Monday, May 5, 2014

Here Are Five Good Reasons Why I Love Fictional Characters

I’m a big proponent of fiction.  Whether it’s a film, a television series, or especially a book, I strongly prefer fiction to reality.  After all, aren’t all of those mediums supposed to be escape mechanisms?

Just as I fall in love with songs, or get attached to cities, or novels, or bands, I also tend to become obsessed with the fictional characters I encounter in my reading or watching.  For the most part, they’re just so damn much more fascinating than so-called “real” people, plus, not only do they generally not have many faults (and the faults they do have are charming or interesting, of course), but they also don’t have a problem with your faults.  I mean, Dexter Morgan might have been a serial killer, but he never criticized my taste in music.  He never even noticed when I gained weight or dressed in sweats.

Of course, I have my favorite fictional characters.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to title this blog entry “Here Are Five Good Reasons Why I Love Fictional Characters,” now, would I?  Since I know you’re just dying to find out who they are, let’s get right to it.

1. Louis de Point du Lac

As I confessed in an earlier blog post, my favorite novel of all time is Anne Rice’s “Interview With the Vampire.”  Unlike the subsequent novels in the so-called “Vampire Chronicles,” the main character in the first one is not Lestat, but Louis. Louis is, to me, one of the most romantic and fascinating characters in literature.  A young man from a plantation family in the New Orleans of the 18th century, he is transformed into a vampire by Lestat, completely against his will and his wishes.  Throughout the novel and its successors, Louis struggles with his vampire nature, trying desperately to hold on to his humanity.  He rejects Lestat’s cold-hearted approach to killing and feeding.  In an act of desperation and loneliness, he makes an orphaned young girl into a vampire, and they form a sort of other-worldly father/daughter team, searching throughout Europe for others like them.  It is this dichotomy in Louis that I find so compelling.  In the later novels, he does more or less come to terms with his lot in life (or is it after-life?), but he never really loses his innocence or sense of wonder.

Brad Pitt, sorely miscast as Louis de Point du Lac

2. Connor MacLeod

If you’ve only watched the “Highlander” television series, and have never seen the original films, you probably have no real idea who or what Connor MacLeod is.  In the series, he is seen only in the premier episode, and far too briefly.  The Highlander in the TV show is Duncan MacLeod, played by Adrian Paul.  But the original Highlander was Connor (according to that premier episode, the two were clansmen in the 1500’s in Scotland).  Connor is an immortal, and, when he appears to be fatally wounded in battle in 1536, but then does not die, his family and the rest of the town believe him to be involved in witchcraft.  He ends up escaping them, and wanders the world for 400 years, settling at first in the Scottish highlands with the beautiful Heather, who he loves right up through her death of old age.  (As an immortal, he does not age…I never said this was particularly believable, now, did I?  And wasn’t the last character I cited a vampire?) 

Connor, like Louis before him, struggles with his immortality, sad to have to watch the woman he loves grow old and die while he remains young and healthy.  

Anyway, I think it was the love story between Connor and Heather that first touched me.  As a woman married to a younger man, I could in some weird way relate to watching as Heather aged and Connor did not.

It also didn’t hurt that the man playing Connor, a French actor named Christopher Lambert, was extremely handsome, with long curly hair (have you ever heard a French actor trying to play a Scotsman?’s…interesting).

There were something like four or five Highlander films.  The first one is by far the best, but they’re all pretty entertaining, in a sort of bad-acting/bad-writing way.

Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, with Heather

3.  Fox Mulder

By now it should be apparent that I like my fictional characters emotionally complex.  David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder, on the great 1990’s sci-fi television series “The X-Files,” is possibly the most fascinating and complicated of them all.  A believer in UFO’s and alien life, Mulder is teamed up with Dana Scully, a no-nonsense detective played by Gillian Anderson.  The relationship between the two is at the core of the series, and the chemistry between them is magical.

Mulder is extremely intelligent and well educated, but also has some rather offbeat hobbies, among them a serious interest in pornography.  (This is broadly hinted at in various ways over the course of the series.)  He is also sarcastic and smarmy, two things I generally find irresistible in characters.  

David Duchovny as Agent Fox Mulder

4.  Lucy Farinelli

 Lucy Farinelli makes her first appearance in Patricia Cornwell’s debut novel, “Postmortem,” which also introduces the Kay Scarpetta character.  Lucy is Kay’s niece, who she is helping raise due to her sister (Lucy’s mother) being irresponsible and just generally inept.  She’s only 10 years old in that first book, but still manages to make a deep and lasting impression.  She is brilliant, precocious and curious, and seems to have a knack for computers.  As the series progresses, she becomes an expert hacker and all-around computer whiz who, when things don’t quite work out with the FBI, develops a search engine that makes her a millionaire by age 25. She’s a Lesbian with a penchant for picking the wrong women, and also manages to get herself into all sorts of trouble with the FBI and other law enforcement sectors, due to her complete inability to deal with authority figures. (All of the books are highly entertaining, check them out!)

Oh, and did I mention she owns, and pilots, her own helicopter?

5.  Isabel Spellman

The Spellman clan is a family headed by an eccentric and entertaining couple who run a detective agency.  Their oldest daughter is Isabel, who spent her high school years stoned, and spends much of her young adulthood drunk.  She works as a private investigator at her parents’ firm, but usually ends up messing things up due to her drinking and her general disdain for authority.  She’s smart, funny, sarcastic, and completely insecure.  This makes for a truly interesting and hilarious character.  In the course of Lisa Lutz’s wonderful series of Spellman books (check it out here), Isabel falls in and out of love, is constantly at odds with her crazy younger sister, Rae, and her button-down older brother David, takes over the family business (but, predictably, has more than her fair share of trouble trying to run it), and just generally makes me laugh out loud.

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