My Favorite Characters 8: Flamboyant and Kind

>> Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another traditionally female role, and frequently a side rather than main character, this is the flamboyant, frequently popular, loud, embarrassing, beautiful “friend” of a main character. This character is generally emotive, extroverted, popular, over-the-top, colorful even silly. The character squeals, groans, and overplays (depending on gender and the setting of the story) responding to happy events with the glee of a toddler and to misfortunate with the sympathy of Florence Nightingale or the optimism of Pollyanna.

If this character is beaten down, the despair is never of long duration. If this character’s friend is overly serious and introverted, this is the friend that drags him or her out into the light of day. This is the individual that shows the humanity of a stoic character or brings out the humanity in a diamond in the rough.

Mavis, the friend of Eve Dallas, is an excellent example, but she’s been around a long time. Up until the last century, male versions were fops or playboys or other variations and, admittedly, these characters are often sexually liberated and promiscuous, like John Candy’s character in Splash. They are brash and impossible to embarrass or subdue. Once in a while, one with a lighter hand will get to star (like Captain Kirk of the original Star Trek series), and, as is often the case, the character brings out the extremes in reaction – love or hatred. In more recent years, as homosexuality has become more accepted, there have been more male characters playing the homosexual drama queen (which makes it seem almost stereotypical), but the type has been around much longer than that. And male versions have been around longer than that and existed in reality (like Lord Byron).

What makes these characters appealing to me is that these characters are portrayed routinely a strong streak of real decency that allows them to befriend characters that otherwise might be overlooked or ignored or to refuse (even when under pressure) to follow the crowd in hurting others until one realizes that they are popular not because of their flamboyance but because of their core of unshakable human decency and kindness. Like the deceptively sweet, when pressured, they are just as tough and just as devoted as the stoic, even if their attitudes and characteristics might tempt you to dismiss them as silly or worthless. You also find out that the silliness hides a sharp and capable mind. The act is part of their charm, part of their personality, but it’s not the extent of either one.

And this kind of brings me full circle because the first character I mentioned (My Favorite Characters 1: Stupid but Pure), Tamaki Suoh, fits in this character, too.

I have so much to work with. I just love it.


  • Relax Max

    I recognized the picture as Lord Byron before I read his name in your post. I don't want to even think about what that says about me. This must stop; I am not flamboyant, I am a hardass character. Hardasses have no place knowing shat Lord Byron looks like.

    But it reminded me of a post I have been wanting to do that also mentions his name.

    You should write a guidebook on character types.

  • Stephanie B

    It occurs to me that, though Lord Byron was certainly flamboyant, he isn't a character I like. He's missing that core of human decency and kindness.

    The man was in need of a good kicking.

  • The Mother

    This is the classic sidekick that the movies SO love. They tend to be drawn as caricatures, at least in films, but then, who has time to develop personalities in 2hr and 10 minutes?

    Lord Byron was, as you point out, not so nice of a guy.

  • Stephanie B

    You're right about movies liking them (and how easy it is for them to slip into charicature), the Mother. But they're in books as well and, when they take the time to show the humanity, sometimes it just brings home how much more people are than they image they project. In my opinion, that's the way to use a stereotype.

    I've seen it happen, often with just a few words at the right time (such as the John Candy character - who's name I really should look up - from Splash). They are often also the most entertaining characters around, including the main ones.

  • Stephanie B

    In hindsight, I wish I'd put just about any picture there instead of Byron. I might just do that when I get home.

  • Jeff King

    yes better pic...

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