I’ve broken down heroes by type before on this blog.
Specifically, I sorted them out by job type
into nine (and then eleven
) possible categories, from “The Pro at Work” to “The Worst Possible Pick”.
But there are lots of other ways to classify heroes, so let’s spend some days breaking them down by personality
Over the course of The 15 Minutes Project
, I came to a few conclusions.
First, I began to notice recurring personality types that audiences like, and jotting them down.
I ended up with five general categories, broken down into fourteen sub-categories (but a lot of heroes show up in two or three different categories, as you’ll see)
Second, I came to a rather depressing conclusion: The degree to which we like a hero has less to do with how likeable the hero is and more to do with how dislikable the people around
the hero are.
Unfortunately, this seems to me, on first blush, like a very cynical and manipulative way to write.
After all, when I was just focused on making heroes more likable, it was doubly enlightening, because I felt that I was also gaining life-skills for myself.
Perhaps, once I discovered what made Jimmy Stewart so likable, maybe I could become just as appealing myself.
But if the secret is simply to make everybody around the hero look awful, then that’s not a skill that I want to transfer over to real life.
Nevertheless: the evidence is pretty undeniable.
See if you agree with me as we look at our first category and first three sub-categories. Group A: The Defiant OnesSubtype 1: Bracingly honest, surrounded by liars or dissemblers
This is a classic example of a personality type that is only sympathetic in a certain environment. If you put a bracingly honest guy into Bedford Falls or Who-Ville to puncture everyone’s bubble, then we’d hate that character, because those people don’t have it coming.
Only in a rotten town is it heroic to confront everyone with the truth.
Subtype #2: The iconoclast, surrounded by suck-ups
Usually, people hate characters who just say no, but the exception is when things are so rotten that mere defiance becomes heroic.
Subtype #3: Drolly sarcastic, surrounded by the gung ho
This is somewhat similar to a category we’ll see in group five, “The easygoing one, surrounded by agitated people”, but the difference here is that these characters are far more barbed in their criticism.
- Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life (though George Bailey will show up again in other categories)
- Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, almost everything he’s done.
- Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies and almost everything else (will also show up again)
- Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon (will show up again)
- Kat Denning in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Thor, 2 Broke Girls, and just about everything
Tomorrow: Group B!