I heard a teenage boy ask why girls worry so much about wearing makeup and the latest fashions. I stated that it is a form of societal pressure. We put pretty girls on magazines and then crop their pictures. Women go under the knife to get rid of wrinkles so they can stay on TV longer—I promise this post is not a feminist rant. I started thinking about movies that are based on real people. The actors change their appearances, but when the photos of the real people scroll at the end it’s easy to see a stark difference. It’s not Hollywood’s fault. I think a “regular” looking person wouldn’t make it in the business in the first place.
But, then I thought about books. Many books might depict the
protagonist as feeling “plain” about their looks and then signal that others don’t
feel the same way. In other words, all female protagonists, especially in YA
novels, who feel like an ugly duckling don’t find it hard to capture the eye of
a boy throughout the course of the novel. Extending this, I was hard-pressed to
find protagonists with any sort of flaw. Sure, they may have character flaws in
their personality, but none have any real impediments. If a character does,
then they are a comedic sidekick.
The closest I could think of was Harry Dresden in the
Dresden files. He burns his hand to the point of crippling in one of the books.
He suffers in one or two books after, but then it isn’t really addressed as something
he has to overcome. In the Percy Jackson series, the boy suffers from ADHD and
dyslexia. What is cool about this concept is that his dyslexia turns out to be
a power in which he can read ancient languages. So, I started thinking…in a
society that is politically correct and wishing for everyone to be empowered,
why are there not more characters who overcome tremendous flaws—or even have
those flaws turn into powers?
I’m not saying novels should take a stand and provide “feel
good” type storylines, but I am curious if there are plots missing from
literature. Is there a way to twist what society determines to be a “debilitating”
disorder, but in the right circumstances/worlds this is actually a strength? Imagine
the possibilities for avenues not yet pursued. I don’t know about you, but I’m
getting tired of the same plot of the outcast girl who meets a boy, or the
journalist who goes after a good story. I am tired of the beautiful stereotype
that society tells me to aspire to be. While I don’t want the raw and
emotionally draining reality, I would like to see a new twist that breaks the
stereotype. Although, even if that comes out, how much you want to bet Hollywood
will still cast the same smoking hot actors…but maybe have them limp a little?
What about you? What are your favorite “flawed” characters
who overcome their obstacles?