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?