Maybe you’ve felt it, maybe you haven’t. You’re watching someone on-screen or reading a story, and somehow it pops into your head: “They’re exactly the kind of person I want!” Perhaps you embrace it. Perhaps you’re embarrassed by it. Perhaps you’ve never felt it and are embarrassed for me. It doesn’t matter: here are five types of fictional characters that have caused the chemicals in my brain to betray logic.
(Let’s get something out of the way first: I am not in love with a fictional character. I just find the idea of some of them alluring. Consider this more of a partner piece to The Idea of You.)
Type 1: She’s Broken, but I Can Fix Her!
I’m drawn to the edgy, out-of-control nature of these dangerous women. They’re exciting. As much as I roll my eyes when I see women going for “bad boys,” apparently I do it myself. I’m not just in it for the wild ride, though. I also want to help these lost souls. I want to put their lives in order.
This might seem like an altruistic urge, but I am ashamed to admit it is at least a little bit egotistical. There is a part of me that is a born trouble-shooter and problem-fixer, and that makes me think I can somehow make a damaged person “better”. There might even be a little opportunist in there — as if she’s so messed up, meeting me will be such a ray of sunshine that she won’t see my own flaws.
Regardless of intentions, this is one situation I’ve actually had play out in my real life, and it did not end well. The thing about broken people is you can’t fix them. They have to fix themselves. Of course, they aren’t always as broken as they look, and it’s possible I’m not as put-together as I think I am. I wouldn’t be drawn to crazy if I wasn’t a little messed up myself.
Type 2: Enough of a Rebel to Still Fit In
Authority? Who needs it? These strong-willed women brashly buck trends and snarkily laugh in the face of The System. They might even actively attempt not to fit in, and it just makes them more endearing. They have a sort of nonchalance that echoes the rebel without a cause. These women aren’t broken, though — they have real social attachments and do care about their friends and/or family. Unlike women from the previous category, they realize when they have made a mistake and take steps to rectify them. They may not be fans of the world around them, but they’re at least aware of it. They’re less exciting than “broken” women, but at the end of the day, the rebel is at least consistent.
Type 3: Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and I Should Know Better
Oh, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG). If you’ve never heard the term, just know Zoey Deschanel plays this role in almost everything she’s been in. Quirky, outgoing, and sweeter than a shopping spree at a bakery, the MPDG is basically every introverted young man’s ideal woman. She drags them out of their shell, shows them the world, and is totally willing to forgive their faults and help fix them. An old friend once referred to them as “emo jerk-bait,” and I am always at least a little bit ashamed when I realize I’m enjoying a character that fits into this archetype. But they’re just so cute! And they have such fun adventures! They like great music and are so creative and…
I’m sorry. I’ll try harder.
Type 4: She’s Clever, She’s Got Her Act Together, but She’s Not Perfect, So I Still Have A Chance!
In this category we find women who appear quite perfect on the surface, but have some sort of flaw that keeps them from being unattainable. They’re intelligent, talented, and for the most part have found their niche or are on the path to it. They tend to be confident in their own element, but a little shy when facing something they are less certain about. These characters are usually fairly realistic and well-fleshed out. I like to think that these are the sort of women I should actually date, should I come across one in the real world. Sadly, in the real world, women like this know they can do better than someone like me. Occasionally, they’ll turn their attention toward my kind when they’re slumming.
Type 5: She Could Kick My Ass, and I’m Okay with That
An extension of the clever, put-together example above, these women are bold, tough, and maybe a little scary. They’re the kind of person you wouldn’t dare cross. Though they may be a little hot-tempered, they’re still in control at all times. This type is a bit of a mix of the other categories, minus the MPDG. They’re the anti-MPDG. They would absolutely destroy me in real life, but I might enjoy it for a little while. At least I’d have a good reason to be nervous around them.
Bonus: I Don’t Like Buttercup
I swear, I’m not trying to be counter-culture. I enjoy The Princess Bride. As a hopeless romantic, the theme of love conquering all undeniably strikes a chord with me. However, Buttercup drives me up the fucking wall. At the beginning of the movie, she’s clearly a Type 5: she bosses Westley around, and she enjoys it. I don’t fault her for falling apart when news of Westley’s death reaches her. It makes perfect sense.
What gets me is that she entirely gives up forever. Even when she discovers Westley is alive, she remains a passive wuss. There are hints of the fire she displayed at the beginning of the film, but time and time again she depends on everyone else to come to her rescue. The Princess Bride is all about defying expectations, yet Buttercup is a damsel in distress of the highest order. It’s maddening.