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My favorite emotionally disturbed TV characters

Thanks to Pat’s recommendation, I’ve been working my way through season 3 of Battlestar Gallactica. I’ll probably post some reflections when I’m done with the show, but at this point I can definitely say that this will go down as one of my favorite shows of all time.

As I’ve been watching the show, though, I’ve been fascinated by how much I like and resonate with Kara Thrace, the emotionally disturbed, selfish, violent, alcoholic, and yet deeply passionate, caring, and committed viper pilot. If there’s a character on the show who is my polar opposite in almost every way, it would be her. But, she’s also unquestionably my favorite character. At first, I wrote this off as the result of excellent acting and stellar writing. As I’ve reflected on it more, though, I’ve realized that my favorite characters in many TV shows demonstrate the same combination of deep, emotional disturbance combined with a surprising capacity for compassion and dedication:

  • Kara Thrace (Battlestar Gallactica)
  • James Ford (Lost)
  • Tim Riggins (Friday Night Lights)
  • Jack Bauer (24)
  • Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

I could probably think of more, but these are the ones who came to mind right away.

So, that raises the question, why do I find these kinds of characters so compelling when they are so different from me? Is it the whole “opposites attract” stereotype? Or, do I just find this kind of honestly flawed character more sincere? Maybe I like the idea that each of these was able to rise above their own flaws (at times) to accomplish meaningful and important deeds. In a way, maybe this resonates with a deep desire to believe that we humans really aren’t so bad off after all. Or, it could be that I just like the raw emotionality of these characters, expressing themselves in ways that my own more reserved personality finds impossible. Maybe these characters help me connect with dimensions of being human that lie outside my typical experience.

Most likely, it’s some combination of all these.

It’s a good thing I’m not a teenage girl. I’d probably fall for the brooding bad boy every time. That’s a depressing thought.