Rage Against the Everyman

You know those blank, everyman characters whose purpose appears to be primarily to serve as an audience surrogate but who always seem to end up as the designated hero despite having all the color of a wet noodle?

They never worked for me.

It’s partly that they’re so blank. They have all the textbook hero motivations: get the girl (you ever notice how so many in science fiction and fantasy tend to be guys, unless it’s a romance?), save the world, prove themselves, find that elusive “happiness” thing, and if their pasts are secret figure out who they are. If they have problems, they’re probably problems we can all relate to because we’ve dealt with them ourselves—people who pick on them because they’re somewhat Different, not knowing what they’re supposed to be doing, facing their fears if applicable, not considering themselves worthy of whatever they’ve just gotten themselves into.

It’s partly that the world seems to revolve around them. Regardless of what goes on, it’s going to tie back into them somehow, because behold, this is the Audience Surrogate, if he’s pumped up the audience is going to feel pumped up as well. And meanwhile there might be other characters with personalities, ones who to the target audience might even feel like they are The Other—but let’s not worry about that, they’ll get their moments for their fringe fans and then either fade into the distance or come up with more problems (sometimes even in their own fields of expertise!) for the Audience Surrogate’s magical I-can-handle-everything to solve.

And then there are the difficulties they have fitting into their worlds. The thing about most audience surrogates is that, aside from their potential to do Awesome Things, their creators tend to keep them as similar thoughtwise to their audiences as they can. It’s doable in a world like ours, but as the culture gets more and more alien to us, the audience surrogate doesn’t, and thus gets more and more alien to the culture. Next thing we know, they follow ideologies they have no business knowing about and ascribe to the beliefs of political movements that haven’t yet been invented—and there’s no explanation whatsoever why they’re so different from apparently everyone else.

One of those? No thanks. Give me a fully thought out individual, characterized and quirky, flawed in a way that means something and just plain awesome, a product of her world or of her personal history, any day. Someone I can learn from, not someone I’m apparently supposed to imagine myself as.

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