My previous blog entry got some interesting comments on Facebook. My intention was to call for more interesting characters than having everybody with dark secrets and depressing childhoods. It doesn’t necessary meant that they have to be jolly-jolly-happy, but I throw out a question if happy characters were possible.
The comments I got concluded that it isn’t.
Janne Ahnberg writes:
“I ask myself what would have made the happy person complex. He or she might of course be genetically inclined. But my gut feeling is that a person genetically disposed for complication, is generally not a happy person. My wife has a thesis ...stating that if you want to meet an interesting or breathtaking person, it will be a hell of a ride because of the fact that interesting people have so many facets contrasting each other, that they can't form a harmonious over all picture. I tend to believe her, especially as it excuses my own way of being.”
I’ve been thinking about this. What is a happy person? I refuse to see things and individuals as digital objects. The world is not black or white. And to be even more metaphoric, both white and black include every color there is. I believe that an optimistic person could be as complex as pessimistic.
I feel that happy is more a matter of attitude, than an overall state every day of the year. You take on life with a positive attitude, you expect people to be nice and you don’t ruin your life about worrying about made up problems that likely will never exist. You can’t be harmonious all other the picture, sure, I agree on that, but some parts could, and if you consider yourself happy or not, I think, depend on if you see what is harmonious or if you see what is not.
And then I bring this thesis to a movie character. Will a “happy” person add to the story, still cause conflicts and be absorbed as a fascinating person? Will he or she be boring?
My first thought goes to “No Reservations” with the cheery and sunny chef Nick entering the Kate’s restaurant kitchen, a place marked by her perfection and cooking ideals. Nick is however not the main character; that is Kate, who have had a less fancy childhood and is very locked up. Nick works well as contrast to Kate, but would a character like Nick work as a main character?
You expect a character to change during the story. If a happy person changes to a depressed person I can’t say it worked out very well. Then I’ve rather proven that people can’t be genuinely happy. So in what direction should a happy person change? There could of course be other things than the character’s mood that needs changing, but will it be any challenge for a merry-day-guy?
If I continue with the example of Nick and Kate, Nick could very well prove that his attitude works, as a main character. Let’s say Kate enters his kitchen instead and tries to prove to him that life is dark and pessimistic. Nick will of course be affected by Kate, but could walk out as a winner, bringing Kate upwards instead following Kate down. The conflicts will still be there and our main character will pass the tests and be proven worthy. I think it may work. Do you?