Weakness is important in the heroes who populate our stories. It is, paradoxically, what makes them strong. Perhaps not as individuals, but as characters.
In real life, people are weak. Not every moment of every day, but some moments of some days. And depending on the day, it may be a lot of moments within that twenty-four hour period. We all have our shortcomings - the things we get defensive over if someone points them out, because we know they’re right.
I, for instance, have a tendency to rely heavily on sarcasm. In high doses, this can take what otherwise would have been an acceptable joking remark and turn it caustic and cutting. After which, I feel a bit embarrassed because the biting nature of what I said was not my intention. Left to my own devises, I may find a (definitively ungraceful) way of apologizing for the offense, but if someone points it out before I can? Back goes up and I…you know…say something sarcastic.
It’s a vicious cycle.
And I know I’m not alone in such failings. So, if we all have to suffer the awkwardness of our limitations, why shouldn’t our characters? Misery loving company and what not.
But really, it’s the balance between strength and weakness that makes these fictional folks relatable. If they weren’t so damned proud and prejudiced, but rather completely open minded and gave each other a chance straight off the bat, would the Darcy/Bennet romance be considered such a classic? I don’t know too many people who read that book for Jane and Bingley.
Of course, even if they did, there’s plenty of weakness there. Bingley is so insecure in his convictions that it takes little more than a few choice words from his friend to have him walking away from the woman he loves. And for all her moral strength, Jane doesn’t have much vigor when it comes to fighting for what she wants.
Still we love these characters, not in spite of their inadequacies, but because of them.
Hey, if Bruce Wayne can be that emotionally screwed up and still save the people of Gotham City on a daily basis, we can probably deal with the fact that we have to sit next to that one person at our staff meeting whose personality makes us want to spit nails. And if you’re occasionally a bit of a know-it-all? Well, so was Hermione Granger and look what she accomplished. Even Buffy, for all her strengths, had moments of stubbornness and self-righteousness that bit her in the ass. Didn’t stop her from saving the world…a lot.
We all have bad moments. Moments where we let ourselves and the people around us down. The fact that fictional characters do too, makes them relatable. And can provide us some necessary hope that even with these foibles, we can still be pretty damn awesome.