” and the Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer characters in the film Top Gun, who are notably parodied in the comedy Hot Shots! by Charlie Sheen and Cary Elwes, respectively. Panther Caroso of the Star Fox series can also be considered an Arrogant Pilot. This is parodied by Squadron Commander Flashheart in Blackadder Goes Forth, and alluded to by Lord Flashheart in Blackadder the Second.
  • The Bitter War Veteran: A man who fought as a soldier during a war; he usually leaves home a naïve young man, experiences the horrors of war, and returns home embittered and deranged. He often has flashbacks and nightmares about the war. Examples include John Rambo, of First Blood and its sequels, Cliff Hudson of Dead Rising, Lieutenant Dan Taylor from Forrest Gump and Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver.
  • The Captain is a mercenary or retired soldier (whose rank is often self-bestowed). He constantly extolls his bravery and strength with impossible stories that even he doesn't believe. Ronald Speirs from Band of Brothers is the real-life example of this stock character.
  • The Crazy General: a high-ranking general who goes crazy and starts a war, or worse, such as General Jack D. Ripper does in Dr. Strangelove. This includes most of the generals depicted in M*A*S*H; Colonel Maddox in 1941; General Melchett in Blackadder Goes Forth; and General Shepherd in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
  • The Drill Sergeant: Harsh, bitter and sarcastic, this character will either be loved or hated (or in some cases killed) for his iron will. Often his constant ordering and rigorous training might turn out to be for the good; an example of this is Career Sergeant Zim from Starship Troopers, or it can be done intentionally, such as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. A real life example of this character type is Herbert Sobel from Band of Brothers.
  • The Major (or Jolly War Veteran): lovable, awkward, and more than a bit daft. He is usually a veteran of one of the World Wars, and frequently sings old military songs (melancholy or dance-tune are typical). Military aphorisms and lingo pepper his speech. A comedic streak of alcoholism sometimes adds tragic charm to the Major. Examples include the Major from Soap or Fawlty Towers, and almost every hare in Redwall, although they tend to have more active and serious military roles. A "drunken major" features prominently in Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh.
  • The Military Man: Typically career military (although there are retired variations). Harsh, unforgiving, authoritarian, and usually associated with the negative aspects of the military, e.g., Major Frank Burns of M*A*S*H or Sarge of Red vs. Blue.
  • The Idealistic Lieutenant: More seasoned than the Raw Recruit, the Lieutenant is nonetheless fairly young. He has to learn that what worked in Officer's Training School isn't necessarily going to fly in the field, and that lesson costs a couple of defeats that nearly break his faith in himself as a leader. A good example is Lt. Nate Fick from Generation Kill, Matthew Baker from the Brothers in Arms series or Lt. Myron Goldman from the TV series Tour of Duty A comic example is George St.Barleigh in Blackadder Goes Forth.
  • The Pompous War Colonel: more shown in comedy, this kind of character is very nostalgic about his war days (often overlaps The Major). In fact, even if there is no war at all, he still treats everyone as if they were all in his military and makes them do silly war things. The British version, best exemplified by David Ley's Colonel Blimp, often served in a Colonial unit and has little or no military education. Examples include Colonel Hathi of The Jungle Book and Fowler of Chicken Run.
  • The Incompetent Enlisted Man: An enlisted soldier who is good-hearted and likeable, but cannot do anything right. Often ends up performing undesirable menial tasks. He often earns the audience’s sympathy, but fails to advance himself in the army. Examples include Lou Costello in some Abbott and Costello films; Corporal Upham in Saving Private Ryan; and the title character of Private Benjamin. And Beetle Bailey, naturally.
  • The Incompetent Officer: Usually from a wealthy background, the incompetent officer is usually senior to the hero and an antagonist. Normally has an inflated view of his own abilities, leading his men into numerous disasters, e.g., Sir Henry Simmerson and numerous others in the Sharpe series of novels. A real-life example is Norman Dike, who was portrayed in Band of Brothers.
  • The Raw Recruit: Young, naive and impressionable, the Raw Recruit has to learn how to live with military discipline and understand the reasons behind the way the military works. He often ends up in a position of leadership (as an Idealistic Lieutenant) by the end of the story. Juan Rico of Starship Troopers is such a character. They may have a "tragic" death towards the end of the movie, particularly if they show the protagonist a picture of a fiancée or wife they "have back home". A parody of this character is Dead Meat from the comedy Hot Shots!, whose obviously impending doom is played for laughs. "Soap" MacTavish from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare also fits this category, becoming a Captain in the sequel.
  • The Solid Noncom: Almost always a sergeant; takes the Raw Recruit under his wing while advising the Idealistic Lieutenant through his moments of self-doubt. He often comes from Brooklyn or the Great Plains (if American) or Scotland (if British), e.g., Joe "Red" Hartsock from the Brothers in Arms series or SGT Zeke Anderson from Tour of Duty
  • The Rough Sergeant is basically the stereotypical sergeant seen in many movies, but this can apply to any soldier with this attitude. The rough soldiers usually are still in action but are liked by many of the troops they are with, but usually die by the end. When these soldiers die, it is usually put in a very dramatic form. Examples of this character are Kat in All Quiet on the Western Front or SGT Elias and SSG Barnes in Platoon or Gaz in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.