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A taxonomy of assholes.
teapot
brown_betty
No, not that one. Rather I mean the character type, who shows up in many different canons. I think there are several subtypes (super-types?) and related, so I will try to specify. Obviously, 'asshole' is tremendously subjective, so we will be using the totally objective 'according to Betty' measure.

Obviously, characters may partake of multiple elements here described.


Magnificent Bastard: This character is evil, and not apologetic about it! The reader/viewer is meant not so much to empathise, as to enjoy hating, or perhaps admire (usually) his flair. Examples include Lionel Luthor, comics!Lex Luthor

~Manpained~: This character is an asshole because of accrued ~manpain~. See Walking Shaddow's Chart o'manpain, on which I have helpfully marked the path one takes. They just had a very hard life, and now they have all these feelings, and the only way they know to express their feelings is by being an asshole. Examples of this type include Malcolm Reynolds, Nathan Ford, and Batman.

Driven: This character is on a mission, and will drive over anyone who gets in his way. Examples of this type include John Winchester, and Batman.

Naturally Gifted: This character has no reason for being an asshole, they're just made that way. Examples include Owen Harper of Torchwood.

Asshole Genius: This character is so much smarter than everyone around him that his genius compels him to be an asshole. That's just how it works! You can't argue with genius! Examples include Shawn Spencer, Sherlock Holmes of the 2010 BBC mini, and Patrick Jane of The Mentalist, Rodney McKay. (ETA of d'oh!) Gregory House! Possibly also Temperance Brennan, although I don't actually find her that abrasive.

Teenagers: They can't help it, really. They're seething with tragedy and angst, and hormones, and they're doing well every morning they don't leave the house with their pants on their heads and a shoe on each hand, poor things. Examples include Zuko, from Avatar, and Clark Kent, from Smallville.

Oblivious: This character's assholishness comes from having only half a clue. The primary example for me is Harry Dresden, of The Dresden Files. He's sort of aware that his chivalry is annoying to some people, but not aware enough to desist.

Did I do that?: The author thinks this character's personality makes him a maverick, or charming, or amusing, but the viewer remembers all the people who suffered the fallout of his actions last week. The character, on the other hand, doesn't seem to. Examples include Captain Jack Harkness, of Torchwood. Possibly should be rolled in with preceding.



What am I missing? Simplifying? Complicating? Examples? Criticisms? Dirty limericks?

This post also on dreamwidth (comment count unavailable comments)

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It probably says terrible things about my life and fandoms that I think I would put some huge percentage of all humanity (fictional or otherwise, self included) into at least one of these categories.

In other words, I feel that this taxonomy is extremely thorough. I approve!

Heh. Possibly overly comprehensive.

I was thinking about fandom's love of these characters, and why I can stand some of them, and not others, or stand some of them only in canon, and others only in fic. It's a mystery!

I might append a "rightly or wrongly" qualifier to asshole genius. Having worked in the science/tech area for quite some time, a lot of truly breathtaking assholes are nowhere near as smart as they think they are.

Witness one of my (former) coworkers who, despite having a PhD in physics, was a complete asshole and stupid enough to argue viciously with three people who had the experience and education to know just how wrong he was. It got worse after he was fired for incompetence. Restraining orders were involved.

On TV, the AG is usually 'rightly', (although there's McKay's science-y nemesis on SGA who I only know from fandom) I think. I think the 'wrongly' variant is too obnoxious for the viewer, so he occasionally shows up for Our Heroes to give him his comeuppance.

I think the Asshole Genius needs to be divided into AG:NT and AG:Other (Shawn, probably Patrick Jane -- I haven't seen The Mentalist) fall into AG:NT. AG:Other would include Sherlock (BBC) (though unaired pilot Sherlock is more AG:NT), Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory), and probably Temperance Brennan. (I also note that AG:Other has a some comorbidity with Driven.)

More when I've looked over my DVD sets. I'm trying to decide where the various Slings and Arrows characters fall.

But the thing is, I don't think more than 1/10 of Sherlock's assholery comes from how his brain works. I mean, occasionally he says something because he's not aware it's a thought it might be better not to share, but the stuff he says to Donovan and Anderson, for example, and the comments on teeny brains are clearly things he says full well knowing they're going to offend.

I'd put it at closer to 50/50.

The stuff that's calculated is very much so (I'd argue that some of it's reactive asshole behavior, but certainly no where near all of it), but the stuff that's really appalling and o.0 is the off the cuff crap. Somewhere, I have a chart! (I get really, really bored.)

It's different enough to Shawn's asshole behavior that I file it in a different section of my brain, because Shawn *always* knows better than that when he says shit. Which means I want to slap Shawn about twice as often as I want to slap Sherlock.

(Also, admittedly, I recognize a LOT of my own bad behavior in Sherlock, where Shawn behaves more like my jerky friends from the university era. So, you know. PROJECTING. As one does. I got a serious reputation for being catty and cutting when, really, I just hadn't figured out that whole inside voice thing very well. I didn't calculate some of the things I said, or their impact. They were just there, and I was frustrated, and bang!)

(In retrospect, I was a complete twat before that whole intimate partner violence related nervous breakdown thing [silver lining!], and WOW, I am glad my university banned us from Usenet.)

I don't have anything to add at the moment, but oh, this is fascinating reading!

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