I remember vividly the first time I ever thought about the characteristics inherent to an appealing main character. It was Halloween 1981. I was five years old and my Mom, a school teacher, was complaining that most of the boys in her school came to the Halloween party dressed up as Darth Vader, a few came as Han Solo, and nobody dressed up as Luke Skywalker. Now I know that Luke makes a great main character in that he provides an introduction to the world of Star Wars, serves as a catalyst for action on the grand and small scale, and further that he shows character growth, a weird bit of love interest and ultimately achieves peace with himself and his world. But nobody wants to be Skywalker. They want to be the all powerful Darth Vader who gets to stalk around killing people that irritate him or else Han Solo, the sexy funny space cowboy. I’d still rather be Yoda. That’s the costume I was sporting in kindergarten. I like doing funny voices.
It’s the same in Star Trek. Captain Kirk really can’t be other than he is, the every day adventuring man who time and again dutifully and campily serves as a love interest, action catalyst, plot focal point and naive guide through the strangely garbed worlds of the Trekkies. Spock is the one everybody loves for his reserve, his snarky comments and his cool intellect, but even more so when he breaks character and raises the rare emotionally-fraught eyebrow. It’s certainly not for his haircut. If you have any esteem for Leonard Nimoy or his portrayal of Spock, under no circumstances should you click this link. DON’T DO IT! (Did you do it anyway? Haha. Now it’s stuck in YOUR brain too. Sucker.)
I think a review of the literature will show that it is exceptionally hard to have a main character that does all the jobs of a main character and yet is still someone people might like to go have a beer with. That’s why so often it’s the Hans, Spocks, and Ron Weasleys of the world that people relate to and fall in literary love with. If you haven’t read Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces then I highly recommend it for an interesting dissection of the role of the archetypal hero in mythology. He does a much better job in the book than I could do in a blog post so I think I’ll stop here. Hope you all had a happy Halloween!