The Fifth and Final Group: Fun Lovers. Obviously this is a type most associated with comedies, but they can also be surprisingly effectively in dramas: after all, there’s nothing that angers some people more than positivity, so there’s lot of room for serious conflict, as movies like Prick Up Your Ears and Happy Go Lucky show.
Subtype #1: The party-starter, surrounded by duds.
- Jason Robards in A Thousand Clowns
- Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude
- Gary Oldman in Prick Up Your Ears
- Vince Vaughn in Swingers
- Seth Rogen in Knocked Up and just about everything else he’s done
Subtype #2: The easygoing one, surrounded by agitated people. As I pointed out before, this is somewhat similar to “drolly sarcastic, surrounded by the gung ho”, the difference here is that these heroes are more at peace with themselves.
- Jimmy Stewart in Destry Rides Again
- Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles
- Bob Hope in Son of Paleface, and just about everything else
- Sally Hawkins in Happy Go Lucky
- Ed Helms in Cedar Rapids
- Zooey Deschanel on “The New Girl”
So what do you say, people? Are there any types I missed? Can you think of likeable heroes who don’t fall into any of these categories? Do you think I’ve miscategorized anybody? Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up and I’ll draw some conclusions...
Here's an odd mix: Harry Paget Flashman, from George Macdonald Fraser's novels (one of which was made into a movie, "Flashman," starring Malcolm McDowell).
Cynical, successful, lecherous, cheating anti-hero who doesn't deserve his victories, but who knows himself for who he is, feels for those who get killed, and shows himself vulnerable to his cheating, beautiful wife.
Comparing him to this list shows me what a genius GMF was.
The Flashman novels have always been on my list to read, but I've never gotten to them. I suspect I'll love them, because I've always been fans of satirical "imperialism at its worst" stories.
It certainly seems like nothing builds sympathy more than a cheating spouse, even for such a thoroughly despicable hero as Flashman.
Vince Vaughn in Swingers is an odd choice to me because the story isn't really about him -- it's about his friend, the glum guy with the broken heart.
I only point this out because I think it's easier to get away with thinner characters when they aren't the center of the movie, so I'm not sure he qualifies as a hero. He's almost comic relief, although that pushes too far the other direction.
That said, I do think you have missed a character (unless I missed it in your list): the believer surrounded by un-believers. Mulder in The X-Files, Dreyfus in Close Encounters, and I'm sure someone else not in a story involving the paranormal.
It's no coincidence that a lifelong skeptic like myself wouldn't think of that one. I guess that would go under "underappreciated".
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