I consider myself a loser, and no matter how many good things come to me, I probably always will. As a matter of fact, if you’re the kind of person who ever said the words, “I’m a WINNER!” with any degree of seriousness, you are probably not very interesting. I’m looking at you, Tony Robbins. We will never be BFFL.
To me, losers, rejects, acned teenagers who write bad poetry, and grown-ups who were once acned teenagers who wrote bad poetry are the most interesting people in the world. Need proof? Allow me to give you some examples:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Okay, so Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a superhero. But she and her friends are also, in the little cosmos of Sunnydale, California, losers. Her strength, healing ability, her destiny to protect the world from the forces of darkness are a serious hindrance to her social life. Though it’s set in high school, this series resonated with a lot of adults, myself included, at least partially because it was a reminder that playing the games that are supposed to make you a winner don’t matter. At. All. What matters are friendship and kindness and resourcefulness and defeating the forces of darkness, whether they come fanged, winged, or clad in Benneton and a bad attitude.
Bridget Jones’ Diary
I actually hated Bridget Jones’ Diary when I first read it. I far preferred the sequel, The Edge of Reason, but I did completely fall in love with Bridget when I saw the movie. A little of that was Colin Firth (a little Colin Firth makes anything better), but the movie also helped me see what a disaster she is, and how little she cares. She embarrasses herself in pretty much every situation she’s in, but she’s still so wonderfully lovable and cheerful and kind. When Mark Darcy tells her that he loves her just as she is, it was a call to losers the world ’round that you get to be exactly the person you are and people will still adore you. All Bridget’s efforts to be someone smoother or smarter are in vain. It’s when she’s her silly, clumsy, sweet self that she gets what she wants.
Freaks and Geeks
It is pretty much a crime against humanity that this show went off the air after one season and we’re stuck with multiple iterations of the Real Housewives franchise. If you’ve never heard of the show, and odds are you probably missed it entirely, it’s a comedy set in a suburban high school, centering around Lindsay Weir, who is undergoing a metamorphosis from good girl to ‘freak’, and her brother Sam, a tiny, awkward freshman, and his friends, the ‘geeks’. They’re wrestling with how to be themselves and fit in at the same time. Every time I see an episode of this show I just want to hug every one of the characters, because they are so lost and confused and wonderful in their awkwardness. If you doubt me at all, just watch the pilot, the end of which features the characters dancing to “Come Sail Away” by Styx at a homecoming dance, and is guaranteed to make you cry.
I’ve written before about my love of Stephen King’s The Stand, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again. When I first read this in high school, I wanted to rescue Harold Lauder from himself desperately. The gorgeous thing about the story is that pretty much every one of the characters would have been a complete and total loser before the plague, but as Harold realizes, before the plague doesn’t matter anymore. All the rules that applied once no longer matter, and everyone who was once rejected for any reason at all – too fat, too stupid, too young, too old, – gets to be taken just as they are. As the characters rebuild their world, they rebuild themselves without the rules that defined them before.
J.C. and I have recently been re-watching Joss Whedon’s Firefly (another show we lost after one season, though we did get an incredible movie, Serenity, after the cancellation), and there’s a line in there that reminds me a great deal of what being a loser means. Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm Reynolds, leader of a ragtag band of kindhearted criminals, is in a conversation with a representative of the government Alliance, who asks why he named his ship after a battle during which he fought for “the wrong side.” Mal says, “May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”
Oh, I thought of a billion examples when I was getting ready to write this – Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Holden Caulfield in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye…look. Losers are just more interesting than winners. We may get rejected more, we may feel more pain than it seems we can handle at times, but we will always, always, have better stories.
Who are your favorite fictional losers?