My Favorite Characters Part One: Stupid but Pure

>> Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Perhaps not entirely stupid, of course. There's only so much stupid you can get and, truthfully, I don't think you can be truly pure without the ability to think. Without some intelligence, I believe, you are too easily manipulated to stay pure. Actually, this character is apparently brilliant, but he's often "naive" or innocent, or slow or, in some cases, a distinct underachiever.

I was watching one of my favorite animés, The Ouran Host Club, with my sister. We both really enjoyed it and, to my delight, we were both routing for the main character, Tamaki Suoh, to end up with "the girl." But I'm not entirely surprised.

There's something extremely appealing about a character who is trusting and wants to help people, who is open and, often, unsophisticated in his pleasure with everything. There is something appealing about someone who believes in people and sees his role as making others happy.

This kind of character is often protective and unselfish, charming and devoted. He's often the butt of jokes rather than the creator of jokes, but he doesn't let that stop him. He can be conceited, or humble, ignorant or slow, but he never forgets what's important and, when all is said and done, he does the right thing.

When I write, I rarely have "pure" characters, though I often use some of those characteristics in my main characters (which are generally more complex). I'm a sucker for a protective protagonist. A "pure" character is often most effective in satire where they can provide a bit contrast to characters that are venturing toward the dark side.

Fry, in Futurama, for instance could be considered a "pure" character, whereas Homer, in the Simpsons, is mostly just stupid (with moments). Flanders is actually a pure character, despite his overt religiousness, because he really does forgive and forget. Since I'm in a animated mood, Samurai Jack also counts as a pure character.

Pure characters can't be corrupted, though they can, in a superficial way, be fooled. They love romance and happy endings and will often go to great inconvenience to make them happen, even if they get nothing from it.

I identify with these characters; these are traits I strive for myself. So, you'll see aspects of them (and, even occasionally, the real thing) in my work.

What "pure" characters can you think of?


  • The Mother

    I find naivete to be annoying, and I don't know any truly innocent folks who aren't also naive. Morality isn't black and white, and until a person learns to understand the grey areas, I'm not sure we can decide whether they are really good or bad.

    For instance, we can name many,many examples down through history where massive harm was done in the name of "good" and "right" (usually also followed by "GOD.")

  • Shakespeare

    I pride myself on remaining naive even at my age, and I intend to be so until I die. It isn't that I hide from truth, but that I find the beauty of the world despite its ugliness.

    Fezzig would fall under this, as would Princess Buttercup in Princess Bride (and Inigo Montoya, my personal favorite from Princess Bride). And SpongeBob (my kids' favorite). Even Superman is naive... and good to a fault. Love them all... in fact, I love it when people are blissfully clueless... makes fiction more interesting. That is why Tamaki Suou appealed to me, too. Bad things happened to him--lots of bad things--and yet he kept himself cheery, expected happiness in the world, and thus brought out the beautiful in everyone around him.

    Lovely stuff. May I only be so wonderful!

  • Stephanie B

    I also see it differently, the Mother. You can corrupt someone into doing things they would normally eschew using hatred and fear as manipulators, but those manipulators are helpless against the type of individual I'm talking about, those that ran the underground railway and tucked German Jews in their houses (or helped them escape the country), those that believe doing the right thing is worth the price.

    But you can't swindle someone pure into performing cruelty, just out of their life savings. In fact, these kinds of characters are frequently intractable in the extreme except when it comes to their own well-being - and it is often their friends who look out for them.

    They exist. They've always existed and they often get called "dumb" because they put so much at risk for what they believed in. That's why I don't put every Christian in the same boat. There are evangelists and there are Quakers and they are not interchangeable.

    Note, also, these are *my* favorite kinds of characters (and there are more, hence the Part 1). You can like whatever kinds of characters you like and are not obligated to find the same sort of characters at all appealing.

  • bozzle

    Edward Scissorhands - I still love that schmaltzy movie and character.

  • Stephanie B

    bozzle, that's an excellent example and I meant to including another one of my favorites:

    Benton Fraser from Due South. I absolutely loved his incorruptible do-goodery.

  • Jeff King

    Sponge bob square pants… my son watches this show religiously, and I have grow to laugh at sponge bob and love his purity. He make you think how innocent people get taken advantage of because how much they trust the world and those people around them.

    From my childhood I came to love and admire the character Moses from the movie the Ten Commandments, his absolute faith and his ability to inspire with his aura or pure spiritual presents. I get motivated every time I watch it, Moses is the man….

  • Shakespeare

    Ooh, I totally agree with the Edward Scissorhands comment... I LOVED Edward Scissorhands!

  • Bob Johnson

    Very interesting Stephanie, I love anime, grew up with Kimba and astro boy, and my youngest daughter loved Sailor Moon.

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