Motley crew

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This page refers to a common cliché in fiction. For the 1980s Rock band, see Mötley Crüe. For the 1976–1999 comic strip, see Motley's Crew.


A motley crew is a cliché for a roughly organized assembly of characters. Typical examples of motley crews are pirates, Western posses, rag-tag mercenary bands or freedom fighters. They may align with, be (as a group), or include either the protagonist or the antagonist of the story.

Motley crews are, by definition, non-uniform and undisciplined as a group. They are characterised by containing characters of conflicting personality, varying backgrounds, and, usually to the benefit of the group, a wide array of methods for overcoming adversity. Traditionally, a motley crew who in the course of a story comes into conflict with an organised, uniform group of characters, will prevail. This is generally achieved through the narrative utilising the various specialties, traits and other personal advantages of each member to counterbalance the (often sole) specialty of a formal group of adversaries.

Archetypical examples of the "motley crew" overcoming adversity are commonly found in fantasy and science fiction. Examples include The Fellowship of the Ring repeatedly escaping overwhelming bands or armies of fairly uniform Orcs in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, or parties of the Rebel Alliance (often including both humans and other species such as Wookiees, Ewoks, or Gungans) defeating many identical battle droids or......
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