Can anyone be truly redeemed?

We have another podish-sortacast tomorrow, and the theme is redemption arcs.

Know anyone, famous or otherwise, who thoroughly screwed up, and then somehow got back in good graces (I think it has to start with a sincere apology, and it’s amazing how few people get that)? Any characters from literature who worked their way of a pit? Tell us in the comments or show up and shout it out in the chat.


  1. Joé McKen says

    Can’t think of any real-life examples, but if we’re talking fictional characters, I’ll be the first to point to Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender as easily one of the best redemption arcs in television history.

  2. Grace says

    From fiction: Miles Vorkosigan, in A Civil Campaign, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Possibly the best apology I’ve seen in fiction.


  3. birgerjohansson says

    One of the British guys who participated in that great train robbery, and who after prison made a living selling flowers, maybe.
    I don’t know if he apologised to the train workers, one of whom got lasting PTSD.

  4. KG says

    Werner von Braun. Used enslaved people’s labour to produce terror weaponry for the Nazis, which was rained down on Londoners, but then – without even needing to apologise – became an American hero of the “Space Race”.

    “Once rockets go up
    Who cares where they come down?
    That’s not my department
    Says Werner von Braun”
    – Tom Lehrer, Werner von Braun

  5. birgerjohansson says

    The mayor in Jaws?
    Albert Speer?

    The dude who was secretary of defence under Lyndon Johnson… no, perhaps not.

  6. Tethys says

    Rob Lowe springs to mind as an example of someone who destroyed his ‘brat-pack’ Hollywood career by making home made porn with underage girls. He got sober, though it took decades to repair his public reputation. I seem to recall him reappearing as the first victim in a 90s era horror movie?

  7. Chris Wright says

    John Profumo, the British Politician in the 1960s.
    Had an affair with a 19 year old model.
    Resigned his Parliamentary seat in 1963.
    Then went to work for a Charity in the poorest part of London for the rest of his life. Died in 2006.
    A politician, that once exposed, did the right thing.
    If Trump was capable of learning……
    But he’s not!

  8. Ridana says

    Robert Downey Jr. seems to have climbed out of the pit he’d dug for himself. I still think he’s got an ego problem, but he’s at least gotten a handle on his drug problem.

  9. KG says

    I have a genuine, non-fictional example: Ray Hill, a former neo-Nazi who spent five years as a mole in British and European fascist groups, causing them severe and in some cases terminal damage, and preventing at least one bomb attack. He died last year at 82.

  10. elly says

    Daniel Ellsberg: he went from a loyal team member of the Johnson administration to a whistleblower – he risked prison to try and help stop the war he played a (supporting) role in escalating.

  11. chesapeake says

    Speer? I can’t support this but when I read his apologia in the 70’s I didn’t believe him. Thought he was just trying to fix his reputation. A German friend agreed.

  12. chesapeake says

    Speer lied after the war according to Wikipedia.he had claimed all the time that he was just a technocrat and just followed orders ,and didn’t know about the final solution. Later show to have been a liar.
    From Wikipedia: After Speer’s death, Matthias Schmidt published a book that demonstrated that Speer had ordered the eviction of Jews from their Berlin homes.[165] By 1999, historians had amply demonstrated that Speer had lied extensively.[166] Even so, public perceptions of Speer did not change substantially until Heinrich Breloer aired a biographical film on TV in 2004. The film began a process of demystification and critical reappraisal.[148] Adam Tooze in his book The Wages of Destruction said Speer had manoeuvred himself through the ranks of the regime skillfully and ruthlessly and that the idea he was a technocrat blindly carrying out orders was “absurd”.[167] Trommer said he was not an apolitical technocrat; instead, he was one of the most powerful and unscrupulous leaders in the Nazi regime.[160] Kitchen said he had deceived the Nuremberg Tribunal and post-war Germany.[166] Brechtken said that if his extensive involvement in the Holocaust had been known at the time of his trial he would have been sentenced to death.[26]

  13. flange says

    Speer was an unrepentant Nazi, intimately involved in slave labor and “The Final Solution.”
    Through his autobiographies, he tried to reconstruct his image as a politically naive technocrat.
    If the US had needed his skills as an architect for some reckless adventure, he would have been here with Von Braun as one of the “Good Nazis.”

  14. birgerjohansson says

    Wossname, that Japanese Navy fighter ace that got very upset after the war when he learned of the atrocities.
    He even became friends with the family of one of the refugees escaping Java in a plane he refused to shoot down when he saw through the windows that it contained women and children.

    Another ace, Hans-Joachim Marseille overheard SS bigwigs talking about Auschwitz when he was invited to the top brass. He was devastated.
    He saved a black POW from being shipped north from Tunisia since he feared non-aryan prisoners would suffer the fate he had overheard.

  15. williamhyde says

    John Newton was a slaver, even the commander of slave ships (though allegedly he had briefly been a slave himself). He later became an active anti-slavery campaigner, but only decades after he quit the business.

    William Gladstone was born to property in a family that owned many slaves, and it took him a while to shake off early impressions. His first speech in the House of Commons was, if not a defense of slavery, at least a defense of slave-owners property rights – and in fact his father was well compensated for the freeing of his slaves. His first book was a dense and unreadable treatise which, if anything, argued for theocracy.

    But, despite a few silly comments at the time of the US civil war, his later record was a good one, promoting education, disestablishing in Ireland the very church he had praised in his first book, promoting Irish home rule (if only they had listened to him …) introducing the secret ballot, and expanding the franchise. He also tried to keep the products of slave labour out of the UK.

    I strongly recommend Roy Jenkins’ biography of Gladstone. As well as all of Jenkins’ other books.

  16. hemidactylus says

    I doubt it came close to making up for his notorious racist past but:
    “In the late 1970s, Wallace announced that he was a born-again Christian and apologized to black civil rights leaders for his past actions as a segregationist. He said that while he had once sought power and glory, he realized he needed to seek love and forgiveness.[note 2] In 1979, Wallace said of his stand in the schoolhouse door: “I was wrong. Those days are over, and they ought to be over.”[76] He publicly asked for forgiveness from black Americans.[76][77]”
    “During Wallace’s final term as governor (1983–1987) he appointed a record number of black Americans to state positions,[78] including, for the first time, two as members in the same cabinet.”

    I found this that says oh hell no:

    I had an inkling of his later in life about face, but the past seems overwhelming in this case. I don’t have enough depth to adjudicate.

  17. billmcd says

    Redemption arcs don’t always need a verbal apology, and they definitely don’t have to start with one. Citing chigau @3’s example, Boromir’s redemption doesn’t happen because he apologizes (which he does twice, though in the movie, it’s easy to miss the first one. As Frodo flees, we hear Boromir’s ‘Frodo! I’m sorry!’ as he’s realized what he’s done), it comes because he atones—fighting to save Merry & Pippin, even at the cost of his own life, is both the atonement, and the redemption itself.

    And that’s pretty common in fiction. Anakin sacrifices himself to save his son, achieving redemption through atonement. Scrooge’s redemption in Dickens isn’t dependant on apologies, but on atoning, on working to make himself a better man.

    Apologies are great, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve heard thousands of them from people who’ve continued to be just as worthless. Weiner and Spitzer come to mind. Redemption doesn’t start with an apology. Redemption starts with atonement.

  18. hemidactylus says

    I don’t know if this redeems his stance on civil rights, but he was pretty bold about his gay rights advocacy:

    This snarking at Jerry Falwell at least hits home so to speak (despite other Goldwater views I disdain):
    “When Falwell came out against the nomination of Arizonan Sandra O’Connor to the Supreme Court, an angry Goldwater said, ‘Every good Christian should kick Jerry Falwell in the ass.’

    Now he was asked if he still held that view.

    ‘I might aim a little higher,’ snapped Goldwater.

    ‘You mean you would kick him in the head?’

    ‘No. Not that high. There are other good places.’”

    His views on abortion, whatever they were at any given time, wound up becoming wronger recently:
    “Crisp, in a statement, said she had released Goldwater’s letter, dated July 29, at his request. She added that in a recent telephone conversation, Goldwater told her: “If they don’t remove that platform, he (Bush) will lose the election–and the party is a sinking ship.”

    “You have to say that he (Bush) is honest, he lets people know where he stands,” Goldwater said in his letter to Crisp.

    “But abortion is not something the Republican Party should call for the abolition of, by legal means or by any other means.

    There is no way in the world that abortion is going to be abolished. It has been going on ever since man and woman lived together on this earth,” he said.”

  19. hemidactylus says

    Hands down (or holding on to an improvised nuke detonator), Kendra Shaw takes the cake for redemptive arc in BSG Razor, especially given her part in the infamous Scylla massacre:

    At least she cooked herself, a babbling hybrid, and some chrome toasters aboard a base star.

    Sameen Shaw comes in a close second in her Person of Interest redemptive arc going from vicious assassin for The Activity to helping Finch and The Machine. Root too redeemed herself along the way and they became…umm…close. They both sadly had to work with Adrenochrome Jesus.

  20. hemidactylus says

    @14- Rich Woods
    Well sure, what Negan did to Glenn and Abraham was brutal and hard to forgive. As with Kendra Shaw in BSG: Razor we are dealing with severely traumatized people in horrific situations whether losing a wife to cancer during a zombie apocalypse or everyone you know in a Cylon surprise attack. Negan took a dark turn and got drunk with power and the gross harem womanizing was pretty damn unforgivable as were the face iron and Lucille bat things. As Kermit Roosevelt observed during the river of doubt journey, adversity brings out ones true character.

    But Negan had a soft spot for kids and was protective. Rick’s daughter Judith began his redemption when he was locked up and when he later saved her. Carol pretty much used him as a tool against the Whisperers. Maggie’s son struck a chord with him later. I stopped totally and swore off the shows at the end of the series, but some web sleuthing gives me the impression Maggie is now less trustworthy or honorable than Negan given events during their new show.

  21. Stjepan Pejic says

    The two I like are Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and (although we never see his bad actions) Eliot Spencer from Leverage. Although they are both on redemption arcs, they both make the point of saying the good they do doesn’t make up for the bad they did. There isn’t a point where they can say “now the scales are balanced again, I can retire” – the demand to fight the good fight is never ending.

  22. John Morales says


    There isn’t a point where they can say “now the scales are balanced again, I can retire” – the demand to fight the good fight is never ending.

    So, a partial lifetime of offending, an eternity of suffering, that’s how you see it?
    Seems rather a religious view, to me. And quite cruel.

    How exactly one is supposedly redeemed when that’s contingent on forevermore being subject to the demand to fight the good fight, and forever acquiescing?


    PS, Spike, too.

  23. bcw bcw says

    scrooge, although it also raises the question if someone is good because the fear consequences, are they actually good.

  24. John Morales says

    bcw bcw, an answerable question: depends on how one defines ‘good’.

    (And before one knows it, Euthyphro is invoked)

  25. bcw bcw says

    J D Rockefeller spent the second half of his life funding charities, libraries, museums and colleges. But….

  26. hemidactylus says

    @36- John Morales
    Well without knowing anything of these characters I would guess the obligation is subjectively imposed. Though it’s guilt based which has internal antecedents but is a tool of religions and obviously of screenwriters or showrunners who need a multiseason story narrative. Otherwise the show would falter after the pilot.

    Movies deal with it in a much shorter arc. From Man on Fire (IMDB quotes):
    “Creasy: [during a barbeque cookout at his home with his family] Do you think God’ll forgive us for what we’ve done?
    Rayburn: No.”

  27. bcw bcw says

    Frank Abagnale (of the movie “Catch me if you can”) went from prison to finding fraud for the FBI. Was he reformed or just needed something interesting to do?

  28. John Morales says


    Well without knowing anything of these characters I would guess the obligation is subjectively imposed.

    I know you mean by the protagonist rather than by the reader, but be aware it could be either.

    Either way, it is perpetual obligation with no retirement.
    I see it more akin to perpetual probation than to redemption.

    One of the appeals of Catholicism is the actual forgiveness of sins, so, weirdly, Catholicism is less pernicious than this particular conceit of inescapable perpetual guilt.

    Redemption as a perpetual state of guilt and of atonement, that’s fine for Angel, but, again… Spike. More than one way to get to a destination.

    “Creasy: [during a barbeque cookout at his home with his family] Do you think God’ll forgive us for what we’ve done?
    Rayburn: No.”

    Heh. Is Rayburn an atheist?

  29. hemidactylus says

    @38- John Morales
    If it comes down to analyzing “Good” we could march out zombie GE Moore from Principia Ethica. Let’s NOT do that.

  30. John Morales says

    hemidactylus, let’s not.

    Maybe I should note that I get Stjepan was referring more to redemption arcs than to actual redemption, so presumably those are examples of ‘can be’ rather than ‘are’ redeemed. But it’s a damn harsh path, not one I’d take.

  31. hemidactylus says

    @45- John Morales

    Well there’s a contrast between journey and destination. The storylines tend to be journey oriented and maybe string us along way too long, but the destination winds up as the ending or series finale. Maybe you’re railing against (serial) fiction more than real life. Does non-fiction or biography especially have perpetual probation or the ebb and flow of incomplete redemption? Also does tidy redemption (versus a lingering arc) satisfy a craving for closure?

  32. John Morales says

    Does non-fiction or biography especially have perpetual probation or the ebb and flow of incomplete redemption?

    Yup. In my estimation, anyway. A bit like courtly love.

  33. rrhain says

    Robert Byrd, going from being part of the KKK and voting against the CRA to be lauded by the NAACP at his death.

  34. says

    Catra has a good redemption arc in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

    All three core Winchesters (yes, including Castiel) have had multiple redemption arcs, each, over the course of the series. Mary got her redemption arc. Claire and Kaia. Jack had his. Amara (aka The Darkness), too. Even Lucifer and Michael got a little redemption arc! (We don’t talk about John or his A+ parenting.) But that’s kinda what the whole series was about: found family, family of choice, love, forgiveness, and fighting the good fight even — or especially — when it’s against your own family. In the words of a very wise man, “Family don’t end in blood, boy.”

    Sorry, SPN is close to being a Special Interest for me.

  35. astringer says

    “Zakalwe” in Use of Weapons (…and ‘anonymously’ other Culture novels). I’ve little classical knowledge, but wonder where/how Banks found/invented this character; if feels Greek.

  36. StevoR says

    Fiction~wise how about the Christian God? Started out genocidal, jealous, petty and cruel in the OT including a near total genocide of Humanity and mots otherlivingthinsg with the flood then sacrificed himself as Jesus to save all Humans somehow. Except, oh yeah, he never apologised, admitted he’d done wrong or showed he’d done wrong or allowed criticism nor stayed dead with the sacrifice thing so nah..

    How about Alfred Nobel whose name is no longer synonymous with explosives but with awards for good?

    See : – & turns out the story may be apocryphal.

    One other candidate that may not be thought of as much is Herakles (Hercules / Ulysses) in the original Greek myth where at least according to some versions of the myth, his legendary labours where made in atonement for killing his wife Megara, and their children in a fit of madness see :

    Of course, redemption is in theye of the beholder and subjective..

    @25. hemidactylus : Re George Wallace, Jim Wright has a great Stonekettle Station post on his story here :

    Oh and, if memory serves, didn’t one of the medievial or Salem “witch-finders” or Judges later decide they were totally wrong and attempt contrition later doing ..something? Sorry, vague memory indeed on that.

  37. Silentbob says

    @ 51 StevoR

    (Hercules / Ulysses)

    Dude, you’re getting your myths mixed up. Hercules is Roman for Heracles, as Ulysses is Roman for Odysseus. They’re different heroes. In fact Odysseus met Heracles in the underworld when he visited Hades. (The latter wasn’t having a good time.)

    Odysseus later encounters Heracles, another famous Greek mythological hero. He similarly sympathises with Odysseus’ experience in the underworld: ‘So you too are working out some such miserable doom as I endured when I lived in the light of the sun.’ From Heracles’ perspective, the journey to the underworld is a terrible misfortune that one has to suffer in order to meet the wishes of the gods. According to these epic heroes, the journey is not a pleasant one.

    Anyway if we’re including the Bible, Apostle Paul is the archetypal redemption tale – road to Damascus and all that.

  38. Don F says

    Frank Abagnale seems to me to have been truly redeemed. I’m guessing his years in the French penal system had quite an impact.

  39. hemidactylus says

    This is at least partly facetious but Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, and Liz Darthsdotter Cheney because their stances toward Trump. Nah, Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is unforgivable. Strike one.

  40. wzrd1 says

    Wait, strike one? Does that count? I thought the right gets unlimited strikes. Just lay low for a bit, wait for the furor to die down and everyone forget about the pool boy…

  41. hemidactylus says

    @56- wzrd1
    Well it leaves Kristol and Cheney to be knocked over as my provisional examples for redemption of sorts since I took Goldberg down myself.

    Ah the pool boy. I have to admit prurience compelled me with Hulu’s God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty. It struck a sympathetic tone with the kid, given largely from his POV. Started off as one of those things watched on late night Cinemax. But hard to find a redemptive arc anywhere in there. Just a horny kid, cougar hotwife, and televangelist descended husband allegedly watching. There was some good stuff about daddy and the religious right shifting from segregationism to abortion. And then there was Trump. That was even ickier than the salacious relationship stuff behind closed doors.

    I found Netflix’s The Family more intriguing with that sheeple and “Wolf King” angle. A bit on the conspiratorial side though. That gives me pause. But still…WTF?

  42. StevoR says

    @ Silentbob : Dóh! Yes, you’re spot on re :Ulysses / Herakles. Good catch.

    As for Biblical Redemption tales, well, the Prodigal Son is, well, fiction twice over.. probly. Also kinda trope / stereotype of its own. But is it redemption? Not really?

    Another case with varyng mileage is 1970’s-80’s Aussie PM Malcolm Fraser, although a lot of that can be put down to the Overton Window being pushed a ve-eerry long way to the reich.

    Then there’s the sporting case of Steve Smith & Warner and almost forgotten now Cam Bancroft in the “Sandpapergate” ball tampering cheating scandal in Aussie cricket which .. redemption? Again, dunno really?

    Also in sports, Seb Vettel who I used to really hate in F1 back when he & RBR were messing Webber over but then came to eventually respect given his later words and actions before he chose to retire for good reasons. See :

    Oh & LOTR was anyone actually redeemed deliberately? Maybe not? Ultmately Isildur, Frodo, Gollum all failed and fell to the Ring / Sauron in The Ring in different ways and timespans and it sort of looked like a redemption story if you squint but really wasn’t which .. depressing really.. (Movie on telly just now hence this.)

  43. david says

    Robert Macnamara saw the errors of his war policies and dedicated himself to global poverty reduction policies.

  44. tacitus says

    If the proportion of fictional vs real examples in this thread is anything to go by, it emphasizes how rare they are, in reality. Frankly, in fiction, they’re ten a penny, which isn’t surprising since we all love a good redemption story.

    I suspect the reality isn’t quite that bad since in many cases, the redemption takes place outside of the spotlight years after the collective memory of the perpetrator has faded. After all, if their redemption arc is highly publicized, there’s always the suspicion it’s being done more to rehabilitate their career or legacy than any true feelings of remorse.

    You do get the occasional story where, say, a BBC reporter drops in on a notorious figure from the past who’s now living far from the spotlight and is, in some small and quiet way, atoning for their misdeeds. Should it count if they don’t fully restore the deficit they caused? Not sure I know — it probably depends on the individual’s circumstances and whether it’s even possible.

  45. tacitus says

    Ender Wigin from the Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card.
    I loved those books once. Now .. yeah. Not so much.

    Yeah, I loved Ender’s Game when it first came out. Then I read it again twenty years later for a book group, after learning of Orson Scott Card’s far-right regressive politics. It was amazing what a difference that made in how I understood the story. Quite an interesting exercise, in the end.

    I got deep into the The Sword of Truth series without knowing Terry Goodkind was an Ayn Rand asshole, then suddenly he brings the narrative to a screeching halt and has the main protagonist go on a chapter-long rant about the evils of pacifism. It was a real WTF moment. I think I managed to finish the series, but skimmed most of the rest of the books.

  46. Jemolk says

    @John Morales, #34 — I think the point is that they have truly changed their outlook. The characters in question aren’t simply paying down a karmic debt — they are trying to help people because helping people is good. They’re actually trying to be truly good, and not merely good enough to be seen as good. It’s not eternal purgatory, so much as a clear indication of sincerity. It’s the genuine desire to be better people, not just because their past actions made them social outcasts before, but because people being well off matters as an end in itself to them now. That’s how I read it, at least.

  47. raven says

    Ironically, reverse Redemption stories seem to be a lot more common.

    People start out good and doing good things and then gradually turn into monsters.

    Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins were once notable atheist activists who turned into negative assets for our societies.

    Elon Musk developed two successful companies, Tesla and SpaceX. Now he has dedicated his life and wealth to wrecking the society and country (the USA, Musk is originally from South Africa) that made it all possible. His companies received many billions of dollars from the Federal government in investments and subsidies.
    In a just world, for helping the enemy of everyone, Russia, Musk would be tried for treason, stripped of his adopted citizenship, and put on the next plane back to South Africa.
    Yeah, I know it isn’t going to happen.

    Roger Waters of Pink Floyd has gone around the bend and is now supporting Russia and condemning Ukraine. Really, a Pink Floyd band member supports genocide?

    JK Rowling. Who knew Harry Potter was a secret Fascist bigot?

    I’m sure everyone can come up with their own examples of reverse Redemption arcs.

  48. Kagehi says

    Hmm. Stories are simple – you do something and presto, you have a changed person, who either then dies redeemed, or goes on to never make the same mistakes ever again. Catholicism’s redemption is similar to this. Both lend themselves to false narratives of redemption, because someone that has no intent to redeem themselves, or who only recognizes one aspect of themselves that needs to be, can game the system, pulling the miraculous redemption, then go on to still hold a long list of just as bad, or worse ideas, and take action on them, while certain they have already reached redemption. Or, they can just pretend to have, “seen the light”. True redemption, imho, is, I think, more like breaking an addiction. Depending on the addiction “some” you might be able to break permanently, by becoming a truly better person, who recognizes that a vast swath of prior held assumptions and ideas where wrong, and abandoning them in favor of better ones, but even in such rarer cases, the long term redemption is a process of constantly fighting to consider their thoughts, actions, and ideas, test them against one’s new sense of ethics and morals, and judge whether they are actually progress, or a step back into old thinking. In other words, for most, real redemption is a life long process, not the fictionalized instant success you get in stories.

    And, I come to this conclusion based on statements made by a lot of people who, even decades ago, gave up on poisonous religious convictions who admit to, sometimes, slipping into old thinking and having to catch themselves. Heck, I catch myself, as someone that never really had a religious upbringing, in moments of, “What if something like this nonsense exists?”, followed immediately by revulsion at what such a reality would mean, given that the only such world I am at all worried about is the one believed in by those who insist that fear and hate of others, and the actions they take because of it, is, “spreading love”. While its not quite the same, in that I have never held their atrocious ideals, or committed the acts many of them do in promotion of such monstrous ideology, I still can’t help, with so many of them out there, imagine, “What if some of this is real?”, and feel like I am trapped in a Lovecraft novel. For them, as once true believers, I have to imagine there are either moments of, “What if I made a mistake and I was right before.”, possibly followed by similar skin scrawling dread, or just moments where they start to act, say, or do, something, which is what they would have done before, and have to go, “No. No, I am not like that any more.”

    I certainly think redemption is possible, but it is almost certainly a process, with backsliding, moments of weakness, and a need for vigilance against falling into old thinking. I can’t think of too many fictional accounts that match this. They tend to go for sudden leaps into changed thinking, and never making the same mistakes again after. And… I think some people may get into their heads in real life that this is how their own errors work. I certainly see quite a few getting offended if you point out they are still acting like assholes to some group, while protesting that they don’t think that way, because they don’t treat some other group that way any more, or worse, “Have friends in the group you think I am bad to.” They seem to convince themselves that redemption is not doing the bad things to group X, while still doing them to group Y, and not comprehending its the same thing. That, again, making progress towards redemption doesn’t mean that you stop with a few friends, or one group, while you still think the same way about everyone else. If your thinking does not fundamentally change, then its not complete, you have to keep making progress to actually reach it.

  49. StevoR says

    PS. Sad truth – the first explictly gay characters featured positively / sympathetically in a novel that I ever read at least that I remember were in Card’s Homecoming saga. How odd is that?

  50. wzrd1 says

    tacitus @ 63, with the Sword of Truth series, perhaps you should’ve fully read them. They undermined every libertarian argument ever made.

  51. tedw says

    Monica Lewinsky went from being the butt of jokes and public shaming to an effective advocate for victims

  52. Steve Morrison says

    Jaime Lannister, maybe? But it would take quite a bit of atoning to redeem what he did.

  53. beholder says

    @65 raven

    Ironically, reverse Redemption stories seem to be a lot more common.

    If you’re fishing around for examples for a half-baked idea, Roger Waters was a poor choice.

    Roger Waters of Pink Floyd has gone around the bend and is now supporting Russia and condemning Ukraine. Really, a Pink Floyd band member supports genocide?

    Just because he hasn’t bought into your propaganda doesn’t mean he’s done anything wrong. Quite the opposite, the term you’re looking for is “vindicated”. It may happen a press cycle or two after D.C. stenographers get their new list of talking points, it may happen long after he’s dead, but Roger Waters made the right call and he will eventually be recognized for that.

  54. Rob Grigjanis says

    tedw: American History X is a great example, but Lewinsky did nothing wrong to need redemption.

  55. Rob Grigjanis says

    beholder @74:

    Just because he hasn’t bought into your propaganda doesn’t mean he’s done anything wrong.

    Right. He totally bought the propaganda about Russia being ‘provoked’ into invasion of Ukraine. He thinks the deaths in Ukraine could have been averted if the West had encouraged Ukraine to pursue diplomacy. He doesn’t give a crap about Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Poles, etc. Ask them what they think, you fucking dimwit.

  56. DanDare says

    @bcw bcw
    Scrooge didn’t act differently for fear of consequences. That was used to force him to reflect. Reflecting led him to rediscover the joy of compassion, love and community.

  57. DanDare says

    There is a scale of redemtion –
    Those that are on the wrong side due to status quo but wake up to it through to those that are on the wrong side because they fully buy in to it and somehow think their way out.

  58. raven says

    Beholder the genocidal wannabe monster:

    Just because he hasn’t bought into your propaganda doesn’t mean he’s done anything wrong.

    No way.

    Assertion without proof or data and may be dismissed without proof or data.
    You and Roger Waters are just supporters of genocide and fascism.

    …but Roger Waters made the right call and he will eventually be recognized for that.

    You and Roger Waters are already on the wrong side of history.
    The vast majority of the free democratic world is on the side of Ukraine and NATO.

    You and Waters are already recognized as supporters of genocide and Russian fascism.

  59. beholder says

    @80 raven

    Just because you repeat a lie thousands of times doesn’t make it true.

    The vast majority of the free democratic world is on the side of Ukraine and NATO.

    They’re on NATO’s side or else, amirite? NATO has a long redemption arc ahead of it if it thinks I’ll forgive its past atrocities in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.

  60. raven says

    What has Roger Waters said about Ukraine war?

    He also spoke about his views on the Ukraine war, reportedly saying it would be “f****** insane” to believe that Russia’s invasion was unprovoked. He also said: “The Ukraine… is a deeply divided country. In fact, it’s not really a country at all, it’s only been there since Khrushchev, 1956. Feb 9, 2023

    This was Roger Waters at the UN, speaking at the invitation of the Russians.

    .1. This invasion of Ukraine by Russia was not “provoked” in any way whatsoever.
    It is simply a continuation of centuries of Russian imperialism.
    Calling it “provoked” is the language of domestic abusers everywhere.
    “Look at what you made me do. We had to kill hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and make 6 million Ukrainians refugees and 8 million Ukrainians internally displaced and homeless while occupying and destroying 20% of your country.”

    .2. Calling Ukraine not a country is just a lie.
    It is a sovereign nation recognized by just about everyone and a member of the UN.
    It also has a long history, sometimes being overrun by one neighbor or another.
    The Ukrainians love their country and are willing to fight and die for it and for the chance of gaining their freedom.

    .3. Waters, “… it’s only been there since Khrushchev, 1956.”
    Another lie. Waters can’t be bothered to look up anything on the internet.
    Ukraine dates back at least a thousand years.
    It’s been independent on and off since then.
    The fact that it was conquered by imperial Russia is irrelevant.
    At various times so was all of Eastern Europe.

    We don’t say that Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Czechia, Kazakhstan, Poland etc. have only been in existence as countries since 1991, when the Soviet Union fell.
    The fact is they were all slave nations held by force by the Russians.
    When they saw a chance for freedom from Russia, they all ran as fast as they could to get away.
    We didn’t force them to join NATO and the EU.
    They would have done anything to join and be free and they can leave any time.
    Waters and Beholder aren’t bright enough to even see the obvious.

    In response to that statement, and Waters’ proclamations about Israel in recent years, Gilmour’s wife, Polly Samson, tweeted this week that Waters is “a Putin apologist” as well as “anti-Semitic to your rotten core”.

    Gilmour endorsed his wife’s statement, adding: “Every word demonstrably true.”

    Well, at least the rest of Pink Floyd doesn’t agree with Waters and they even said so in public.

    Water: “Well, Nick [Mason, drummer] never pretended. But Gilmour and Rick? They can’t write songs, they’ve nothing to say.

    “They are not artists. They have no ideas – not a single one between them. They never have had, and that drives them crazy.”

    Roger Waters doesn’t like the rest of Pink Floyd any more and they don’t much like him either.
    I guess if you are going to be a hater, you might as well just hate everyone.

  61. raven says

    Beholder the supporter of genocide and terrorists:

    NATO has a long redemption arc ahead of it if it thinks I’ll forgive its past atrocities in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.

    What atrocities?

    You are also on the side of al Qaeda and ISIS, the Islamic state?
    You are also on the side of the Serbs who attempted to genocide the Bosnians and Croats.

    Shrug: You are one sick puppy.

    Who cares what you forgive or not.
    You’ve got your own niche on the far right lunatic fringes.
    I suppose you haven’t forgiven Abraham Lincoln either, for freeing the slaves.

    Beholder the right wingnut monster:

    Just because you repeat a lie thousands of times doesn’t make it true.

    Coming from a supporter of genocide and terrrorists who apparently hates the USA, NATO, and EU, that is simply irrelevant.

    Why are you even here?
    Russian is openly advertising for Westerners to move there.
    You could join Steven Siegal or Prigozhins outfit, Wagner.

  62. bcw bcw says

    @77 You can see it two ways: 1. Scrooge was frightened of dying alone and reformed 2. He saw the value of friendships and reformed. I’m willing to give you #2, I was mostly be provocative and thinking that question is less clear for others.

  63. hemidactylus says

    Well this thread took a sudden dark turn and may need its own redemptive arc. Glad bcw bcw and DanDare are holding the line.

    tedw And Rob Grigjanis- Been a while since I’ve seen it but American History X does have that redemptive angle. Interesting.

    From watching the podish-sortacast today PZ may have set the OP framing too narrowly. It wasn’t supposed to get that specific as redemptive arcs but was broader like IIRC how people revamped what they were doing in a more positive light. I was really confused at first. And very few of you showed up in the chat. Tsk tsk.

  64. beholder says

    @raven 83

    What atrocities?

    Seriously? I can think of a few examples in Afghanistan at the very least.

    [Pharyngula comment, August of 2021]:

    In 2001, shortly after the US invasion, Taliban forces in Kunduz surrendered to US special forces and a militia loyal to the warlord Gen. Rashid Dostum, who forced them into metal shipping containers and transported them to Sheberghan, Dostum’s stronghold. Most of some 2,000 prisoners suffocated in the containers, those still alive were shot.

    In 2009, a German officer called in a US military airstrike against a crowd in Kunduz province that was siphoning fuel from two tanker trucks stuck at a river crossing. The 500-pound US bombs left at least 142 civilians incinerated.

    And in 2015, a US AC-130 gunship slowly and deliberately reduced to rubble a civilian hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Kunduz, killing at least 42 patients and medical staff and wounding many others.

    No one has ever been punished for any of these crimes, but they are certainly not forgotten by those who survived them and the relatives, friends and neighbors of those who did not.

    I’m sure you aren’t denying the facts here. I can charitably assume you’ve never heard of this. To be aware of this and then engage in historical revisionism to deny the facts and pretend NATO command was doing no wrong over there is monstrous.

    Take note of where you’re standing and who you’re enthusiastically supporting, at least.

  65. raven says

    Beholder the supporter of genocide and terrorists.

    Seriously? I can think of a few examples in Afghanistan at the very least.

    Cthulhu, what a sick puppy.

    Does the phrase 9/11 and the World Trade Center mean anything to you?
    Here is what an atrocity looks like, one of many by your terrorist buddies.

    Nineteen terrorists from al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial airplanes, deliberately crashing two of the planes into the upper floors of the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center complex and a third plane into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Killing 3,000 civilians.

    Where was al Qaeda based?
    Who supported them?
    The people in power, Islamic kooks known as the Taliban, who also took power and ruled by terrorism, murder, and atrocities.
    We in the USA have the right and duty to defend our citizens.
    If you don’t like it too bad.

    OK, we’ve got it.
    You support the Serbs who attempted to genocide the Bosnians and Croats.
    al Qaeda who attacked the USA and killed thousands on 9/11.
    The Afghanistan Taliban.
    The genocidal Russians of Putin.
    ISIS, the Islamic state that tried to take over Iraq and Syria.
    The people defeated by Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis.

    Who else is on your list of monster to worship and support?
    The NAZIS?
    I’m almost sure you think history will vindicate them and the Nuremberg trials will be looked at as a mistake.

    You hate the USA, NATO, and the EU.

    Whatever, all this just makes you a sick and evil troll.

  66. raven says

    Here is what Beholders Russian heroes have been doing in Ukraine.

    War crimes in the Russian invasion of Ukraine

    Wikipedia › wiki › War_crimes_in_the_…

    On 7 April 2022, the United Nations suspended Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. By late October, the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s office had documented 39,347 …
    ‎Ukraine v. Russian Federation · ‎Sexual violence in the Russian…

    The Ukrainians have documented 39,347 war crimes so far.
    You know that has to be an underestimate since much of Ukraine is still occupied by the Russians.

    The Russians have shown a callous disregard for anything remotely resembling civilized behavior.
    Usually when an area is liberated by the Ukrainians, they find mass graves of civilians killed by the Russians.

    Municipal authorities say 458 bodies have been found in the Bucha area after the 33-day Russian occupation. They include 12 bodies of children, in most cases killed with their parents. Authorities said 116 bodies were found in the mass grave near the Church of Andrew the Apostle.Aug 11, 2022

    Buried as numbers, more of Bucha’s victims are laid to rest

    Bucha was all but destroyed and there were mass graves of civilans.
    This happens everywhere the Russians were.

    In Mariupul, there are new graveyards with thousands of graves.
    Since it is still occupied, no one knows how many civilians were killed.
    3/4 of the population is missing.
    It easily could be something like 100,000 dead.

    Of course, in Beholders twisted fantasy world, they were all members of NATO.

  67. wzrd1 says

    tedw @ 71, so, a victim experienced redemption.
    Yeah, lousy example, given the power gulf between her and Mr Clinton.
    Now, had he sought redemption, that’d be a bit of an uphill climb. Both for the inability of his zipper to stay closed and not going with insider deals.
    Said from a position of being married for over 41 years and managing to keep my dick inside my pants, save to urinate or enjoy the company of my own wife, who insisted on such a thing at the time.

    DanDare @ 77, not fearing consequences, because he was forced how to reflect? Oh, consequences.
    Coercion is coercion. I honestly don’t have a problem with that, used it in counterterrorism myself.

    John Morales @ 79. nearly rejected Nelson Mandela, then realized a blind spot, that otherwise usually is recognized. Pristine.
    Redemption to pristine and perfect, vs reality, redemption to a still flawed person. I know it well, but I had a narrow window of sexual opportunism that obscured that view a bit.
    All and all, he was but a man, as perfect as myself, which means, utterly imperfect and an active or not work in progress.
    What counts is, one works at being that work in progress.
    Something I typically work at each and every day, to be a better version of me today than I was yesterday. I occasionally fuck up, as do we all.
    Perfection only occurs in fiction. I’m hoping all want to deal with reality here.
    And to begin that journey, for any later reader attempting to find the beginning of the road, perfection is never the goal, because it is unattainable, improvement by measure is the goal, one day at a time and recognize, you’ll slip up at times.

    Now, excuse me while I collapse again. Had a massive two mile speed walk each way to the stupidmarket for necessary supplies to beat a thunderstorm, the last mile with massive lactic acid burn overload and I feel inflammation coming on again and probable hospitalization again.
    Would that we had a 15 minute neighborhood! That speed walk was 35 minutes from market to home, timed and slightly damp and thankfully cooler as the front rolled in as I departed that market. Otherwise, I’d have had a heat stroke.
    Because, getting hit by lightning wasn’t on my to-do list, given my cart of food would’ve been incinerated and much of my food stamps would’ve then become a burnt offering to lightning. And really, never liked the guy living in the Thor house.

  68. beholder says

    Raven, get help. Half of your claims about me are you screaming at a figment of your imagination, and the other half honestly aren’t a good look.

    No one on the Infinite Thread puts up with you and now I understand why.

  69. raven says

    Beholder the supporter of genocide and terrorists:

    Raven, get help. Half of your claims about me are you screaming at a figment of your imagination, and the other half honestly aren’t a good look.

    You didn’t even bother to deny them.
    I cut and pasted facts and you just lied a lot.

    It is nice though that you outed yourself as a bottom of the barrel warped troll.

    Beholder is a supporter of genocide and terrorists. Liar. Hater. Troll.

  70. beholder says

    Does a blitz of good PR count as redemption?

    Michael Jackson’s handlers made a good go of it after his death. Your mileage may vary how much they succeeded with redeeming him, but it was a brilliant marketing campaign nonetheless.

  71. John Morales says



    Had a massive two mile speed walk each way to the stupidmarket for necessary supplies to beat a thunderstorm, the last mile with massive lactic acid burn overload and I feel inflammation coming on again and probable hospitalization again.

    At least you can still actually do a massive two mile speed walk each way though you pay the price afterward. So. Not that decrepit, yet.

    (You ever seen ?
    That’s how I like to think of you)

  72. wzrd1 says

    John, while I am of a comedic mindset, when it comes to harm town, erm, yeah, no.
    Want to explore that in person, we can, without harm, just a frank exchange of views.
    Apologizes for the insolvable knots in your shoelaces.
    But, whatever.
    Aw, screw that, ties John’s shoelaces together – in sandals.
    Other, not so humorous side, tied laces equals mines, all attached to your gonads and anus.
    I prefer tied together around a tree or desk pedestal.
    Leaving you to be distracted by dozens of little girls and boys running about unsupervised.
    Something I’ve managed out of hand.
    And yes, I’m honest, not feeling well and will probably end up hospitalized, as autoimmune symptoms are beginning.
    Fucking traitor immune system!
    I’m signing up for a full body transplant.

    Or maybe, Let’s all nuke good John, all with the nasties tastes, nuke John with all of the baaaad, baaaad tastings…
    (To the tune of “Let’s Go fly a kite” from Mary Poppins)…
    Nuking with shitty tasting food, trivial, just visit the poor sod in the US on a seriously tight budget.

    Oh, got a nuke budget again today. Apartment had an official picnic and baked beans was on the menu.
    Annoying, outgassing within six hours.
    Note to self, add beans to diet, idiot…

    So, I hurl imprecations and insults upon you!
    Or something.
    OK, probably, funny faces. I’ve always won funny face making contests with five year olds. Got a naturally funny face.

    Still, got home and now feel massively nauseous and am experiencing systemic issues. Next, if uninterrupted ain’t any kind of fun at all.
    And fucking primary ain’t answering the fucking phone.
    But, we’ve got the best medical system in the world. Just entirely uncertain which fucking unoccupied world the morons speak of.

  73. wzrd1 says

    PZ, nothing on Morocco?
    Initial reports were, erm, iffy, as all such reports are.
    But, death toll now at 1800 and rising?

    Oops, they’re not spiders.

    Jibes aside, it really sucks when one’s home turns to literal dust over one’s family’s heads. Dealt with that – barely.
    Disasters suck, for locals and responders.
    Because, politicians fuck them all up, sideways and to begone to hell, just always.
    Add a diplomat, turn a crisis into a perpetuity…

  74. StevoR says

    @86. 81, 74. beholder : Whataboutery and rubbish that does nothing to deny or refute the key point

    Putin didn’t need to invade Ukraine and his murderous geocidal campaign against that nation – motivated by a nasty imperialist dream to reconquer the former Russian empire against the wishes of the people now freed from the old Russian Empire – is ethically as well as strategically utterly wrong and destructive.

    Putin’s choice and conduct and character are pretty much indefensible regardless of how bad NATO may be.

    Also whilst mentioning NATO in Afghanistan, seems kinda bizarre given what Putin has done in Syria and what his Wagner mercenaries are doing in parts of Africa.

    Oh and I personally respect and value raven’s comments here.

  75. KG says

    Just because you repeat a lie thousands of times doesn’t make it true. – beholder@81

    So presumably you’re aiming at reaching millions of repetitions of your lies about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But that still won’t make them true.

  76. birgerjohansson says

    1800 brown people dead in an earthquake will never get the same headline as 18 dead in Merica or (northern) Europe. It is just the way the news media works.
    But that is OT.
    Think of those thousands of people who managed to overcome addiction and get back on track, despite the stigma of being in and out of prison.
    They had a much bigger obstacle to overcome than some white-collar villains.

  77. wzrd1 says

    birgerjohansson @ 98, isn’t that the ultimate in redemption, in and of itself?
    Recovery, from either conviction or addiction, both noteworthy and entirely worthy and always ignored by society.

  78. Alverant says

    For fictional, I would say my favorite is Megatron from the IDW comics. It starts out slow and takes years (of real-time). It’s not a smooth path either. Many people either don’t believe him or that he has done too much to be forgiven. Megatron even admits he shouldn’t be forgiven but he wanted a chance to make restitution for his crimes. He’s able to do that to some extent, but even when it matters most he still doesn’t feel worthy. When the comic ends, he fails in his redemption and is taken away to find out if he will be eternally imprisoned or executed. His last words to his friend are, “Whatever my fate, I deserve worse.”

  79. wzrd1 says

    From the fiction side, I view it as wish fulfillment. Reality is what counts, not what one wishes and hand waves over.
    You fuck up, no biggie, if you work your ass off fixing what you finally recognized as a fuck-up.
    Now, you’ve gained traction in my book.

    The three words that got me out of major trouble over the decades, some legal and security clearance related, ” I fucked up”.
    One admits guilt. The rest is well, gravy. Tiring, but sating.
    And beats the shit out of, wanting to get out a hole by digging deeper.

  80. fishy says

    Nobody has mentioned Xena, the warrior princess.
    The simple fact is you aren’t going to find famous real world examples of redemption. The place where this happens is at the bottom where some people have experienced a downtrodden existence and they are now trying to mitigate it for others.

  81. jrkrideau says

    @ 11Chris Wright
    YES! John Profumo was my first choice.

    @ elly
    I am not sure Daniel Ellsberg fits the redemption criteria. He was not in need of redemption, just an incredible brave and moral man. Can we give a US citizen a George Cross?

    @ 71 tedw
    Monica Lewinsky went from being the butt of jokes and public shaming to an effective advocate for victims

    That is not redemption; that is triumphing over victimization, prejudice, and a rabid press.

    @74 beholder
    Now you’ve gone and done it. :)

    @ 98 birgerjohansson
    I was thinking of glory cases but you re so right. Some ex-addicts are incredible in the work they do.

  82. EdmondWherever says

    Damar from Deep Space Nine. Started as a drunkard Cardassian stooge with a knee jerk racial hatred of the Bajorans, and in the end became the leader of a resistance effort fighting side by side with them, even killing his own men when the couldn’t put aside their own prejudices for the cause.

  83. says

    The problem, Raven, is that there are atrocities committed by Americans. While horrifying just from a human standpoint, they’re also an issue in that they give fascists like Beholder material they can use to cloud issues like the invasion of Ukraine. The US can’t even come to terms with its own slave owning and genocidal past and how the fallout of that history still oppresses people within its own borders today (can’t have white kids feeling bad about themselves, after all),
    Don’t get me wrong. Beholder is very, very wrong in their defense of Russia and the very murderous Putin, but the United States of America as a nation needs to find its own redemption and right now it’s going in the opposite direction.

  84. KG says

    John Morales@107,
    I think you’ve been around here long enough to remember Walton as another Pharyngula example.

    Can you cite any comments of StevoR attacking Russians in general? I don’t recall any.