Purpose one: writing a travelogue to describe my various trips.

Purpose two: muse.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Unintentionally Dislikeable Characters

Damages on AmazonI watched the first season of Damages, the 2007 show with Glenn Close and Rose Byrne. The show is outstanding and now one of my all-time favorites.  I wished they had stuck to legal and personal drama.  It would have made the show more realistic and there is plenty of tension and suspense to be had using that theme.  They added shocking violence, including several murders and attempted murders, which I thought was gratuitous.  That said, I understand violence sells and it still comes out as a great show to watch.  It is entertaining and the travails Ellen (Byrne's character) has to go through are real and poignant.

One thing I like in particular is that there are no good guys or gals.  There are gradations, of course.  Not all the characters are murderous villains.  There are just no obvious heroes.  Ellen Parsons comes the closest, but even with her, it is clear from the beginning that she is driven mostly by ambition.  There are some villains, but they are not obvious.  Frobisher (Ted Danson), the former CEO defending himself against Ellen's team, is the antagonist, and he is clearly of dubious moral character.  Still, some scenes elicit sympathy even for him, and it struck me that at the end of the season, it has not been revealed to the audience for a fact that he is guilty of all the actions charged.   It is also clear that Hewes (Close's character) is equally as heinous as Frobisher.

The character I disliked the most was Katie, Ellen's potential sister-in-law.  She is initially pegged as a witness against Frobisher.  I found her to be void of redeeming characteristics and full of despicable ones.  She is self-centered, self-righteous, conniving, lying, and vindictive.  She perjures herself out of spite, committing a felony lying about a man because she does not like him.  (There is some indication she is a good cook, which would be a positive, but since that is a skill and not a character trait, I am not willing to let that exonerate her, my high regard for the cooking profession not-withstanding).  I doubt it was intentional, but as written, Katie comes out worse than Frobisher himself.

This reminded me of another character partially fitting the same mold.  In Dollhouse, the main character is Echo, the most talented doll in the house.  Echo's real character, before she entered the Dollhouse and became a programmable doll, is Caroline.  I like Echo as a character and several early episodes piques the interest.  However, Caroline is naive, self-righteous and angry.  That is a dangerous combination.  I did not see a single scene that made Caroline come out in a good light, only as a rebellious, ditzy youth on a destructive bent.  To be sure, she did not have as many bad traits as Katie, but her personality makeup was more scary.

Again, I am doubtful that either of these characters were meant to be so dislikeable.  The shows work anyway.  In Katie's case, because she is not a main character and because everybody in Damages are so shady that she does not stand out so much.  In Caroline's case, because though Echo is a main character, Caroline is not and we see very little of her.

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