Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Layered Characters and My So-Called Life

I am obsessed with characters and books and shows with good characterization. I love getting inside someones head, living in their skin and dissecting all their different layers: flaws, assets, fears, loves...everything. When it comes to books I am SUCH a character reader. I have to fall in love with the characters on the page. I have the get them, but also be confused by them. Make sense? Probably not. I want to understand them, but still have my questions too, because when you think about it, you can never really completely know or understand anyone. Each layer of every person is so complex... and some parts change as they grow while other stay the same. Those are the kind of characters I want to write. REAL. LAYERED. FLAWED. BEAUTIFUL.

What brought this on, you ask? Well, I don't know how many of you remember the show My So-Called Life. It only played for one season in the mid nineties, but it is and will always be one of my favorite shows. It not only shows real life like no other teen show I've ever seen, but the characters are so painfully real that they break your heart. And they make you smile. Make you hurt with them and feel their joys. I "get" them, but then in other ways, they baffle me. Rayanne, Ricky, Jordan and Angela. The parents, Sharon, and the "nerdy" neighbor Brian. They're all endearing for their own reasons, and they're all flawed, tragically flawed.

I could go on and on even more than I already have if I try and dissect all the characters. I'm sure my out-of-left-field post is already rambling enough, but I have to talk about Jordan and Angela.

Have two TV characters ever been written as raw and real as them? I'm not sure. Jordan. Gorgeous, sexy, aloof, troubled, Jordan Catalano. I love him. I do and I'm not even sure why. Most of the time he doesn't treat Angela the way he should. In fact, throughout the season he pulls some pretty crappy stuff where she is concerned. He wears this mask that he doesn't care and he's good at it. It fits him, but underneath it, hiding in all those layers I keep talking about, you know he loves her. You know he's...lost. Trying to navigate his way through his rocky life, just like Angela, only he's not as good at hiding it.

He's the epitome of the tortured hero. You can actually see the push and pull war being fought inside him. Feel the unexplainable magnetic draw sucking him toward her. And then the resistance, the push as he fights that pull. It's brilliant. You can't hate him, because somehow you feel his conflict. Or maybe it's just me... LOL.

And Angela. LOVE her. She is probably one of the most raw character I've ever seen. It's like you're living inside her heart while your watching the show. You feel each stab of rejection, each pulse of excitement, each seed of hope when it comes to Jordan. She's painfully honest in the truest form. I tear up while I'm watching her. My heart speeds up the first time Jordan acknowledges her in school and they walk down the hall holding hands.

It's incredible, beautiful storytelling.

And because I'm a total romantic and just finished watching this episode, I leave you with Jordan finally being proud to walk down the hall with Angela.

Have you seen My So-Called Life? If not, you should. What are some of your favorite shows with great characterization?


Unknown said...

Oh how I loved this show!!! I'm crying right now just watching that scene. Thank you so much for posting this.

Great characters on tv right now for me are in shows like Burn Notice, Sons of Anarchy and Supernatural. They're real, raw and their flaws get them every time. I'm a huge fan of BSG and Firefly, which had some of the most brilliant characters on tv.

Madison Scott said...

Melissa, I know! I loved the show when I was younger. In December I had my 31st birthday and it just got me thinking about the past and I just had to go out and buy the season. I just love it. I was the same way with that scene.

I think it's a combination of the writing and Claire Danes acting that makes the whole season so emotional and raw.

I will have to check out some of the other shows you mentioned.

Unknown said...

That show made me love Claire Danes, but I loved all of them,really. A spectacular cast. There hasn't been a teen drama to equal it.

D. F. Krieger said...

I adore Firefly (which I saw Melissa mention). The characters each have their own distinct personality's, and their own personal battles. The captain who is a survivor of a great war, and fights daily with his 'fathering' mentality. The brother who gave up everything to try to help his 'deranged' sister. You cuss, cry, and cheer for them.

Madison Scott said...

No, there hasn't been a teen show to equal it.

Madison Scott said...

DF, I love it when a show can make you feel so many different emotions.

Jen B. said...

I agree with Melisssa and D.F. about Firefly. I even bought the DVD set because it doesn't get replayed enough. My current obsession is The Big Bang Theory. The characters are really well developed (kind of stereotypical but I have actually known people like them). And interestingly enough, the new versions of Dr. Who have amazing character development. I also loved Dead Like Me. I mean Mandy Patinkin is amazing! And if you like whimsy, Pushing Daisies was incredibly well done.

Wendy A said...

I only read books except on thursdays night when i watch vampire diaries i love that show the two brothers are so sexy one bad and one good they are yummy.

Tess MacKall said...

Never saw the show, sweetie. But it sounds like it was worthwhile for sure.

I rarely watch YA type shows anyway. But it sounds like you have a major talent for getting into a character's head for sure. And it shows in your work.

Madison Scott said...

Okay that's a few for Firefly. I must watch it.

Madison Scott said...

Wendy, I always forget about Vampire Diaries. I haven't watched it for a while!

Madison Scott said...

Tess, I think this is one show that actually works for adults as well. It's different than any other teen show I've ever seen.

Thanks for the compliment. *blushing*

Jen B. said...

If you have ever seen Castle, you'll know what I mean when I say Nathan Fillion and Firefly, AHHHH! If you try it, look for the episode Heart of Gold. It is space cowboys at it's finest and it has a lot of recognizable actors. Hope you enjoy!
Jen B.

B_Jilly said...

OMG! One of my (now, no longer) secret vices.

"Why are you ... the way you are?" he asks her at the dance, leaning against the fence. BRUTAL!

I knew I loved ya, doll ...

Madison Scott said...

No, I haven't watched Castle. I will check it out.

Madison Scott said...

I just watched that episode. It kills me, but the way he says it, it doesn't feel brutal to me. Just like he can't understand why she gets to him so much.