Archive for the ‘Character Studies’ Category

We single ladies love our fictional characters, am I right? The “good” ones inspire us, encourage us, offer a new perspective on just about anything, and we love to cheer them on. We want to see the “bad” ones get their just desserts, or see the light and mend their ways. (How many cliches can you fit into a paragraph?) Male fictional characters, just like in real life, can give us someone to wish for or a bad boy to win over. The tricky thing is that these characters often don’t translate well when it comes to real life. Things are funny that way, aren’t they?

Have you ever known someone who seemed like a real-life version of a fictional personality? I have met several in my day, and they mostly seem to be male. This is, I think, due to the (sad) fact that I “know” more fictional men than real men, and are more likely to compare guys I meet to fictional characters. With women, I have more real-life female acquaintances with whom to compare new people, instead of to fictional characters. I guess I know too many women to often say “She reminds me of so-and-so from that one book/movie/show.”

(Wait, I take that back. Emily Gilmore, from the TV show Gilmore Girls? That is my mom. Not the actress, but the character. All right, exception to the rule, moving on…)

(And Bethany and I actually remind ourselves of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, respectively. All right, I lied. Never trust me. Anyway, moving on NOW …)

Maybe you are intensely practical and obscenely realistic and have never had your thoughts or perspectives influenced by made-up characters. In all seriousness, I congratulate you, but that has never been a strong suit of mine. Many people, whether they know it or not, find it difficult to separate fact from fiction and exercise proper judgment. I’m not trying to sound condescending—I’ve had to deal with it, too! Without the proper perspective, and a healthy dose of realism, just about any work of fiction can have an impact on our real-life thinking. (From what I understand, although an extreme example, this is why pornography can be so damaging; also, why studies show that women who watch too many romantic comedies have a distorted view of relationships.)

Of course, insightful novels, films, and works of art can and should challenge us intellectually, but like I said, it’s about maintaining the proper perspective.

For our first character study, let us look at Jim Halpert from the U.S. version of “The Office.” Cute, funny, and easygoing, Jim is loved/liked/adored by just about everyone. He sends female viewers a-swoon with his hilarious office antics, his sensitive side, and his ability to befriend just about everyone, not to mention his undying love for Pam. Seriously, who wouldn’t want a boyfriend like that?

Well, I certainly did until I met a guy who seemed just like a real-life version of Jim Halpert, at least in terms of personality. We never dated, but I got to know him through a group of friends, obtaining a better look than the one we get of Jim Halpert, which is through a TV camera for half an hour on Thursday nights. Sadly, the sense of humor, so cute in a scripted show, was actually a mask for immaturity and the inability to address more profound subjects. A dead-end job, and failure to challenge himself, indicated laziness and a victim mentality. His “easygoing” personality eventually showed him to be unmotivated. As a Christian, he used “waiting on God” as an excuse for inaction. As a “nice guy,” he didn’t stand up for himself, or for much of anything else, and was constantly compromising.

Now, I am not trying to ruin the image of dear Jim Halpert, or say that you should not watch “The Office”! Neither am I trying to bash the real-life guy just to air old grievances I don’t even have. I do wish him the best and hope that he “got his act together,” as my mother might say. I just want to remind you ladies, including myself, that there is always more to someone than you might think, good or bad. Superficially appealing traits might, in fact, mask deeper issues. If you say “I want a boyfriend just like this guy in [insert movie/book/TV show name],” consider what that might really mean.

Another fictional character I’ve “known” in real life comes from the opposite side of the personality spectrum: Dr. Gregory House, of the medical show “House, MD.” A parody of “House” that I saw online described it as a show written “for women who like abusive men” or something like that. There’s a measure of truth to that description, however funny. I myself don’t care for abuse and I still (mostly) enjoy the show, but why do many viewers find the main character appealing? I mean, he’s rude, verbally and emotionally abusive, manipulative, a drug addict, selfish, arrogant, antisocial, sexist, generally amoral, and for the most part refuses to deal with any of his “issues.”

AND YET he is massively intelligent, often brutally honest, stubbornly sticks to his convictions (such as they are), and, being a doctor, helps to save lives. [Yes, insert swoon here.] The combination of good and bad traits in such a strong personality can be rather heady, don’t you think? Many women viewers, I am sure, experience a triggering of some maternal or nurturing instinct and wish to comfort or heal this “damaged” man, or even want to rise to the classic challenge of “taming” the “bad boy.”

For the love of goodness, beware of this instinct in real life!

Although I was not romantically involved with someone like Dr. House, I have known a guy with a similar personality. Sarcastic and biting, he considered himself very smart and enjoyed putting others down to demonstrate this, without consideration for the feelings of others. He had an uncanny ability to suck the joy out of a room, and made others nervous about speaking up, such a strain was his negative attitude.

People like this can be poison—a little exposure to them may not be bad, and may be unavoidable or even necessary, but too much and it will damage you. The “toxic” person may or may not be aware of it, but should you come across a similar personality in real life, do exercise extreme, prayerful caution—be the person male or female—and practice complete avoidance if necessary.

Of course, as servants of Christ we are called to do good (Psalm 34:14), and forgive our enemies as well as pray for them (Matthew 5:44). We are, however, also to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), avoid association with wicked people (Psalm 141:4), and demonstrate not even a hint of immorality (Ephesians 5:3). It sounds severe, but this is a way for God to protect His children. Flee from temptation if you cannot withstand it (I Corinthians 10:13) and do not leave yourself vulnerable to abuse of any kind, for example by investing too much, emotionally, in an association or relationship with someone like the characters described above. Being loving does not mean being stupid also. If you know someone like this, again I say, certainly pray for the person, and demonstrate God’s love if your paths cross. But you must also guard your heart, emotions, mind, attitude, and body, and at some point may simply have to shake the dust from your sandals and move on.

Am I saying not to watch these TV shows, or to avoid people who remind you of fictional characters? Am I saying that you should not find the characters interesting, or admire their positive traits? I am most certainly not! Do I still watch House? Guilty! I only want to remind you, and by doing so remind myself, that there does exist a line between reality and fantasy, and that traits in a fictional personality may not be quite so endearing in a real, live person.

I merely wanted to share a cautionary tale based on my own personal experiences, but by all means take it with a grain of salt. Heck, take it like a deer and get a whole salt lick—I don’t mind. Have fun, of course, but exercise caution, and do not leave yourself vulnerable to unnecessary pain. Remember that this is Reality, and we do things differently here.


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