5 Iconic Traits of Fictional Characters (That Are B.S.)
You know that TV's Dr. House was a cranky, sarcastic genius because every one of his actions and words proved it over and over. But there's a curious thing in TV where the "genius" character never actually does anything genius, and the "loser" actually has a pretty good life. The character's primary trait exists only in the form of people in the show telling us, despite all evidence to the contrary.
For instance ...
Dexter Morgan in Dexter Is No Criminal Mastermind
When Dexter was just a boy, his foster father, Harry, realized that, unlike most kids, who pick up hobbies like model building or guitar, Dexter was into pulling the limbs off of people. Harry decides to embrace Dexter's passions by turning him into a weapon for good, instilling in him a set of rules to kill by. Dexter targets criminals who managed to slip through loopholes in the law, presumably because therapy doesn't exist in Miami.
Mass murder isn't a very effective treatment for psychopathy.
Consequently, Dexter grows up to be a serial killer who, by the way, works with the Miami Police Department. He accrues dozens of kills over many years and gets away with every one. While he does make mistakes occasionally, this is a character who has absolutely perfected the art of getting away with murder.
Why This Is Bullshit:
The rules to which Dexter so strictly adheres aren't actually saving him; it's the complete and utter incompetence of the police that allows him the freedom to run around cutting up bad guys. If we look at even the easiest and cleanest of Dexter's kills, he still leaves himself exposed in a handful of ways. To begin, he relies on technology to track his targets; he downloads an absurd amount of protected information from police databases, and in the case of one of the show's most memorable bad guys (the "Trinity Killer," played by a sometimes-naked John Lithgow), Dexter talks to him several times on his cellphone before killing him. Apparently the Miami police don't bother checking up on the phone records when someone disappears.
We like to imagine that the priest from Footloose finally snapped.
Even more troubling is Dexter's incredibly elaborate, time-consuming and evidence-generating method of killing. He doesn't walk up to his victims in an alley and stab them in a way that could be mistaken for a random mugging. He prepares a ritualistic "murder room" full of artifacts from the killer's victims, and covers the walls and surfaces with plastic to prevent any DNA evidence from getting anywhere. He injects his victims with some kind of sedative so he can strap them down.
It's a huge pile of evidence that would nail him if any of it was ever connected to him, either before or after the fact. By covering entire rooms with the plastic, that means he's buying yards and yards of it for each kill. There's a hardware store clerk somewhere who watches a guy buying spools of plastic, face guards, gloves and aprons every week and says nothing about it. He's buying a powerful, injectable sedative from somewhere. Even Dexter's bank is complicit by completely ignoring his charges, which include everything previously mentioned, plus all the knives and instruments of torture he's bought over the years. He's stealing the victim photos, or making copies -- each picture having a direct link to the guy he killed.
"Mr. Morgan, care to explain these charges to 'Injectable Paralytic Agents 'R' Us'?"
And he has to be storing all of this stuff somewhere when he's not using it. Even if it's a storage locker under somebody else's name, he does this so often that there's no way he hasn't been seen coming and going dozens of times.
And once he's done with the kill, now comes the hard part: He has to dispose of all of that stuff. He can't just throw it in a dumpster when it's soaked with forensic evidence. Even if he's bundling them up in garbage bags with the bodies and dumping them into the ocean, those tarps are probably taking up more room than the victims. That means he'd have a lot more trash bags than just the six or seven we usually see him throwing overboard.
"That's it. I need to start composting this shit."
Finally, he's killing most of his victims in the worst possible places. Symbolism is important to Dexter; it's all about the ritual. So, in the final episode of Season 1, he drags his own brother (also a serial killer) to the same place he committed all his murders, which, incidentally, is also an active crime scene. The police know this man is on the loose and that he had murdered heaps of his victims in that very place. The fact that there aren't officers there the entire time that it takes Dexter to drain the blood out of his brother means that the homicide detectives in Miami are abysmal at their jobs.
George Costanza in Seinfeld Is a Lonely Loser Who Has Had More Girls Than Any of Us
A conceit of most television shows is that even the most awkward, neurotic, unlucky-in-love characters are still pretty attractive. But Seinfeld makes no pretenses about George Costanza; he's a short, overweight, bald man who's awkward, cowardly and terrible with women.
He's like looking into a sweaty mirror.
In fact, entire episodes are devoted to his horrible luck with relationships and his inability to get a date. He's constantly complaining that women don't like him, and none of his friends disagree. At one point, he takes to wearing sweatpants in public to specifically display that he has "given up" on ever being attractive enough to land a woman.
Why This Is Bullshit:
George Costanza gets a ridiculous amount of action. Over the course of the show, he has 43 girlfriends.
We might believe this scene, if it was ever revealed that George had an 11-inch prehensile tongue.
To give you some context, the average number of sexual partners most men have in a lifetime is seven. George's relationships blow the national statistics out of the water. His girlfriends aren't ugly, either. He manages to hook up with successful women, models and at one point Marisa Tomei. Not an actress playing Marisa Tomei, Marisa Tomei as herself.
Being punched by this woman is a healthier relationship than any of us will ever know.
And it's not like these are blind dates. The women genuinely like him. Even though he's emotionally abusive and borderline crazy, they just want him more. He can only chase them away by doing truly disgusting things, like combining sex, food and television. If George Costanza is bad with women, then every man who's not named Wilt Chamberlain has a lot of catching up to do.
Oh George, a smartphone and a Bluetooth headset would have saved you from so many breakups.
Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer Wants to Be "Normal"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer revolves around a high school student who discovers she's actually a superhero destined to protect the earth against demons, ghosts and vampires with swollen eyebrows. And she hates it.
The splinters are the worst part.
She's a reluctant hero who openly resents her abilities because they have stripped her of the chance of ever living a normal life, and because teenagers hate responsibility. In fact, she almost turns her back on her duties at the end of Season 1 and tries to run away at the end of Season 2 to escape the pressure of killing evil shit all the time.
Even by the final season, she's still complaining about how miserable it is. She tries to give an inspiring speech to a new group of vampire hunters, and instead it comes out as "I hate this. I hate being here. I hate that you have to be here. I hate that there's evil, and that I was chosen to fight it. I wish, a whole lot of the time, that I hadn't been." The point being, her powers are a curse, forcing her to save the world when all she wants is to be a regular girl.
Personally, we'd take fighting vampires over student loans and car payments. But whatever.
Why This Is Bullshit:
What's a "normal life" in the Buffy universe? How does she even have a concept of what normal is? Keep in mind, it's not like the demons only reveal themselves to her because she's a slayer, and everyone else gets to spend Saturday at the mall. The demons are real for everyone -- Sunnydale is a war zone. The only difference is that everyone else is helpless and she isn't.
"If only I could die screaming instead of kicking 17 kinds of ass."
Over seven seasons, we see enough bodies pile up in that town to know that the idea of normalcy doesn't exist for anyone. The show is set in a horrifying universe where every day, "normal" people have to worry about their organs being harvested, getting eviscerated by She-Mantises or being eaten by bullies possessed by demonic hyenas. Well over 10 students and faculty die every season at Sunnydale High School, and 100 percent of those deaths are murder by some supernatural creature. Being "normal" means being a vulnerable hunk of meat just burning time before getting eaten by a demon.
Buffy hasn't sacrificed her life for her powers; her powers are the only thing ensuring that she has a life. She is one of the few people capable of even stepping foot outside her house at night without having to worry about something crawling out of hell and planting eggs in her chest.
Or, y'know, wherever She-Mantises plant their eggs.
Daniel Desario in Freak and Geeks Isn't Either One of Those Things
The show Freaks and Geeks relies on an audience who already know people in their own lives who fit both of those epithets. Geeks are the nerdy types, freaks are the maladjusted kids peppered through every high school who miss class a lot and spend all their time doing drugs and each other. They are the outcasts, ridiculed and bullied by the popular kids in school just for being ambitionless, short-tempered products of broken homes.
But somehow they have approximately 4,000 percent less acne than any group of students at any real high school.
Now try watching the entire series again and let us know when you see a single example of that ridicule actually happening. We'll wait.
Why This Is Bullshit:
For a show that claims to concentrate on the lowest-rung losers of the high school social hierarchy, they sure aren't shy about making their main freak as handsome, charming and admirable as possible. James Franco plays Daniel Desario, who is less like the alienated slackers you remember from when you were a teenager and more like James Dean. Yes, he does all of the outlaw stuff that is supposed to make him an outcast, but it doesn't -- the show winds up portraying Daniel as hands down the coolest kid at William McKinley High School.
This kid never got pelted with pizza crusts for bringing his D&D books to school.
The main female character, Lindsay, even starts hanging out with the freaks primarily because she's attracted to him. She throws a party just to get an opportunity to hang with Daniel and is understandably bummed when he spends the duration of the party making out with his girlfriend instead. Daniel even juggles relationships between two best friends in one episode, and by the end, both girls still like him, but their friendship has been destroyed. In fact, his charisma and good looks allow him to manipulate people constantly toward his own ends. Sound like any other character you know?
The problem is that we don't get any context in the show for why he's designated as a "freak." There are no popular, rich kids bullying him, there are no star athletes slamming his head into lockers, he's not suffering any consequences for the way he is. In fact, the only bullying we ever see in the show comes from Daniel and his friends when they pick on the geeks. Throughout the entire series, the only things separating Daniel Desario from the popular quarterback cliche are a football and a nicer car.
Ah, doughnut-based bullying -- a staple of our high school years.
Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation Is a Terrible Warrior
Worf is the security officer aboard the USS Enterprise and its resident badass. He is a Klingon, which is a race that combines the rules and ethics of a samurai with those of Spartan warriors.
Their ancestral weapon is the most deliberately impractical sword ever designed.
Klingons are tough guys from birth, and trained in every form of savage combat imaginable. That's why Worf is tasked with protecting the more fragile members of the crew, even in an age when everybody has handheld weapons that can vaporize anyone they're pointed at.
Worf, seen here employing the ancient Klingon martial art of "grabbing people by the shirt and growling."
Why This Is Bullshit:
As you might expect, Worf gets into a lot of fights in The Next Generation, but he loses those fights with alarming regularity. It's surprising the Enterprise hasn't fired him out of pure embarrassment. By our count, he is portrayed as getting involved in over 20 serious fights through the run of the show. He loses about 75 percent of them. To give you some context, here's a compilation of him folding like paper in the face of confrontation:
The result of his losses varies from being knocked unconscious to nearly dying. In fact, Worf does die in the episode "Transfigurations," which was a special humiliation for him because the man who killed him did it accidentally, by pushing him off a walkway. You'd hope a man bred for battle would have a better center of balance (he was later revived, because this is sci-fi and nobody has to ever permanently die).
Worf has also been taken captive several times, occasionally by rogue members of his own crew, which means he's even losing fights to his co-workers aboard the Enterprise. Riker, Picard and even Deanna Troi, who has probably never fought a day in her life, all lay Worf out during the run of the show.
So just to clarify, Worf loses just as many fights to the people he's supposed to protect as he does to intergalactic punches. He's basically the alien equivalent of a campus security officer.
For more fiction that's trying to pull the wool over your eyes, check out 6 Movie Plots That Could Have Been Solved In Minutes. Or learn about The 5 Stupidest Ways Movies Deal With Foreign Languages.