Friday, 17 February 2012

Dark Horse Syndrome

The other day the question occurred to me “Do those really shady, rouge-like characters actually know how cool everyone finds them?” You know, the kind of guys that stick to themselves, mind their own business and every now and again drop into someone's life in order to do something really awesome or personally significant, and then they drop back out again to do whatever it was they normally do until the cycle repeats? I mean guys like Rufus from Bill and Ted, Shadow from Final Fantasy 6, or for something more relatable, a teacher who's popular with their students, but has a low position in the overall hierarchy of their job. The thing is, because of their seclusion from the people who look up to them, most of these people would have no idea of how people receive them. This is further accentuated by the fact that, because the characters are so well received, people would tend to ignore the negative aspects of their character, because outwardly they appear “so cool.” This can lead to an alienation of their own personal strifes, and advocate them as aspirational, when in reality, they may not actually be that admirable a role-model.
Image from Wikipedia

This isn’t so bad when its someone you met briefly in real life, because then it’s more a matter of your perception of that persons character, rather than their actual character, which is likely to be exaggerated and emphasised by your own personal aspirations. But when it’s a character from a work of fiction it becomes more complicated. Because in a work of fiction we don’t only get to see the character while they’re around people, but also while they’re alone; and most of them tend to end up as miserable of tragic characters. Even in the case of real life, it’s unlikely that such a person will live up to the fantasies of grandeur that people place on them. But back to the original question: “Do these people know how cool people find them?” Well we can attempt to answer this by using my favourite emotion: Empathy!

So imagine that you were one of these deviant, but popular characters: you don’t talk much, you keep to yourself, and your only companion is your dog. You own a gun which you know is illegal but you leave on the table in front of you anyway and no one questions it because the longer they ponder your existence the more their fear becomes ubiquitous. Chances are you’re pretty lonely and have to deal with all your stresses by yourself. You know you’re able to do this and you know that’s an admirable quality that not many people carry, but it’s still a burden in its own right. You tend not to have time for other people, and conversation bores you.

Now that you’ve completely (hopefully) engrossed yourself in that character, can you say what people think of you? If that was a bit too exaggerated an example for you but you get the idea, you can always try making up your own one (Imagination!) The point is to think of a character that you find cool, but fits that eccentric or secluded archetype, and then once you’ve really connected with them, switch your viewpoint. Be the person being watched (Your character,) and the person watching (You.)

The thing is that sometimes we get characters in fiction who represent a very strict way of life. These characters are often diligent, deviant and concise in their actions. But as awesome as they seem, it’s very unlikely that anyone would really want to be them, even though they represent the most independent of characters, their choice of lifestyle could rather ironically be one of the most emotionally demanding that there is.

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