Op-Ed: Where have all the characters gone?

Our society lacks the kind of characters we need to unify around

| April 21, 2016
Ron Howard on stage for an Andy Griffith tribute at the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 23, 2012, at Nokia Theatre, L.A. Live, in Los Angeles, California. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Ron Howard on stage for an Andy Griffith tribute at the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 23, 2012, at Nokia Theatre, L.A. Live, in Los Angeles, California. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

“He danced for those at minstrel shows and county fairs, throughout the south,” an act perpetrated by none other than that of Mr. Bojangles himself, rang through my head while listening to Jerry Jeff Walker’s greatest hits (Walker is Texas’ answer to Jimmy Buffett, for the unaware). It then occurred to me that we – the millennial generation – don’t have a Mr. Bojangles of our own. Sure, we have asses and trolls, Clintons and Trumps, but there is not a true character amongst our midst that can transcend controversy and unify the whole with that certain charm and fallible charisma necessary in doing so. This is a pity.

I am not talking about being bohemian for the sake of being bohemian, nonconforming just to tell somebody you experienced how it felt. No, I’m talking about an utter, unapologetically original person – devoid from much of reality – who we can all admire from a distance and say, “Ah, now that’s a character.” Or perhaps “Bless their heart.” Someone who can elicit this kind of positive response while simultaneously deserving admittance to the loony bin.

If you’re looking for contrarian conformity, head for Portland or Asheville; I’ve heard they needed a few good hipsters to strengthen the lot. If you’re looking to be annoying, gaudy, unrelentingly obnoxious, all in your face and what not, head for San Fransisco. You want to keep Austin Weird? How gutlessly unoriginal, let’s market it on a T-shirt for corporate profit; at least it’s got a bizarre font though.

The fact that I cannot even suggest examples of jovial personalities because it would be missed by our generation is sad. For instance, I’m doubtful Don Knotts or Earnest T. Bass really had to get into character for The Andy Griffith Show, as they merely played themselves affront a camera. Or Ignatius J. Reilly, the gluttonous, one-of-a-kind protagonist/anti-protagonist in the book, A Confederacy of Dunces, who was based off the novelist who authored the epic comedy.  However, I’d make the claim today’s generation is not particularly concerned with these works because they’ve passed in time. They truly don’t write them like they used to.

The adamant, verbally cruel Evangelical pastor who shouts expletives at passing students, speaking about eternal damnation is a good starting point. Sure, he may say some impolite words, but sticks and stones break bones, and not displeasing hot air. I mean, it takes a significant amount of resolve and thick skin to tell someone in a dress they’re going to hell; someone with grit. Someone alone in their own world. Maybe even a character.

It starts with a cause, or a belief – no matter how illogical or preposterous – and from there, passion and tenacious will-power is added. They have to care, and I mean like REALLY care about whatever it is that they do, or are. In fact, it’s even difficult outlining the parameters because doing so defeats the very purpose of being a character; characters solely are themselves.

The bright side is, based off of a statistic I duly created in my mind, there has got to be a few remaining characters left. Probability speaking, the species altogether is not entirely extinct, only very much endangered. I just need to find a handful of characters and display them in public to make a mockery out of both the establishment, tidy-towners as well as the anti-establishment. Everyone.

Because at the end of the day, we should all adhere to the principles of a character himself, Buffett, who said “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”.

Category:Music and Arts, Opinion, Society and Identity

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