Why Problematic Characters Make Better Protagonists

It is inevitable to watch a movie, TV show, play, or even read a book without being able to recognize the protagonist of the story. The protagonist is the main character who is typically seen as the good guy/gal, the hero of the story. While these all can be true for the most part, protagonists certainly do come with their flaws that should be celebrated rather than criticized.

Let's begin by taking a look at some of the most recent examples of problematic protagonists. In the new Netflix series "Insatiable," a high schooler named Patty seeks revenge on everyone who used to bully after losing weight from a rather unusual incident. While the series follows her, a seemingly nice girl becomes a monster with ill intentions when she becomes skinny. While we're on the topic of new Netflix material, the same can be said about the title character in the platform's original movie "Sierra Burgess Is A Loser." Sierra Burgess, who is considered a loser at her high school, offers one of the most popular girls in school, Veronica, tutoring in exchange for her photos to catfish her crush. It's Dan, Sierra's best friend and supporting character, who points out the wrong in what Sierra is doing.

Troublesome, cringeworthy protagonists are not a modern-day emergence. Think of Holden from J.D. Salinger's classic novel, "The Catcher in the Rye." Between his constant complaining, lack of interest in anything, and overuse of the word "phonies," he's no ones favorite character in literature. However, these traits make Holden a wonderful character to experience as a reader. The undesirable qualities in Holden, as in most other coming-of-age protagonists, are what makes him realistic and therefore, relatable. The thing that is so important about these types of stories is that it isn't about saving the day, but rather growing and learning about oneself- a heroic act in itself.

It is rather refreshing to see imperfect and even unlikable main characters. Do-no-wrong characters written to be sugar and spice and everything nice are boring, leaving nothing worthwhile for the audience. Let us applaud the introduction of more and more three-dimensional characters to keep us audience members on our toes. Perhaps the definition of the term "protagonist" is changing, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

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