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?
12 Replies to “At Least Deb Eleanor Is in Good Company…”
We have freakishly similar taste. All of these are favorites for me
Because we are AWESOME. I have been having such fun re-watching Firefly.
I met Adam Baldwin (Jayne) at a Con in Orlando and he was so lovely – sweet and friendly and gentle and HE HELD MY HAND FOR A REALLY LONG TIME after we shook hands. I resisted the urge to touch his biceps, but he was so nice.
You are so right on with this post. I agree with you that almost everyone thinks they’re a loser, even when they’re not at all, and that’s precisely what makes characters like these so appealing. We (or at least I) don’t want to hear about someone who gets it right all the time because none of us do that. We want someone who means well but makes mistakes. Even if they turn out a winner in the end, it’s essential that they stumbled and struggled and felt bad along the way.
I think you nailed my personal favorite with Holden Caulfield!
Thanks, Meghan! I totally agree. A story about someone entirely successful would be a snooze. No conflict and nothing to root for. I prefer an underdog.
I haven’t re-read Catcher in ages – I so loved Holden when I was a teenager I’m afraid I wouldn’t love him as much now.
Is she a loser? Suddenly those books got much more interesting! I am not a big mystery fan.
Arthur Dent’s “I never got the hang of Thursdays” cannot be topped, but I always connected with Fflewder Fflam, by Lloyd Alexander.
I don’t know from Fflewder Fflam, but how can I not love that name?
I’ve read HHGTG many a time, but the BBC radio version I’ve listened to even more. I can absolutely hear the actor saying, “This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays,” clear as a bell in my head. It’s an awfully good sentiment to remember whenever I’m having a bad day.
I LOVE YOU FOR THIS LIST!!!!
Kim’s right, Stephanie Plum deserves a spot — especially in the earlier books, where she rocks loserdom in the best way.
Arthur Dent wins, hands down. I worship The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so much so that I even like So Long and Thanks for All the Fish… which is not a great book.
Colin Firth. Bridget Jones’ Diary the movie. When he leans down and nuzzles her neck. Excuse me… I need to take a cold shower.
But where you made me happiest? FREAKS AND GEEKS!!!! This is truly one of the all-time best shows ever on TV, and it is indeed a hideous crime it was pulled so quickly.
Another TV loser I love? Cliff Clavin from Cheers. Come on… “Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?” BRILLIANT!
Have you read LAST CHANCE TO SEE? That’s an Adams non-fiction, and it’s absolutely hilarious.
I totally agree re: F&G! Not only did it introduce me to so many wonderful actors – James Franco, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Linda Cardelini – but it was just SO beautifully acted and written. I didn’t like UNDECLARED half as much. Whenever I see one of the actors from that show somewhere else (Bill in ADVENTURELAND was such a great surprise!) I am just filled with happiness.
Oooh, I love Firefly! I kept hearing friends talk about it and thought the premise sounded awful (I’m not a fan of space travel or futuristic stuff). But the characters really sucked me in. So glad it made your special loser list 🙂
Yeah, ‘space western’ sounds like it would have a pretty limited appeal. But, as with most Whedon, it’s all about the incredible writing and the phenomenal casting. Mmm…Adam Baldwin.
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