December 8th, 2014

silent sigh

December Posting Meme: what character types I glom onto

for [personal profile] stultiloquentia
Posting Schedule

So I guess there are a few different character types that I particularly glom onto: blatant assholes, secret assholes, earnest do-gooders, and computer nerds (this may or may not be dependent on how terribly written their technobabble is). Here, I'll dig into each one of these individually.

Blatant assholes

Examples: Mark Zuckerberg, House, other variations of Sherlock Holmes, Connor Walsh

One of my favorite narratives is assholes trying to figure out how to deal with feelings (generally romantic ones) and failing hard at it. I guess, in a way, it's a kind of emotional sadism on my part, but I think there's something really enjoyable about seeing that kind of suffering. In a world where coolness is defined by how little you care about girly things like 'feelings', I like watching them struggle with the fact that they are, in fact, human and have human weaknesses like the rest of us.

I have talked to many people who are more than happy to make assholes nicer than they are in canon, but I'm not one of them. I feel like it blandifies those characters, and I am worried that we are unable or unwilling to confront their flaws. Assholes are people, too. I don't mean this in the way that we should feel sorry for asshole characters, but as an acknowledgment that people are complicated, that you can write sympathetic assholes even when they're being total assholes.

The failure of Sherlock as a TV show to me will always be that they would much rather linger on how cool Sherlock is (cool being defined as 'deeply misanthropic and generally a shitty person') rather than make him human.

Secret Assholes

Examples: Wilson, Eduardo Saverin, Charles Xavier, Laura Roslin

Best enjoyed when paired with the blatant assholes. The idea, for me, is that there are characters who seem nice on the surface, but are really just as much of a dickweed as the blatant assholes, and this explains both how and why they tolerate the blatant assholes as friends.

I like the way their secret assholery gives them more layers and depth. It's easy to think of people as only one thing, that the face they present to the world is all that there is to them. I like the way the secret assholes are all about exposing the lie. Or they are a reminder that we are all attempting to be good, probably better people than we 'really' are, with varying levels of success. The secret asshole is a representation of that. Some revel in their secret assholery. Some are constantly doing battle with it. But either way, it's interesting to watch.

Earnest Do-gooders

Examples: Lois Lane, Superman/Clark Kent, half the cast of Glee (depending on what the writers are smoking that day), Jed Bartlet

This may seem weird, considering that I just wrote a lot of words about how much I like what seems to be the polar opposite of this. But frequently, the secret assholes can fit under this heading, too.

To me, the earnest do-gooder is not defined by their naiveté. I hate earnest do-gooders that are written that way, because it is hackneyed and cliched. The earnest do-gooder is defined by their conviction, their unrelenting desire to help people even when it is difficult and unpleasant and requires work. The earnest do-gooder does not have to be unwavering, but they have to have to choose to keep up the good fight, to continue to believe that acting is better than not acting.

I joke around that I am probably the most cynical person out of my friends. I can seem cheerful to some because it is very easy for people to clear the very low bar I set for them. When you carry around that much cynicism, it's easy to give up, inch by inch, on people and the world and the systems we live in. It's easy to check out and detach yourself from all of it. I got mine. Fuck you on getting yours.

The earnest do-gooder is then, to me, an aspirational character. They are a person who has faced down the shittiness of the world and has decided that they can clean up some of it, even if it's ultimately futile. It's a quality that I wish I had more of.

Computer Nerds

Examples: Hardison, Oliver, Oracle

This is probably self-explanatory, right? Blah blah blah overidentification blah blah blah.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment there using OpenID or you can comment here if you prefer. :) comment count unavailable comments there