Are Realistic Characters Endangered in Animation?
The impetus for this post comes from (of all places) The Onion, who’s recent piece entitled ‘TV Viewer Relates To Totally Unbelievable Character That Could Never Exist In Reality‘ highlights the fact that some characters in entertainment have become quite far removed from reality and yet are presented as being supposedly realistic characters.
Characters are meant to be somewhat unrealistic; we’ve been accustomed to that for years thanks to many an anvil being dropped on a Looney Tunes character. And before that, Davy Crockett, a completely unrealistic character and yet a hero for millions of kids despite the fact that his fictional depictions took huge liberties with the true American hero.
What the Onion piece should contemplate is how characters, by their vary nature, evoke reactions and emotions among the audience; that’s their purpose. You know how there’s that one person you know who’s really boring? Well they’re realistic but could never be portrayed on screen because they would not elicit anything from the audience.
Cartoons feature many wild and zany characters for the simple reason that kids respond better to visual and aural stimulae than adults do. If you’ve ever watched the Simpsons with kids, you’ll know that while kids and adults will laugh at a visual gag, only the adults will get the innuendo or pun. The same goes for Pixar films and their dual-appeal.
The problem of the unbelievable character occurs when they are made to seem completely believable. Shows like Dexter, Mad Men and anything on MTV, all purport to portray realistic, believable characters even though many such characters could not exist as-is in reality.
This blogger’s concern is when will we begin to see such characters infiltrating into animated circles? OK so animated drama is a bit scarce, but it is increasing. Fortunately, the comedic slant of many animated shows give them enough leeway to create unrealistic characters because they can. The problem is when an animated TV show stops being comedic and instead attempts a serious tone.
Arguably, the Simpsons was the pioneer in the regard with its veil of comedy masking a complex family drama. Such a situation persisted because of the unspoken rule that the Simpsons couldn’t do anything that a normal family couldn’t do. Once that rule went out the window (and when that was depends on who you ask), we started to see Homer become more overtly unrealistic and his character suffered as a result.
The point to all of this is that as animation develops in popularity, we are going to see a broader range of characters, and it is preferable to see ones that could exist in real life as opposed to those that are portrayed as being real when they could never be.
What do you think? Will animated characters go to far? Have they gone too far? Let us know with a comment!