Friday, September 16, 2011

The Flaws of Fictional Characters, and Why We Love Them

Try as we might to attain perfection in everything we do, the truth of the matter is that we have our flaws.  Perhaps this is why when we see flaws in fictional characters, it can end up making us pity or even adore them.  Simon Oakland has played countless characters during his time as an actor; no single character, whether good or bad, is without flaws.  These flaws are essential to their characterization.

For Simon’s villain characters, the flaws are pretty easy to see: Mel Barnes’ general nastiness, William Poole’s madness, Seth Tabor’s greed, Bolivar Jagger’s ingratitude, Mandee’s treacherous nature, Nick’s scheming and so on.  Of course, these flaws don’t make these characters endearing in anyway, but Nick’s sheer misfortune in how spectacularly his plans fail make him a laughable villain, at best.

Then there are the characters who are not quite villains, but aren’t exactly getting along with the main characters, either.  It is these characters’ flaws who actually do allow them to earn some pity, despite their standing.  Sancho Fernandez and Frank Epstein are both bitter, vengeful men, yet after the viewer realizes that their bitterness is not unfounded, the viewer nonetheless ends up siding with them, or, at the very least, giving them their pity.  Vern St. Cloud, for all his boisterousness and loud mouth, one can’t help but pity how his insistence to act like a tough guy sometimes get him into trouble.  And Lt. Schrank, despite saying a great deal of nasty things, earns a bit of pity after one takes a step back and realizes how jaded he has become after years of trying—and failing—to get rival street gangs to stop their fighting.

And yes, even the characters who are good guys all around have their flaws.  Alonzo Galezio’s flaw may be that he’s just too nice for his own good; he still longs and hopes that Donna Fuller will somehow see past his winemaking occupation and accept him for what he is, despite being insulted and verbally brought down by her.  And even after her mob wrecks his personal property and, in doing so, his potential livelihood, he can’t bring himself to press charges and instead tries to pick up the pieces and move on.  General Moore, despite being the tough-but-fair commanding officer of the Marines at Esprito Marcos, is revealed to put his instincts as a father first when he makes a somewhat unprofessional—albeit understandable—attempt to transfer his Navy nurse daughter to a safer place (this attempt fails upon her reminding him that he is obligated not to do so).  And Tony Vincenzo is an interesting mix of a temper to be reckoned with plus a person too nice for his own good; while a good portion of his dialogues with Carl Kolchak are often at a considerably loud volume, the truth of the matter is that he would do anything to help his sometimes-unfortunate employee, even at the risk of his own job security (as The Night Strangler movie showed).  And all of those threats to fire Carl?  All talk, and nothing more.  And Carl knows it.

It is important for fictional characters to have believable flaws; it is these flaws that make them more real and easier to relate to, particularly regarding the non-villain characters.  It makes them more human (even the characters who aren’t human, such as the Empyrian, who acknowledges his own mistakes after the humans he shanghais prove his mindset wrong).  And it’s another way that Simon, as an actor, reached out to us to remind us of what makes us human ourselves: the fact that we’re not perfect… and how that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, as long as we’re inherently good people.

~Crystal Rose

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