|Pacey Witter, 15-year-old me adored you.|
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.|
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.|
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!