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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