I enjoy the plot formula when the protagonist realizes he or she is playing for the wrong team. These plots always produce dynamic characters. The psychological shift and the shedding of the former self, often possessing the courage to say no to the norm is a popular thread in coming-of-age stories as well as anti-establishment stories. Take South African author J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians.
The Magistrate was an interesting character. At the periphery of civilization, he was in charge of an outpost run by the Empire. He ran his outpost in a quiet, detached way, without deliberation, without anxiety. Then the radical, ambitious Colonel Joll arrived, incited and determined to capture the barbarians who it had been rumored was about to attack the Empire. They captured and tortured the indigenous people. One of them, a deformed, scarred girl, the Magistrate claimed for himself. She became his personal maid and bed partner. What made this situation interesting was the effect the girl had on him. The Magistrate became attached to her that was something akin to love. He saw her as a barbarian, yet, could not shake his feelings for her. This conflict will result in his returning her to her village thus making him an enemy of the Empire. What was supposed to be a black and white explanation of the world, that is, Empire versus Barbarian, it became a gray issue for him. The Magistrate’s deliberations revealed much about his character. This is what makes an audience care about a character.
Sex was a theme and a method for the Magistrate to analyze himself. It was a cool way to mirror colonialism, too. Sexually as a man, he recalled his role as an officer at the outpost and his interactions with the women in the compound. By focusing on his patterns of sex, he saw himself as a proud boar satisfying carnal need. As he came to care for the barbarian girl, he realized he and the Empire were the true barbarians. He rose above his animatistic yearnings when he thought of her as a person. He was no longer the boar, and his behavior no longer boorish. I highly recommend this classic.
What about films? Where the protagonist realizes he or she has been duped?