I’ve been rewatching Breaking Bad with my son, as well as watching Parks and Recreation for the first time. (It’s all about balance, people.)
It’s been an interesting viewing experience because when I watched Breaking Bad back when it first debuted (live and weekly - no bingeing), I don’t think I realized what a complete and total d&*k Walter White is (Bryan Cranston for you cave dwellers). Obviously the show, no spoilers, is about a good man gone bad, but I just don’t remember him being so bad so quickly and then getting even more reprehensible. I’m also struck this time around with how Jesse (Aaron Paul) does the opposite. He goes from “could care less” and cavalier to almost constant care and compassion for the impact they’re having on those around them. It’s a fascinating story and study in character development.
Lights, camera, personality!
Now, on Parks and Recreation, which I also wrote about in a LinkedIn post this week, almost every character is loveable. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler, for you who dwell under a rock), runs the Parks and Rec department of a small fictional town in Indiana. She’s passionate and idealistic to a fault and the rare government unicorn — someone who truly believes she can make a difference, and with the results to back it up. Leslie loves her friends almost as much as her town and her job, and everything she does is in service of that. Walter loves his family more than anything and he claims that everything he does is in service of them, but that becomes highly debatable.
I coulda been a contender
Regardless of whether these characters are good or bad, lovable or despisable, the thing they have in common — and the thing almost all memorable characters have — is they’re uniquely and authentically themselves.
Think about your favorite characters from TV and movies. What stands out about them? What makes them memorable? Chances are you don’t love them because they’re generic, boring and sound like everyone else. You probably love them for being funny, smart, bold, quirky, imbalanced, homicidal, etc.
Writers craft these characters and actors bring them to life, but what both do so well is make them fully realized and dimensional human beings. This is why we love them or even love to hate them. They’re so utterly human. Fragile, bumbling, naive, passionate, calculating, lovable, you name it. A good character is flawed and relatable. Someone we can see ourselves in, even for a moment. Or someone we want to be, know, hang out with or get with (looking at you Ron Swanson, grrrr).
Yum, milquetoast (said no one ever)
No one ever says, “I love this character, they’re so generic. I’m so glad they try to please everyone and I have no idea what they stand for. Their blandness is awesome.”
Even though we aren’t characters in a movie or TV show, the need to clearly define who we are for our audience is no less important. In fact, it’s more so. Like a character, we need to attract an audience, but unlike an actor, we only get paid if that audience wants to hire us or buy our products. And they’re more likely to do that if we are real, unique, definable and relatable. We don’t want to be the background character that no one remembers because they played the generic friend or neighbor, we want to be the stand out character that steals the show.
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Check out what I'm up to in the coming weeks...
Appeared on Let's Get Real with Shane Shaps of 520 Brands.
Mentor for the Lucy Lab, a 6-week marketing accelerator program for female founders to help them expedite their go to market strategy, refine their brand, and catapult their offers from early-stage to market readiness. Apply today!
Creating a branding module for the EvolveMe Reinvention Collective. Details to come...
Why You Need a Genuine Personality Brand Workshop for the Creatives Roundtable, April 8. Register now.