Why I Love the Wounded Jackass

| Monday, January 2, 2012
Today's Tune: Baleen Morning

Pacey Witter, 15-year-old me adored you.
Heads-up: this post will contain some spoilers for the television show Veronica Mars. If you are uninterested in being spoiled, skip that part.

If you shamelessly watch teen dramas and paranormal shows like I do, there's a good chance you've come across a certain sort of character. He's sometimes known as a "Bad Boy with a Heart of Gold" or that guy who masks his SECRET PAIN with sarcastic quips and occasional douchebaggery. I like to call him the Wounded Jackass.

And I looooooooove him.

Now, I don't think I've made it a secret that I'm not especially fond of male romantic leads that are serious jerks. Not like secret sweethearts with a tough shell, but honest-to-goodness condescending assholes. And I'm not going to lie, sometimes this character strays dangerously close or starts out that way (LOGAN ECHOLLS, I'M LOOKING AT YOU). I really think this guy has to be handled just right to stay on the side of sympathetic character rather than super-creep. Even then, he's not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

I'm also hard-pressed to think up female examples of this character. I'm sure they exist, but they're very rare. Which is unfortunate. It harkens back to the double standard that says men are allowed to put on their bitchface to mask their pain and they're just being understandably (and attractively) broody, whereas if a woman does it, she's just a bitch and no one wants to be around her. Uncool, gender double standards. Uncool.

Oh, Logan. You cut the line real close.
So, if I'm so anti-belittling jerkwad, why do I embrace this character so readily? Why am I all about the characters whose rough exteriors and sarcastic smartassery belie their tragic, tragic little wounded souls?

Because it is so, so human. We all put on masks and draw up our defensive walls to cover our insecurities or soft spots. I can appreciate a good Moat of Sarcasm. And let's not pretend that it isn't the secret wish of a lot of girls that their crush's teasing and jackassy ways are just hiding the gentle soul they'll reveal to us when we've sufficiently breached his defenses. Also, comic relief.

There's a fine line in the sand between a character who's just kind of a smarmy wise-ass and a character who lets his nastiness truly shine. I mentioned Logan Echolls of Veronica Mars earlier, and man, is this a character I have a love-hate relationship with. At the start of the series, we're really set up to loathe the guy. He doesn't tease. He's mean. He's cruel. Even when (SPOILERS) something begins to bloom between him and Veronica, his characterization is never easy. Yeah, he's got daddy issues. Yes, he tries to be a better person (eventually). But he never completely loses that jerky dark streak, and eventually Veronica has to walk away.

These guys like being in cars, I guess.
And that, I think, is what saved the character for me. He's not perfect. He's not full of sweetness and light at his core. And the title character eventually refuses to remain romantically involved with him and his self-destructive behavior. Logan tries, he does, but it's not enough, and the show wasn't afraid to let the relationship come to a messy end. That's real. That's true. Like Veronica, part of us still loves Logan, but we know he's not right for her.

Dean Winchester of Supernatural is another one of these. All of his smartass jokes can't always hide the fact that he's hurting. A lot. I can't help but love Dean. He's done some horrible things, yet he's still so sympathetic. We understand. He pushes people away because he's so afraid to lose more of the people he cares about. He's afraid of failing. Supernatural is a little different in their approach in that they build a brother-brother relationship dynamic, rather than a romantic one.

These characters are human. We can relate. We love them because we see all their sides. They differ from other jerkass characters because if they behave in a way that crosses a line, other characters call them on it and react accordingly. There's none of this excusing abusive or cruel behavior. When Pacey blows up at Prom and verbally berates Joey, she dumps his ass. When Logan does something Veronica finds inexcusable, she dumps his ass. When Dean crosses a line and says something he can't take back, Sam beats the crap out of him. The characters grow. They learn. Sometimes they change. They get over themselves and apologize or try to be better.

If only people could learn from their mistakes in real life, eh? If only we were willing to walk away from them until they wised up... if they wise up.

Do you find this sort of character appealing? Why? Who's your favorite example? Bonus points if you can give me a female example!


{ Old Kitty } at: January 2, 2012 at 7:00 AM said...

Being plenty old the best female character closest to your wounded jackass that I could come up with on a Monday morning is err... Carla from Cheers! LOL! She had a mouth on her that could curdle milk but her heart was in the right place and I love that even as she bad mouthed and derided her alter ego Diane - when it came to it, she showed her sisterhood by throwing out and spitting at (LOL!) the guy who dumped Diane in episode one.

You also mean tarts with hearts right? You know like oooh wossername, Pretty Woman character? I love characters like these. Tough nuts on the outside but inside lies a far more complex humane if wounded soul!

p.s. btw, I now admit I haven't a CLUE who these boys are here! LOL!

Take care

{ K.T. Hanna } at: January 2, 2012 at 8:28 AM said...

I love this! It's so true. I always prefer the wounded jackass too.

Female? I can't remember her name because I'm cutting back on TV, but in the Secret Circle the aussie chick. LOVE HER.

Happy 2012!

{ Megan } at: January 2, 2012 at 10:46 AM said...

Well, you've got a photo of Pacey up there so we're on the same page. I am also a huge fan of the bad boy with a heart of gold. My favorite from t.v.(although there was never a true mean side to him, it was more of a rough background) is Ryan Atwood from The O.C., and from books is (who else?) Mr. Darcy.

{ Jessica Love } at: January 2, 2012 at 11:16 AM said...

Oh man, I love Logan Echols. So much. And I'm so co-dependent I would have just stayed with him, trying to change him. I guess that's why it's good I just watch him on TV or read him in books and have a relationship with someone nice. Haha.

{ Tasha Seegmiller } at: January 2, 2012 at 11:49 AM said...

Cho on The Mentalist and Casey on Chuck are characters who I love - those who don't seem to care and then, when it really matters, they show kindness and sincerity. Love them.

{ Magan } at: January 2, 2012 at 1:14 PM said...

I would have to say Santana might be the wounded jackass. She is a bitch, but I love her anyway :)

{ Andrew } at: January 2, 2012 at 1:57 PM said...

I'm going with Cordelia from Buffy. Her self-centeredness and bitchiness is definitely a wall she throws up to protect herself.

I'm not sure I can get behind Santana as that kind of character. I don't think she has a "heart-of-gold," just a soft spot for Brittany, and those aren't the same things.

{ Brooke R. Busse } at: January 2, 2012 at 4:11 PM said...

I thought Santana, just like Magan, but I have to go with Andrew on the fact that it's usually just her family and Brittany that she's soft around.

Aphrodite from the House of Night series springs to mind.

{ TL Conway } at: January 2, 2012 at 6:45 PM said...

OMG, how much do I love me some Logan Echolls... This post is bringing on a full-out SWOON. Thank you!

I'm not sure about any female characters, I'll have to think about this some more. But for now, thanks for the smiles from both Logan and Dean Winchester. Fantastic!

{ Miss Meg } at: January 2, 2012 at 7:00 PM said...

I loved Logan Echolls... hardcore. My new (as in the last year or so when I finally watched the show from episode one) is Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl.
Totally, random btw... I came across your blog from a friend of mine. Pretty sure you're the S.E. Sinkhorn that was a mod on Bloop with me back in the day (damned if I can remember my user name back then, lol). *waves* 'ello again!

{ vic caswell (aspiring-x) } at: January 2, 2012 at 8:43 PM said...

this is an interesting line. and i did hate logan at first and then came to feel some real sympathy for him. and dean as well. he rode my nerves the first few episodes, but that character has one of the most noble hearts i've ever seen on a show.

veronica, herself, was a bit like this.
we see the show from her pov, so we know right away a lot of her motivations and reasonings. but if we had seen the show from someone else's pov, she might have come across as bitchy. not nearly as toeing the line as logan, but more like a dean... and it makes me wonder if that is why her character felt the need to give logan so many chances, that she saw herself echoed in him.
i don't know.

{ Gilly } at: January 3, 2012 at 6:11 AM said...

Loved this post!

RE: It harkens back to the double standard that says men are allowed to put on their bitchface to mask their pain and they're just being understandably (and attractively) broody, whereas if a woman does it, she's just a bitch and no one wants to be around her.

I wonder how much of this is influenced either by an actual or perceived female desire to "save" these wounded guys or "change" them?

{ We Heart YA } at: January 3, 2012 at 6:46 AM said...

YES x 100 to this post. Logan and Pacey are great examples. The bad boy played by Milo Ventamiglia (sp?) on Gilmore Girls is another example.

And YES, to Vic's point, that Veronica herself was a bit that way.

{ Steph Sinkhorn } at: January 3, 2012 at 7:17 AM said...

Excellent examples, all! And Vic, you make a great point about Veronica :)

Mary at: January 3, 2012 at 3:28 PM said...

It's perhaps too early in the series to tell for sure, but maybe Lady Mary from Downton Abbey fits your mold for female 'bad boy with heart of gold' type.

{ Elissa Sussman } at: January 3, 2012 at 4:31 PM said...

Word. I totally echo Vic's point about Veronica. I might even posit that Joey herself was a little like that. She definitely had the sarcastic quips down pat and some serious poor white girl pain. Another lady example I might offer is Meg from Hercules (because I am an animation nerd). She's a prickly one and for good reason, but all softie on the inside (she even sings a song about it!)

But a post that talks about Pacey and Logan Echolls? Be still my own snark-encased heart.

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