Friday, November 4, 2011

Killers And Druggies and Theives, Oh My!

Two warnings before you read this post.  A) It's really spoilery.  So if you are behind on American Horror Story or Breaking Bad or plan to ever watch old episodes of daytime television, Gossip Girl or The Vampire Diaries you may want to reconsider reading this one.  And B) I'm about to defend the criminal element.  So if you'd be offended by such a thing, well, now's the time click away from this page.


Okay, now that that's done, I want to take you back.  Way back, about a whole week ago, to a conversation I was having with my lovely friend who runs The Angst Report.  She was nervous about this week's episode of American Horror Story, out of fear that it would confirm (as it did) that angsty teen ghost Tate would turn out to be a school shooter.  The problem is that she is kind of crazy in love with the character and partially feared that she would have to stop loving him while simultaneously knowing that she wouldn't.  And what would that say about her?  Would she need to join the ranks of those crazy broads who marry men in prison?  After the episode aired, I had another friend who tweeted the same concern, and was admittedly ashamed that she still loved the character.  There were message board posts about it, with one person angrily disowning him while others coyly rebutted with their still ever present Tate crushes.  It's like the whole world is hanging their head in shame.

Me?  I'm all like "WHO CARES?"

How on earth could I crucify Tate?  I watch Dexter, and that boy is a serial killer.  Half the cast of Lost was responsible for ending someones life at one point or another. Breaking Bad's Walter White is both keeping meth addicts good and hooked while also having the blood of at least six people directly on his hands.  I'm also totally crazy about BB's Jesse Pinkman, who went and killed a sweet, innocent vegan.  But you know, he felt reaallllyyyyy bad about it.

If I knew any of these people in real life, I would hate them.  I would demand that they be thrown in jail and forced to atone for their sins time and time again.  But this is why the real world sucks, and why I much more prefer to live in TV land.  In the wonderful world of make believe I actually have the chance to see these characters for who they are, not what they did.  I'm allowed to be interested in them, even love them, despite their actions.  In reality, we let ourselves be all about the black and white.  Fiction gets to play in the grey.

Over the past few years, some of my favorite characters have been murders, thieves, and drug dealers.  There are at least two shows on the air that have prostitutes as protagonists.  Countless drug addicts are the central focus of their shows.  And man, do we love us some con men.  In fact, its hard to come up with a crime that we can't manage to forgive a character for.  Yes, I know what you're going to say.  And you're wrong.  Because we kind of love ourselves some rapists too.

Daytime television currently has two leading males who are both known rapists.  General Hospital's Luke raped Laura when she was a teenager and he was a skeevy nightclub owner.  Since then, the two got married, had kids and were on the cover of Time magazine as the "OMG, best couple ever".  And he RAPED her.  But Luke is all flawed, coming from an abusive and alcoholic household, so we forgive him.  Or at least forget the action.  Similarly, the adorably quippy Todd on One Life To Live started out as Gang Rapist #3.  He doesn't apologize for who he is and remains a reluctant anti-hero, but he is so darn interesting that we love him.  Similarly, both Vampire Diaries Tyler and Gossip Girl's Chuck attempted to rape characters in the pilots of their shows (For Chuck, it was two girls!).  They have since become fan favorites who have arced and grown and thus we forget their transgressions because we want to love them.

You see, we just can't help but love our criminals.  In fact, the only transgression I can never see us forgiving is pedophilia.  Because in the world of the grey, where it is all about shades of morality, we CAN forgive taking someones life but we CAN'T forgive taking someones innocence.  In television, children represent all that is good.  In fact, giving a character a child to hang around makes them instantly more likable.  Both OLTL's Todd and Breaking Bad's Jesse are well known for their love of kids, and those feelings are always reciprocated by the adorable little munchkins.  If you ruin them, you can't be saved.  You're done.  Stick a fork in you.

But as far as I know, there are no pedophiles on my TV screen. (At least no fictional ones.  But that's another post)   The characters who grace it may do bad things, but they almost always do them for reasons that are at least intriguing to watch.  And I DO want to watch them.  And sometimes, I even like them.  And for that, I shall not feel ashamed.  This is why I love television.  And you know what?  It's why you do too.

The Angst Report, FuckYeahAaronPaul and Televisionista own these pictures, I do not.  I suspect they do not actually own them either, but they are all awesome for making them available so I don't have to screencap.  Thanks guys!

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