Tuesday, May 27, 2008

ISO Likable Characters

Just in case you haven’t turned on a television or gone to the newsstand recently, the Sex and the City movie is opening this Friday. While I have seen an odd episode on cable (since they air reruns of this show approximately 20 times a day on various channels) I have never been a SATC aficionado, and I think I have figured out why. It isn’t the show’s lack of realism or the incredibly tacky and/ or expensive clothes worn by Carrie Bradshaw and company (even though these things annoy me to no end). What I have a real issue with is the fact that the main characters are, for the most part, incredibly dislikable. Carrie is self-absorbed, Charlotte alternates between being a neurotic princess and a Stepford wife, Miranda (who is probably the sanest one in the bunch) is reduced to being anxious and needy, and Samantha often just seems desperate.

Although I am picking on SATC, the majority (if not all) of television sitcom characters are annoying. While many of us enjoy watching the exploits of these characters in 30 or 60 minute intervals, we probably wouldn’t want to live next door to them or have them in our carpool. This shouldn’t come as any surprise; Seinfeld’s underrated finale pointed out that Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George are actually horrible, horrible people. However, the insight of Seinfeld is an exception; it seems that a number of television shows operate under the assumption that the characters within them are good (or at least amiable).

Besides the girls of SATC, there are the main characters in Will & Grace. When forced to think about it, I have a difficult time coming up with any redeeming qualities for Karen, Jack, Will, or Grace. They are funny (or at least mildly amusing) in small doses, but a regular diet of these four individuals would have me popping mood stabilizers and chasing them with gallons of Mai Tais. I also can’t imagine myself being friends with some of the characters on Friends; I never thought Rachel was good enough for Ross, and I would probably kill Phoebe if given the chance.

I suppose that nobody watches television looking for a mirror of reality; even reality television is as far removed from real life as an episode of ALF or Mork & Mindy. Perhaps what we like is to see caricatures of people from reality (the sexpot, the pseudo intellectual, the princess, the geek) in order to feel better about ourselves. Whatever the reason, I am hoping that the hype surrounding the Sex and the City movie goes away soon. However, if it doesn’t, at least I can console myself by reading Time Out New York’s articles by people who hate SATC.