There’s a character we love, in all forms of media.
Is he the exciting hero? Is he clever, bold, handsome, courageous?
No. He’s a bit downbeat and low-key. A bit dumb. He drifts around in the background looking vacant.
And he’s the one we find most endearing.
He’s Rory Williams in Doctor Who Series 5-7.
He’s Rory Barker, who started as Junior Researcher in James May’s Man Lab.
We love them!
They’re in fiction too.
PG Wodehouse traded on them in his comic novels. Step forward Gussie Fink-Nottle. He’s Bertie Wooster’s friend, with a face like a fish. Gussie who’s ‘not quite with it’, he’s ‘caught up in his own world’ (which, in Gussie’s case, is an obsession with newts).
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle understood the archetypal power of this character too – in Dr John Watson, who seems dumb next to his brilliant colleage, Sherlock Holmes.
Among TV drama series we find Merlin. He plays this role for the benefit of Arthur, who doesn’t understand who Merlin truly is.
This character is ‘a bit of dill’, ‘a bit simple’.
And YouTube high-flyers like Charlie McDonnell also understand the appeal of this character. He’s under-stated, he’s self-deprecating.
Among young adult novels, The Declaration Trilogy by Gemma Malley has a character called Jude, who entered in the second novel of the trilogy, and who very quickly became my favourite character.
And in films we find Q in Skyfall – ‘a kid with spots’, as OO7 points out when he first meets him in an art gallery.
‘My complexion is hardly relevant,’ he says to Bond.
These characters are anti-heroes who endear themselves to us. Another name for this character-type is “the ingenue”.
Long live the anti-heroes.
Our love for them tells us something very heartening about human nature.