Friday, June 15, 2012

The Tale of Two Heroes


Preferences are interesting when it comes to the hero/leading man in fiction. My husband and I have very different opinions on who we like to watch when it comes to television, for example.

There was this show, called “Lie to Me” which featured this guy who had the science of reading people down to such an extent, he made a living on discovering who was lying. Not just for justice, but for money. He was a bit obnoxious. One of the ways he’d provoke a reaction to analyze was to get into people’s faces, say nasty things, bob around and get too close for comfort to the face.


This bothered the husband. He found Cal Lightman, played by Tim Roth, endlessly annoying. He lacked charm. When he was working his mojo, Lightman could be a real ass.

I found this refreshing, much as the character of House struck a chord with a great many viewers because he acted without filters. (Reminds me a bit of several characters we’ve read of. Those with aspergers, for example.)

Anyway, I liked Cal Lightman. I liked his passion and interest in what he was doing. He had a young daughter, an ex-wife, issues with those who worked for him. The show fascinated me.

It was cancelled.

Of course.

Now, there is another show on television, that husband really enjoys. “The Mentalist” which stars Simon Baker. Patrick Jane had a very successful life as a fraudulent ‘mind-reader’ – until his own arrogance caught up with him and he lost his wife and son to serial killer. Now he works for the California Bureau of Investigation.


Husband loves Jane. Finds him charming and witty. He uses similar techniques. Same level of arrogance, just coached in a softer package. Jane dresses sharper, is nicer to his co-workers and is seldom directly insulting. He’s also deeply wounded and emotionally stunted. And bent on revenge. Only reason he’s working for the CBI is to find the killer and take him out.

Cal does what he does for money and because the truth matters. Nothing really personal involved, though being television, it occasionally strays there. Or did.

“The Mentalist” is still going strong.

The thing I like about the show is the supporting cast. I find Jane annoying.

Two heroes, two leading men. Similar shows, similar techniques. In fact, interesting that I see another coming our way staring Eric McCormick, called ”Perception.” Man with mental problems which give him a unique way of viewing how diverse elements make a pattern…helps catch bad guys. Might like it. Not sure yet.

Jane (Patrick Jane) is disarming, soothing, non-threatening. Cal Lightman is odious, grating, confrontational. When it comes to who I’d rather write, it’s Lightman, 100%. Attend a party with? Jane. Read about? Lightman. Though Jane might be interesting since a writer can delve deeper into the thought processes…might make him interesting to write about, too. Not as much as Lightmanm though! ;-)

Both characters are heroes, both do similar jobs, both are nice to look at…but oh, so different!

Anyone else know these shows? The characters? Any preference? Which character appeals more to you? To read, to write, to watch?

30 comments:

Marnee Bailey said...

Huh, Mo. This comes at an appropriate time for me. My hero's being a bit unruly right now. I'm having a problem getting across a character trait, something he does as a defensive mechanism. It's not an uncommon character trait for the historical lord, but it's a bit of a change for me and I personally find it an unattractive personality trait.

It's a ruse and I think from his POV, that'll be clear. But it's going to take longer for her to figure it out.

I know that this is all about immersing myself in my characters. If he's really a sympathetic character, as long as I'm close enough to him when I write him, it'll be clear to all.

Just hard at the beginning. :)

As to which character I prefer.... In reality, I prefer probably the less abrasive. On paper? The more abrasive is way more fun. :)

TerriOsburn said...

I'm with Steph all the way on this one. I also have never liked the character House. Abrasive, crude, and arrogant annoy the hell out of me. Probably why I don't like the over-the-top uber alpha.

Give me a tough, intelligent character with a bit of charm and I'm there. On the screen or on paper. Writing my hero Joe Dempsey was tough at first because he's not the most charming guy. He's a guy's guy. But he's not an asshole and once we found our groove, it worked.

Well, it kind of worked. I'm actually working right now to make him a little more attractive (outside of the physical) on the page sooner in the book. I think it's working, but it's a struggle since he's such a grumpy guy.

MsHellion said...

I'm pretty sure I'd have preferred LIE TO ME. *LOL* Mainly because from the description, the lead character reminds me of Vincent D'whatever from L&O: Criminal Intent. He was always getting in the face of the criminals, tilting his head, waiting for them to blink. Just this side of obnoxious, but I enjoyed it just the same. I found him intense. Like I find House--I find House intense--and it wouldn't work for me if he didn't have the droll British humor he's constantly deadpanning. He's an asshole, but he's a self-deprecating asshole. It wouldn't work for me if Colin Farrell was playing the character because he can't do self-deprecating.

I see a bit of charm in House and the Vincent character--it's there. It's just not as prettily packaged as the Mentalist guy is. *yawns*

However, I think the appeal of these characters is living "vicariously" through them. They're mouthing off in such ways *I'D* love to do! I'd love to get away saying some of the shit House says. *LOL* Who wouldn't? And despite the fact, he is such a douche canoe at times, he still has a couple of loyal friends out of it. Those are your real friends.

When you're charming you can have a "lot" of friends, but they're fair weather friends--and in the end for me, I don't like watching shows where people are charming and surrounded by fair weather people. I want drama; I want people I can count on. I want to hear the come back that other people are afraid to say.

MsHellion said...

Oh, and my heroes tend to be more obnoxious. Luc is about as close to charming as I have, and he's just charming because he's a liar.

Maureen said...

Marn - I think what gets me about how the DH and I don't agree on this is how deeply one looks at the character.

Both men are complex. Both are wounded and hide a great deal. Both have cynical world views. Jane coats himself with a veneer of charm while Cal doesn't bother.

I think I just find the 'honesty' of Cal more attractive.

If your character has a surface trait that repells but there is more depth to what is really going on, yeah. I think he'll will be more interesting to write and an adventure for the heroine to uncover...

With these two shows, Jane is a complex person but less honest than Cal...

Maureen said...

Terri - For those who work with Jane, his assholery is there. And the people involved with the case often find themselves thinking he's a total asshole at some point in the show...

I did find House too abrasive and just mean for the sake of being mean. Cal? Well, he appeared hyper and put people off because of how close he examined them... Too really see the subtle clues a person gives off, he had to sometimes be inches from their face...

Joe wasn't oozing charm, but he wasn't impolite... A bit distant, but gods, aren't all men!?

Maureen said...

Hel, good parallel! Cal is a lot like Goren. But Goren often put on a sort of Columbo thing, where it might seem he was being stupid with the 'in your face stuff'. I don't think I ever saw Cal ever put on stupid.

I did love how fast and witty House was, when he wasn't being so cynical he was pure poison. I didn't even watch the last season, just got too ugly for me.

With Cal and Jane... Jane is, at heart, a con man and as such used charm. Cal, at heart, is a scientist and when on the job, charm doesn't provoke the reactions he needs.

What was interesting about these two shows is how the husband and I so disagree on the value of each character!

MsHellion said...

See, I think you and I agree on that core difference of honesty. *LOL* I'd rather know you didn't like me than you were playing me.

TerriOsburn said...

See, I don't get how being "honest" gives a free pass to be rude. That just annoys me. I get that he needed to get in people's faces to do his job, but the way you describe it, both men are doing their jobs. Just differently.

One just sounds like a jerk to me and I don't care how "honest" that seems, it's still annoying.

TerriOsburn said...

And that's the one L&O I could never watch. That character is just off-putting for me.

MsHellion said...

And again, I say, I like these characters because I'm living vicariously through them. They're doing things I couldn't get away with. They're saying things I wish I could say. It's vicarious thing. I already know how to be polite, even if I don't want to be. I find it more of an annoyance than anything because I know both me and the person I'm being polite to (who is being an idiot and doesn't deserve it) I don't like them. *LOL* I just *wish* I could say so, like an obnoxious 3 year old that says whatever he wants.

MsHellion said...

It's a wish fulfillment. Isn't a lot of TV wish fulfillment?

Maureen said...

Well, Ter, it's not like they are being really obnoxious and it's right up front that, for example, Cal has a job to do and this is how he does it. He isn't going to hold you hand and speak soothingly to you while serriptiously taking your pulse to see if you're lying to him. One of Jane's favorite techniques.

They are sorta like the good cop/bad cop pair.

House was too often over the edge for me. Cal? He skirted it. Goren would play dumb and that was the only thing I didn't like about him.

Honesty, in this case, doesn't hinge on being rude, but it does hinge of provoking a reaction. The techniques that Cal uses requres a reaction, it's scientific. He isn't rude for kicks. Because yeah, I'm totally with you on the whole 'if I'm honest I have a pass to be rude' thing. House does it to the point of disliking him and wanting you to dislike him.

If your company hired Cal to discover who was leaking secrets to your competitor, you'd know he was coming in to unearth a liar. It's more a professional technique than a personality trait...

Janga said...

I'm not a TV watcher, and House is the only character mentioned that I've ever seen--and only a handful of times there. But I don't like abrasive personalities.

I'm with Ter on honesty. I don't see it as a free pass to be rude. Perceptions differ. I once had a standing argument with a friend from Philadelphia who saw Southern manners as hypocritical. Bless her heart. What I thought of as the courtesies my mother reared me to practice, she saw as fake. Different points of view.

TerriOsburn said...

I usually say what I'm thinking, but not always. I have job security to think about. And I guess my wish is for a nicer world. LOL!

But speaking of good television with an interesting hero, y'all need to check out Longmire on A&E. The pilot was excellent and it's based on a series of books.

MsHellion said...

See, I'm even from the South--and I think of courtesies a lot of the time as hypocritical. I think it depends on who they are coming from though. I get where the friend would say that. *LOL* Bless her heart.

TerriOsburn said...

North, south, east or west, insincerity comes across the same. Being fake (and that's usually obvious) has nothing to do with where you're from. The people in the south are friendlier, in my opinion. But after living in the south long enough, I figured out that Northerners aren't rude, they're simply not interested in your business.

In the south, it's the obvious. They like to be all up in your business. LOL! It's just different mindsets. Think about it, most countries in the world are the size of our states. Comparing Massachusetts to Alabama is like comparing Norway to Nicaragua.

Maureen said...

I'm all for courtesy, but I do find some of the southern mannerisms two-faced. I loved on how the Closer Brenda had to question two Southern ladies, one of which told a different detective that all those 'thank you very muches' were actually souther code for 'fuck you.'

Initially, I'm all for courtesy and politeness, but it has to be balanced by honesty. I do think it's a fine line sometimes...

I've been enjoying Longmire!

TerriOsburn said...

That should be "...it's the OPPOSITE." *sigh* I can type today.

TerriOsburn said...

So if a New Yorker says, "Fuck you" it's okay because at least he's being honest about it? That doesn't make sense to me. I'd say The Closer was playing up a stereotype that doesn't hold true in most cases.

Maureen said...

Yeah, but when Brenda says it will great sincerity and politeness! And in code!

And the shows are all playing up stereotypes, it's the only way to make sure the greater unwashed audience gets it.

In regards to Brenda, there was evidently a great deal of nuances going on with the 'thank yous' that only another southern woman would pick up on...did make you wonder what she was really saying everytime she said it though!

Quite amusing, really!

P. Kirby said...

I've watched a bit of House, here and there. Saw a few episodes of Lie to Me, and a few minutes of The Mentalist. So, not a loyal viewer of any of those shows.

But...I preferred Cal (Lie to Me) to Jane (The Mentalist). I liked Cal's snarky wit (so did my husband) and Jane just seemed rather...bland. Bland pretty boy all around. House is hilarious. I don't watch the show because I get bored with the "mysterious deadly disease of the week" plotline.

I like my jerks acerbically funny. Captain Mal from Firefly/Serenity doesn't spare his opinion, but there's always an underlying sense of humor, even self-deprecation. The character archetype works for me because they express all the ugly truths "nice" people are thinking. No, I wouldn't necessarily want this type of person in my life, all the time, even if they looked like Captain Mal, but in fiction, oh, Daddy, I love 'em.

My grandmother was a southerner--Tennessee. And she could wield southern politeness in manner that just screamed, "F*ck you," without ever uttering a profanity.

MsHellion said...

Yes! Another person who thinks House is funny. *LOL* Though I agree: this person would get tiresome in real life in large doses, but I adore them in fiction.

(I do find the unfailing polite "fuck you" Southern behavior--when in fiction and not done to be me personally--to be funny to read and see. It's an artform.) But honestly I would prefer people would just be a little nicer--and I don't equate courtesy with necessarily being nice. They can co-exist and some people do it, but there are some that are fakely polite--and they ruin it for everyone. *LOL* It's all about image and shallow.

Nice people sincerely care about you--and that should be nurtured.

House knows he's a jackass--but as was pointed out earlier, he knows it and he does it on purpose to keep people away. He doesn't mean it personally, I don't think. He's just a bit emotionally stunted. I can handle that. *LOL*

Maureen said...

I think you hit the nail on the head, Pat. I find Cal more interesting to read about, to watch...now, if I were sitting next to him at a dinner table...not so sure I wouldn't prefer Jane. Simply for the peaceful rational.

Watching Jane on TV, I know this character is much deeper than they allow him to be played. I know he'd wounded, he's angry, he cares a great deal about his co-workers... It's all hidden quite well behind a facade of selfishishness coated with a sweet layer of charm... I guess it's that he isn't authentic and though my female nature knows there is more to it...I don't trust him.

Cal, and House and Goren...they'd all be easier to trust.

Maureen said...

Hels, I am of the school that being kinder isn't akin to being dishonest. That one can be honest and sincere and kind...and if the people you're dealing with are going to take offense no matter how or what you say? Then go with the advice of Thumper's Mom.

"If you can't say something nice don't say nothing at all."

MsHellion said...

I believe in Thumper. :) It's why I don't review every book I read. My opinion doesn't count for everything, as it were.

But if you ASK for my opinion--and see I think a lot of the problem is they ask for House's opinion. The sarcastic tone is just complimentary with the service.

P. Kirby said...

I'm the wolf that eventually ate Thumper. *Chomp!*

I review every book I read unless...it's written by a friend or published by one of my two publishers AND I hated it. Otherwise, they're all fair game. I'm sure karma has bitten me in the ass a few times, but heck, I'd rather get a bad review than no review at all.

I think the appeal for me of the snarky, asshole is that often they are fiercely loyal to what few friends they do have. They may not give a rat's butt about anyone else, but they'll descend into hell for a friend. It appeals to my fangirlishness; the idea that I could occupy the exalted spot of friend in Mr. Snarky's universe.

Goes back to my fondness for anti-hero, I guess. I just don't trust people who claim to like everybody.

MsHellion said...

I think the appeal for me of the snarky, asshole is that often they are fiercely loyal to what few friends they do have. They may not give a rat's butt about anyone else, but they'll descend into hell for a friend. It appeals to my fangirlishness; the idea that I could occupy the exalted spot of friend in Mr. Snarky's universe.

Goes back to my fondness for anti-hero, I guess. I just don't trust people who claim to like everybody.


OMG, YES! *LOL* That's it!

Maureen said...

Well, I don't claim to like everyone. Though I do think that is something likable about everyone. To someone.

But yeah, totally jibe with you in that when these characters are loyal to someone, they are steadfast to the 12th degree. Makes you want to be one of their friends and to reciprocate!

MsHellion said...

Loyalty is one of my things. Even more than honesty.

I do agree that there is something likable about everyone...to somebody. *LOL* That also explains House perfectly. SOME people find him likable. Just not everybody.