Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When Protagonists are Unlikeable or Difficult

blog4I’d heard a lot about the movie The Social Network, and decided to rent it last weekend to see what the fuss was about.

The movie was well done, I thought. One thing that really interested me was how riveted I was by the film when I actually didn’t give a flip about many of the characters in it.

Mark Zuckerberg (as portrayed in the movie) is not exactly the most likeable guy out there. Actually, he comes across as borderline sociopathic.

The Winklevoss twins who claimed Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea for Facebook? It’s hard to really feel sorry for them. It sounded like their idea was for more of a Harvard dating site.

Sean Parker, the founder of Napster? Major jerk in the movie.

I honestly couldn’t even summon up sympathy for Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend. Who would go out with such a person, anyway?

The only character that I found sympathetic in the film was the former Facebook CFO, Eduardo Saverin. He was only CFO because he was Zuckerberg’s roommate/friend and had money in his checking account.

I wondered why I found the movie so interesting-- usually I’m all about the characters.

The main character, Zuckerberg, is just different. He’s difficult to figure out. He’s brainy (usually an appealing trait…except when the braininess is used against you in a scheming way) but was written to be almost petty in his immaturity and jealousy.

So this seems to be a story where the complexity and ambiguity of the main character—and the hopes of a hint at what makes them tick—is what makes it appealing.

Have you watched the movie? What made you keep watching it? Or, if you haven’t watched the film, what makes you keep reading a book when there’s an unlikeable protagonist? Have you ever written one?