Relatable Characters Are a False Myth

It is a common stance among the highest spheres of the entertainment industry, especially among star-writers of any kind, that your characters must be relatable to the public. Relatable, not likeable, mind you.

I am sure most of you know what I am talking about, but this is a place for anyone, so I am going to explain what that means: I am referring to an aesthetic theory (because it is, although a bad one) consisting in stressing one or more flaws in a character, according to the idea that fictional people must be human and so relatable to those reading, watching or playing your product.

You are free to think that the intent is positive (I do not), but anyone with common sense can see how bad the outcome has been. When not striving to destroy the industry they were working in, corporate writers sought to gain attention by saying “Look, my hero is imperfect! Just like you!” and ended up telling stories of vicious people whom nobody really likes.

When they are not just villains in a hero’s clothing, Relatable Characters™  are like participants to a reality show, ready to be mocked and put down for their own shortcomings, their stories being humiliation rituals designed to provide vulgar satisfaction while saying “You are as bad as them”.

Do you think this makes up a bond between character and person? Do you really believe I can relate with this? The answer is no, of course, if you’re not a fake intellectual feeling a compelling need to show the world his ignorance.

It is a fact that nobody likes bad people. As human beings, we are, of course, fallen, but we tend to be attracted by the good in others; a good of different kinds and degrees, but good nonetheless. We despise disagreeable people, and get angry at our loved ones when they do something we do not deem positive.

Both numbers and common experience make manifest that nobody relates with Relatable Characters: kids and adults alike have run away from comics, leaving just those who have a symbiotic relationship with the medium, for example. And I believe that this is one reason behind the abandonment of high culture, since it seems almost impossible to find a fine artist or poet or composer with good artistic intent.

Do not get me wrong: it is good if your characters make mistakes, or if they are flawed. You got it wrong when flaws become real vices. One could say “We all have our vices and bond with characters that share them”, but these are just malicious words. The reality is that we do not like the sins of others, we just love ours. We hate others’ vices when they are manifest and uncontrolled, as much as we love to underline how much better we are at hiding ours.

If you want people to relate to your characters, let them be positive. Let them have likeable personalities, a positive attitude, and a capacity for good. Maybe at the start losers and neckbeards will dunk on them, but you will witness the love they will get from normal, good people, the ones that, admit it, will give you more than the others.

P.S.: That picture was just too good to be left unused. My intention was not to ascribe Iron Man to this category, I do not know the character well enough.

5 thoughts on “Relatable Characters Are a False Myth

  1. Wow! I’ve always thought exactly this but have never been able to put it to words.
    This is why I like heroes like the old Superman, not Emo Superman of today.
    I want to see someone better than me, not someone I pity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I am of the same ilk, and because of this I have never been able to get into superhero comics, before discovering that they used to be better many decades ago

      Like

  2. True. And notably, whenever people *do* like bad people, they tend to like the good *in* them. People admire the Joker, but usually not because he kills people, but because he’s strong and wild and unpredictable. Mobsters are flashy, but because they’re glamorous and powerful and masculine, not because they’re murderers.

    Liked by 1 person

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