Why We Like Dark Characters
Walter White, Don Draper, Hannibal, Dexter… TV’s golden era is filled with anti-hero, good men turned bad and straight up sociopaths. Why do we like these characters at all? And what makes them not just likable but oozing charisma? The answers teaches us about how human connection works and the nature of attraction and intimacy.
To get into this discussion we first have to answer: “What is a character?” To start, let’s say “his characteristics”: is he charming, courageous, vindictive or generous? This is a good start and one of the reasons we like stories is to explore the “character arc”: how and why a character changes over time. Luke Skywalker learns self-assurance through the events of “A New Hope” so when we see him leading at the beginning of “Empire” it makes sense how he changed from whiny farm boy to leader of the rebellion.
But who's more charismatic: Luke Skywalker or Han Solo? While Luke is the Hero, Han is the show-stealer of every scene he's in. Why?
The world is susceptible to infinite perceptions and our perception makes our reality. One of the purposes of stories is to discover new ways of perceiving the world. The more removed from the normal the perception is the more we are drawn to it. Art completes the world we cannot live.
In other words, a character is their perspective on the world. Stand on the metro for an hour and eavesdrop on conversations and observe which conversations engage you. It's the ones that make you think about the world differently. The same is true in art.
We feel drawn to these characters because they represent another way of seeing the world - an attractive way - full of adventure, excitement, power and experiences we dream of. And then the director treats us to insight of how they developed this perspective. We see the back-story and vulnerable center which is the core of intimacy I explained in my blog about the onion theory of intimacy. It is this unique and powerful worldview, combined with a sense that “we truly get him” that creates the magnetism that is undeniable towards these characters. We like Han Solo not because he’s a badboy but because he’s a badboy with a heart of gold – a heart that comes out just for us.
As I’m writing this in the café, there’s a date next to me. The girl just told a guy “You usually just spout bullshit ideas and I hate them but now I know where they come from and I like them.” It’s really that simple.
[Perspective]. [How I came to the perspective]. [Throwback Question].
Start to talk like this and watch your world change.