If asked whether I could love a character who lacked a sense of humour, my first instinct would be to answer with a resounding No! I mean, how on earth could I love someone who couldn’t laugh at life’s absurdities…who couldn’t laugh at themselves? My nose immediately wrinkles in distaste at the thought.
Except…I do actually adore two such characters.
Have you watched the Scandinavian crime series The Bridge? Long story short: the Swedish and Danish police forces have to work together to solve a crime. The head of the Swedish team is Saga. Now, it’s never stated outright that she has Asperger syndrome but, while she’s clearly very intelligent and has brilliant analytical skills, she’s seriously socially inept. She follows rules—and she doesn’t understand when (or why) rules should be broken in the interests of pursuing social harmony. She’s completely literal, outwardly unemotional, and she doesn’t laugh. So why do I like her?
To be brutally honest, I’m not sure I really did for the first couple of episodes…I didn’t start to like her until I got to know her (and we’ve all met people like that, right?). When I did get to know her, though, I came to realise that she’s pretty self-aware. She turns down a promotion because she knows she’s not a good people manager. She doesn’t mean to cause offence, she’s not malicious, but it doesn’t stop her from being seen as some kind of freak by her colleagues. This made me ache for her. Beneath that seeming lack of emotion, she’s really very kind. Also, she’s brilliant at her job. Go Saga!
As for my second example, who remembers Margo from The Good Life (played by Penelope Keith)? She’s Tom and Barbara Good’s snobbish next-door-neighbour. If you recall, the Goods dropped out of the rat race for a simpler and more sustainable way of life—turning their back and front gardens into allotments where they grew a variety of veggies and kept various animals. This whole way of life is a complete anathema to the social-climbing, politically conservative Margo. She’s the butt of many a joke on the show—especially due to her lack of a sense of humour. BUT, out of all four main characters, it is she who shows true heroism of spirit. Whenever her neighbours are in great need, she always comes to the rescue. She might not have a sense of humour, but she has a heart of gold. And I love her.
JD Salinger famously said, “I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet someone I could respect.” Maybe he has a point. What about you? Is there a character that you love who lacks a sense of humour or isn’t immediately likable? Harry Potter’s know-it-all Hermione was initially irritating...and if it weren’t for his little grey cells Hercule Poirot’s vanity could make him a ridiculous figure. Any more you can think of to add to my list?
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I think Sheldon Cooper is a classic example of this, Michelle. Emotionally stunted but loveable nonetheless.ReplyDelete
PS - loved Margo!
Oh, how could I have forgotten Sheldon? I love Sheldon, AA. Excellent example.Delete
Ha! And I'm glad there's another Margo-lover out there. :-)
Oh yes, Sheldon! I adore him. I also thoroughly liked Don Tillman, the protagonist in The Rosie Project who is totally socially challenged and his sense of humour isn't exactly main stream.ReplyDelete
Ah, Don Tillman is another good example, Louisa! I think there's something very appealing in watching a socially-challenged character try to become better at relationships. There's something so vulnerable and heroic about it. :-)Delete
I love, love The Bridge, Michelle. So compelling. Saga is truly a great character.ReplyDelete
Yes, I was also thinking of Don Tillman. I have a relative just like him (won the Order of Australia for Science, but says the most unbelievable things to strangers!!), so I could emphasise and cheer for Don!
Annie West pointed me in the direction of The Bridge, Jen, and I'm so glad she did. I LOVE Saga. I just started watching the second series, and Saga's trying to become more socially conscious and get better at relationships. There's a break-your-heart poignancy to it, but it can also be utterly hilarious. :-)Delete
I have to agree with everyone on Sheldon as well he does make me laugh though there have been many people like this over the years :)ReplyDelete
Oh, Sheldon is priceless isn't he, Helen? He can be so stubborn and unbending and frustrating...and yet so kind and sweet sometimes too. He makes me laugh too. :-)Delete
I always loved Margo. Have to agree about Sheldon too.ReplyDelete
Mary, Margo was a real revelation to me. I watched the series for the first time only a couple of years ago expecting to adore the cute and perky Felicity Kendall. And I did. But Margo won my heart (I think Penelope Keith is an amazing actress).Delete
I don't know Saga or Sheldon but I LOVED Margo and Don Tillman. That look Margot would give Gerry when he did something nice for her (or she'd had a couple of gins and she ran into him). Being a generally socially awkward person myself I seem to have a connection with those sorts of characters.ReplyDelete
I don't think of you as socially awkward, Barb! I think you're amazingly poised and elegant. :-)Delete
Laughing though about "that look." I totally agree. If you get a chance, watch The Bridge. I think you'd love Saga.
I adored Margo, As you say, we can still remember her so well after all these years and that says something. I can't recall any others at the moment.ReplyDelete
That's so true, Sue! Margo really is a character who has stayed with us. The writers of that series must've been very savvy. :-)Delete
Michelle, I would have put sense of humour at the top of a list for likeable characters - but after reading your post and the comments here, I've realised there are some seriously adorable characters with little sense of humour! I love Sheldon and Margo. And Bones - especially the early episodes. Oh, and what about Mr Spock? I haven't seen The Bridge but I'll have to keep an eye out for it.ReplyDelete
I know, Sharon! It shocked me when I realised that a sense of humour wasn't a necessity for me in terms of liking a character. Spock? Yes! I haven't seen Bones, but I'm thinking now, that he might be my kind of character. :-)Delete
Michelle, I'm so glad you enjoyed Saga and The Bridge! Isn't it well written (and performed)? As for The Good Life - absolutely! By contrast, Tom Goode can be selfish to the point of unlikeable whereas his neighbours are genuinely good-spirited.ReplyDelete
I confess I liked Snape in HP. I suspect it was when I began to suspect he was honourable and honest etc etc despite being the butt of jokes by the in group as a kid.
Oh, Saga was a delight, Annie, I was so glad of your recommendation to watch The Bridge. As for Tom Good, the number of times I wanted to slap him!Delete
Snape! Excellent example. A very brave man for all his faults -- and one can't help wondering if he hadn't been made the butt of so many jokes in his youth, if he wouldn't have turned out so very differently. Which also now makes me think of Thomas from Downton Abbey. I have a definite soft spot for him too.