One of the most resonant things I’ve ever read was in one of Patrick Rothfuss’s books when Kvothe, describing his friend Sim, says: “People underestimate Sim. They think that because he’s nice, he’s weak, and because he’s happy, he’s stupid.”
The key word here is “underestimate”. Clever Kvothe knows that people are wrong for thinking that. The series isn’t finished yet, and Sim has been pretty passive so far, but I’m holding out for him to prove just how wrong people are. Because I’m ready for more nice happy heroes.
Let’s consider bubbly child-like Shoshanna from HBO’s Girls. Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to about the show loves Shosh. She’s so typically irritating that she somehow manages to be the least irritating of the whole excruciating cast. She owns the sparkles and sunshine thing and wants to share her happiness, as opposed to wallowing in self-concern like the others. Her rant to boyfriend Ray, in which she shrieks, “You hate colours. You hate pillows. You hate ribbons. You hate everything. Maybe I can deal with your black soul better when I’m older, but I just can’t handle it now,” is one of the best and most poignant relationship scenes I’ve seen on television for a while. She may not be necessarily smart, but she’s sure, which is rare.
So, good–a nice happy character has been generally well-crafted and well-received. But this isn’t often the case. Take my sweet Sansa, of the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire universe. When I tell people Sansa is the character I relate to the most, they screw up their noses and insist she’s the worst. True, while sweet and timid, she’s not exactly nice (no one wants to forgive her for that betrayal way back at the beginning of the story), but come on, as a teenager I definitely did stupid stupid things for approval from stupid stupid people and that incident just amplified Joffrey and Cersei’s villain status, not poor Sansa’s. Admittedly, in the cutthroat realm of Westeros, a character like Sansa is going to appear all the more pale among so many badasses. While in contemporary New York, where people are fighting not for the Iron Throne but just to get by, a character like Shoshanna is incredibly endearing.
And in our own real world, there’s super goddess Delta Goodrem, an Australian pop star, (pop, a genre that’s light and accessible by definition), who consistently gets labelled as annoying and ornamental. Never mind that she’s a real person with real feelings, guys. (Also, I’ve met her and she was switched on, engaging and media-savvy while rocking a fairy princess dress heavy with Swarovski crystals). Delta’s known for talking and singing about “love and light” and a lot of people (who probably really need, and reject, a little love and light in their lives) seem to resent that.
Here’s my opinion, in case it wasn’t obvious. Fiction and popular culture have seen a lot of sharp steely sullen stars, and they’re great, they really are. I understand that it’s way more likely that these kinds of characters will have interesting stories and achieve greatness, if not fascinating failure.
But I’m (timidly, naively) hoping for a revolution–in fiction and in real life–that sees kindness, sweetness and brightness triumph.
Because if I feel a connection to these kinds of characters and these kinds of people, I can’t be the only one. And if I’m not the only one, then maybe there’s enough of us to start an army. And then maybe the world will see just how underestimated we really are.
[The pleasing result of a GoTs personality quiz I did one late lonely night. I can’t remember where it was from, so if perchance it was your quiz, a) Thanks; it was great, and b) Let me know and I’ll credit it.]