Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Playing Favourites: do main characters get shoved to the sidelines?

It seems to me that maybe landing the main character role in telly or film might actually be the bum deal - that is if fan's-favourite is what you're aiming for. If something on-screen is guided through the eyes of the main character, usually it's the people on the sidelines who you end up loving most.

I've thought about it before, but it popped into my head after binge-watching Orange Is the New Black season one during my university finals. One by one each of my housemates started to watch it too, and although I've binged and completed on season two already (four days, whoops), Piper Chapman isn't anyone I've spoken too's favourite. She gets considerably less screen time in season two, I'll give you that, the writers are clearly aiming to make it less Piper-centric and more about the lives of each woman who lives there. I can't remember where I read it exactly, but I'm sure it was announced that Daya was being written as more of a central character in season three, due out in 2015, which to be honest surprised me, as I thought that with her storyline that she was already since season one. Maybe Piper's back story is just less interesting than the other women, or her personality less likeable. It's a fierce competition for favourites in OITNB because with such a colourful cast of amazing, female characters, you feel quite spoilt for choice.

It's not just OITNB though, there's other things. Harry Potter is probably the most boring character in Harry Potter. Take it back a couple of thousand years (Classics grad, sorry), Aeneas is probably the most boring character in the Aeneid. In some programmes and films, and maybe in this case ancient epic poetry, main characters are just keys to seeing everyone else. It works well, really, the over-the-shoulder narrative which allows you to discover everything new in the same way as the central character does, be it magical chocolate frogs or how to make flip-flops out of maxi pads in prison. It's maybe just a curse of the narrative type, mind. I think most people find themselves less interesting than those around them, so by putting yourself in the shoes of a character, you look at them in the same way. It shows how much audiences appreciate depth to their entertainment - how could you fall in love with characters who weren't developed properly?

Interestingly I think Orphan Black achieves the same thing, despite all the other characters still being Tatiana Maslany. It sort of proves my point above, that by seeing life from Sarah's perspective, all the other clones become much more enticing. Alison Hendrix, the most badass gun-wielding soccer Mum there ever was particularly tops my list. Helena is a firm second, childlike and deranged, terrifying, yet somehow adorable. Despite Sarah being an anomaly, being wild child off the map, to me she becomes the least interesting character. Maybe because I put myself in her shoes, maybe because she's laid bare for us to see.

What do you think? Are your favourite characters often main characters?

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