Characters are funny creatures. We give them a lot more leeway than some of them deserve, or would get in real life. Why is that?
Why does the sweaty bum get a sideways glance and an upturned nose on the street, but sympathy and patience in a story? Is it the smell? Do we just assume that all the real bums are on drugs and going to slit our throats for the $2 in our pockets?
Why does Alan from the Hangover movies get laughs and love, while in real life… we’d probably avoid him at all costs? I mean, he’s not a good person. But it’s funny to watch all the things that he does, nice or not. Elder abuse, masturbating on public transit, drugging his friends, etc. Not to mention his mannerisms and behavior in general. Maybe we all know a toned-down Alan who we can point to and say “dude, that’s you!” Why is it funny that he’s such a dick?
How about Sarah Connor, from the Terminator series/TV show? Beside the fact that if you met her, she’d probably kill you, she’s a very very single-minded individual. But we love her for being such a bad-ass.
We love Scarlett O’Hara even though she is a childish, vain, harmful person to know. But she’s tough and determined to care for her family. And we love that. We can deal with the pettiness. (Okay, I may or may not be in the minority in loving her, I’ve gotten into a debate over whether we are even supposed to like her.)
We love Edward Cullen, even though he’s obviously a creepy stalker pedophile. (Okay I’ll be honest. I don’t love him. But I’m sure that with the right vampire…. I’d get over the creepy stalker pedo thing, too.)
We love alpha males of any kind, even though they are generally domineering assholes.
We love James Bond. Do I really need to list any reasons why we shouldn’t? I mean, it’s James Bond. He’s just “too cool for school” and unless you’re a hot female spy ready for a little ‘wham-bam-thank-you-mam’, you know he’s not going to give you the time of day. He doesn’t even rescue puppies. (That I’m aware of, I could be wrong.)
Why do we love Dexter (from Dexter), who… you know, murders bunches of people?
Just pick any character from Mad Men, they’re probably a cheating, conniving jerk.
And let’s not get started on Breaking Bad.
So why do we love all these douchebags, harlots, and scumbags?
Is it because they are predictable, while the real life versions are not? Is it because they’re broken, and we like to know that there’s someone out there more damaged than ourselves? Is it because we secretly want to be them, but only on occasion and only for pretend (looking at you, Bond).
Do you think that it’s because once we start a story we are invested in them, so we really just have to know what happens to them, so then we automatically care long enough to get to the damage? And after we see that they aren’t “just” something, we can like them for real?
Alan wants friendship. Sarah Connor wants to protect her son (and also humankind). Scarlett is trying to save her home and her family (including slaves, cousins, etc.). Alpha males are usually also protective, capable, and looking for some kind of real connection. James Bond… and the stereotypical bad-ass chicks who don’t take shit from NO ONE are, well… inhumanly competent and generally have amazing toys. And we want that.
As far as giving everyone a fair chance… why do we do that, too? Someone tells a homeless man to get out of his face, or crosses to walk on the other side of the street and we think “awww… that guy is a jerk, that’s a human, too you know” when in the same situation, we would probably do the same thing, or at least think about it.
The “smelly kid” in a movie or book is someone to be pitied and befriended while in real life he’s clearing rooms and getting sprayed with deodorant “for his own good.”
So, who are your top picks of the characters you love, but probably should hate? Why do you think we love them? Why do you think that we’ll give the “ugly” people more of a chance in fiction than in real life?