Saturday, February 23, 2013

Scandal, Antiheroes and Bad Behavior in Entertainment

A few weeks ago, I read about Shonda Rhimes, writer/creator extraordinaire of Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and my current favorite, Scandal, which this post focuses on, where she responded to Star Jones's critical tweet (at her) about why Olivia Pope continues her relationship with President Fitzgerald Grant even though he's married with kids when there are so many other guys available. And Shonda Rhimes said this and I LOVED IT.

I think "Scandal" is genius: the main romance is not traditional, and even outside of Fitz and Olivia's adulterous relationship, Shonda Rhimes is attempting to make us root for people who do really bad and morally questionable things all the time (Olivia's entire PR team) with often little in the matter of punitive consequences for their behavior. It's all so deliciously wrong. AND I LOVE IT. She's not the first to do it, but it's definitely the one everyone's talking about.

(Abbi Glines' "The Vincent Boys," which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, also does the same thing).

As a related aside, 1 and 2 star reviews are why I buy books. Why? This is usually where you can find people discussing the following: characters' judgment, bad behavior, behavior in general, morals, and general douchebaggery of characters. Any book that gets people angry about what the characters are doing usually means I HAVE to read it.

Anyway, Scandal got me thinking about "morally bankrupt" main characters who get away with the bad behavior. A lot. And I'm not even talking about the antiheroes who commit heinous crimes against other human beings (see Sons of Anarchy and Dexter), but the messed up, thoughtless, selfish acts that aren't crimes..or maybe they're emotional crimes, say, cheating. I know people who just won't read books where characters cheat, and where cheating characters get to live happily ever after, and this is understandable. Being cheated on hurts a lot and it's really one of those things that's so unnecessary (if you're that unhappy, grow a backbone and just break up with the person, right?), and we all have our preferences and sensitivities about what we want to see characters doing and what not.

Fiction reflects us so much sometimes and it can hurt to see. Fiction can be a trigger.

But to me, cheating seems like one of the most authentic situations fictional characters can engage in. We often make a point of discussing the perfect hero archetype who doesn't exist, and why it's bad to continuously have characters like this, but never really discuss the traits of people who actually do exist and what this means. The messed-up, thoughtless, selfish ones. The ones who cheat and say mean things and act without thinking. We berate them immediately (and I'm not saying they deserve sympathy at all), and we write them off without any real discussion about what's RIGHT about seeing them in literature.They're real. They're so incredibly real. Selfishness is one of the most realistic traits/behaviors I see in novels.

It's possible to live an entire lifetime without committing a crime against another person; however, it's rare to live an entire existence without hurting the people you know, without doing something and not thinking about who might get hurt, without putting your instant gratification first. Sometimes fiction hurts b/c we can put ourselves on the receiving end of the hurt, but it often slips our minds about the times we were on the giving end, too. And maybe that's why it's so easy to judge the fictional characters when they do bad and stupid things, when they're cruel and rotten.

A lot of times this is just a depiction and portrayal of something that actually happens, even if the person with the questionable morals gets everything they want in the end. That actually happens. It's the unfairness of life.  

Ultimately we don't have to root for the main characters when they're bad, we don't even have to sympathize with them or understand them. We can hate them. And we should. But we should also discuss them objectively.

Because the truth is, writers certainly are not pulling them out of thin air.


No comments:

Post a Comment