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8106 › Top 11 Most Tragic Characters
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i love drama.
it is about people with problems that are way over our heads. we watch drama films and series and thereby experience things that will most probably never happen to us. and especially: they are worse than the things that happen to us.
that’s why i love watching a good drama; seeing others dealing with problems that are simply worse than mine makes me feel much better. plus i learn how to cope with certain things without ever experienced something like that by myself. an emotional rollercoaster, but without the fear of getting hurt – what else could you want?

and what does make good drama? the characters!
that is why i thought it to be a good idea to pick up a list characters from fiction that had the greatest impact on me when it comes to drama. i thought about films, series, games, books, and so on, i choosed carefully – focussing on the complexicity of the characters’ personality, the nature of his problems, how his life is messed up, how he deals with it and how it all is portrayed.
and this is what came out of this thought-process.


James Seth Lynch
from Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

why he is so messed up stays mostly unclear, but he is a freaking psychopath and has no control over himself, what is making him so tragic. he is the last on this list, because one can not tell for sure if he really struggles with his problems or if he simply lets it all be. at least he made his companions believe that he is sane, but freaks out really quickly and unpredictable. i personally think he really wants to keep himself straight forward and NOT being a psycho, but is so deep in his own shit that he doesn’t realize what is going on. he shows no regrets for all the horrible things he has done, yet seems not to want all this to happen. a prisoner of his own lust for chaos, that surely is tragic.


Bernd Stromberg
from Stromberg

haha, well, this is the most unconventional entry on this list. because Stromberg is meant to be a comedic approach on serious problems. but despite being a parody about asshole people and their egocentrical view on life, the character of Stromberg himself surely IS tragic. of course, on the one hand he deserved what happened to him, because he is a dickhead, and then there are moments were you have to pity him, when you realize that it is his own incapability of dealing with his fellow men that lead to his downfall. this contrast of reasons is what the series is all about. Stromberg is creating his own personal downward spiral and you as the viewer are forced to hate him and pity him at the same time.


Gilbert Grape
from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

at least one character played by Johnny Depp had to be on this list, right? he is just SO GOOD in playing miserable figures to pity. and i think Gilbert Grape is the best from of all them. you just find him in a position of responsibility and can BARELY cope with it, but is not able to escape from it, because he is just such a good guy. and that is pretty much the whole tragic behind this character. the movie is all about his pain and efforts to deal with all the problems around him – all of those problems are not directly effecting him, but are directly linked to him, leaving him in a responsible position. he is constantly forced to do selfless actions, and because he is a good person he takes his pain in order to help others. he does his best, but as he can’t solve any of the problems he is somehow caged IN them. you just wish to release him from his pain, but nobody can – that is pure tragic.


Alex Shepherd
from Silent Hill Homecoming

this was a hard decision, and a close race between Alex and James Sunderland from SH2. but i think the conclusion at the end of SH5 helped me deciding, because i think Alex is much more messed up than James.
of course i had to choose one of the SH characters. could easily add some more, because – and you know this if you at least spend a little time anaylizing the SH franchise – Silent Hill is all about its characters and their struggle with problems. the story of each SH game is always a psycho-analysis of the main character, in a surprisingly deep way. what seperates the games from most of the other games is that even the main character is far from being a perfect hero, killing for the greater good. it’s right the other way around: EVERY character in this whole franchise is totally messed up. they all did something ‘evil’ and than they get what they deserve – and it’s Silent Hill that is punishing them. it is amazing to see all those people who are forced to deal with their own egocentrical decisions. and it shows evil in mankind, in general. after playing so much Silent Hill i realize that the basic message that the games disclose is that we are all bad people, we simply don’t realize how bad we really are. we do stupid things, act brutal, hate. and we all deserve this ultimate punishement which the city of Silent Hill provides.
i personally think that Alex is so far the most messed up character. i could describe that in detail now, but i won’t, because every word would be a great spoiler. and as this game is all about his misery i would actually spoil the STORY by just describing his problems with life. go with it, and play the game to find out.


Dr. Nicholas Rush
from Stargate Universe

we’re only 5 episodes in the still new series of SGU, and i still can only hardly comprehend its format. but i can’t stress this enough: Stargate Universe is a drama series! it’s all about its characters and their problems, not about traveling to other planets, shooting aliens, and stuff. it’s drama. in space. awesome.
the concept of the series reminds me a lot of Six Feet Under: you have a bunch of main characters, and you can hardly tell who is more important. is there even one MAIN character? so far i can only doubt that. so, every character has some deep issues to deal with, things happen and story arcs cross lines. pretty nice, although not a new concept. the only news about it is the setting, and that is a great advantage to the history of tv shows in general.
anyways. from all the characters, so far Dr. Rush is the most pityful. i still can’t put my finger on what is really bothering him, but he is apparently in a situation that he can barely bear. dealing with suicide-borderline issues, not being capable of basic social structures. he is alone, lost all will to live, but still he survives and is forced to deal with all it. and he is so much deep in this shit, that you just KNOW everytime a problem occurs, especially with other people around him, he is just one step away from going completely NUTS and doing something horrible. i bet this will happen soon, it’s just a question of time. but we will see…


Humbert Humbert
from Lolita

so far best portayed by Jeremy Irons in the 1997 remake. but the real potential of the characters depth is best achieved in the book (of course).
the movies just can’t show all what is driving him to what he does and reasoning why he acts the way he does, for a simple reason: a movie being able of doing so would go for at least 20 hours. the character is just SO EXTREMELY COMPLEX, it’s amazing. and the book does quite well describing his reasons, making everybody who reads it understanding his actions.
i can’t really justify his position on this list, because that would require me to write an additional ten-thousand word essay. at least. but that isn’t really necessary at all, is it? because if you have at least watched one the two movie versions you can imagine how tragic his role in life is. you may disagree with it, but then let me tell you that you have no idea what his REAL problems were all about. Irons does transport this issues with his acting. the way he gestures, the struggles of his eyes when he deals with something. you can see him thinking and trying to cope with something that you cannot put a finger on. so you may not know what is going on in his head, but even so you can FEEL his pain and understand his incompatibility with the world he lives in. and that is tragic.


Lafayette Reynolds
from True Blood

it was surprisingly easy to pick him from the TB characters. i mean every character has mayor problems, but Lafayette’s issues have really DESTROYED him. okay, what happened to him was really, really bad, but seriously, who would have thought it crushed him that much? the series spend several scenes only to show how damaged his mind was from what happened to him. and hell was it cruel.
he was such a strong and self-confident person, and seeing him writhering in pain from his sheer fears really has a strong impact on the viewer. at least this was with me that way. Nelsan Ellis did also manage to show this struggle of Lafayette with his fears in a really good manner. you could see this fight in his eyes and just felt sorry for him. poor guy.


Angela Petrelli
from Heroes

well this may surprise you. putting a character from Heroes on this list wasn’t really much of a choice. but Angela? of course! let me try to explain why:
as a DRAMA tv show, Heroes is more mediocre, than good. it’s more about sci-fi and action. and a complex and deep storyline. but still the drama elements are there. but somehow the direction doesn’t stress this aspect of the show really well. sometimes bad things happen, but the focus isn’t really onto the characters as they deal with it. at least not a lot, or better said not long enough, because most of the times when something bad happens you can be sure that one or two minutes later there will be a rough cut into some action or something else. that’s not really good drama. the basics are there, but the series simply doesn’t want to put that much effort in showing the impact on its characters.
but not with Angela. and i am not really sure who to blame for it. but i have the feeling that everytime something arousing happens around her the direction focusses more on her, than it does with other characters. there were dozens of portrait shots just showing her watching, and thinking, and reacting. and this is the part were Christine Rose, who portrays Angela, takes action. because that is what she can do really good. she is able of showing her inner struggles by subtle details of her acting.
Angela has so many secrets around her. most of the time you question her intentions, IF you even know those. what is she really up to? is she a villain, or a hero? whom is she good-willed to? is she lying? is she telling the truth? but whatever she does, you can SEE her dealing with her problems. you may not be sure what those are, but they are there. what a thrill!
by her expressions you can even tell her emotions, which often are a contrast to what she does right now. for example she makes a decision, but you can see the PAIN she takes for it. you don’t know why, but you feel pity because she is obviously afflicted by her choice. THAT is strong acting. which makes Angela a deep and impact-full character.


Walter Hartwell White
from Breaking Bad

ooh yeah, bad-ass. here we have a good example for how characters from drama fiction would in reality react to something as bad as what happened to Walter. we have a man who finds himself in a situation that he simply cannot deal with and has nothing left to loose. but instead falling into a state of self-pitiness and giving it up, he just says fuck it, i don’t care, and breaks bad. totally. and i find this extremely realistic. he simply doesn’t care anymore, even about others. that’s how messed up he is.
i mean, he basically is a good guy, but the happenings around him had such a great impact on him that he even found himself able to hurt others and drag others down with him. for example you often see him helping Jesse with his problems, but on the other hand he also often drags him back into the drug dealing business and ruining Jesse’s life along with his own. and no regrets or anything alike, he simply gave up on doing what might be “right”, despite his warm-hearted nature.
explaining his actions can lead to a complex issue, but the fact that it is possible shows clearly how tragic his position really is. a poor guy, but still one bad motherfucker. don’t deal with somebody who gave up on life!


Dr. Perry Cox
from Scrubs

maybe i could have also choosed JD, for his constant self-destructive behavior, or Ted, for his pathetic suicidal tendences, but in my opinion Cox is the best choice for this list, because of the strong contrast of his confident personality, to his issues with dealing with problems. strangely enough he really has a great self-confidence, but he seems to spend so much effort in keeping that up, that he most often doesn’t process the problems occuring to him, building up inner tension that eventually explodes in an aggressive output of emotions, or in a pitiful self-abandonment state of dullness. and this is so sad.
mmh… not much more to say about him though. it’s not a big deal, his character just had the most impact on me, due to the contrast of his nature. John C. McGinley plays him really well and realistic, and puts Cox’ emotions into the right light, always reflecting him in proper manners. all in one, a really “round” character, good build up and without logical flaws.


Nathaniel Samuel Fisher, Jr.
from Six Feet Under

so, that’s my number 1 most tragic character. and i guess that anyone who has watched 6FU all trough will understand this decision completely. once again, i had many characters from this show to decide from, but Nate is my final choice – and it wasn’t really THAT hard.
Nate is secretely the main character of the show. you don’t necessarely realize that while watching, but think about it. Nate goes through most of the problems – the quantity alone is a good reason – and always seems to be in the middle of everything. most of the other characters have their own problems, but don’t necessarely confront those with ALL the other characters. but everybody has a direct connection to Nathaniel, leading him to have the most issues. and hell, does he go through a lot of shit.
it is only during the series the he learns to take responsiblity. he doesn’t have that from the beginning and starts off with bad choices, leading to his first serious problems – but all the rest caughts him completely off-guard. and this is were his tragedy begins. things fall apart around him, and he has no choice than to deal with it. and as he is connected to everyone else, everything bad that happens effects him. and when things finally threw him down, he dragged along all his friends with him.
this story is what tragedy is all about. bad things happen, people have to deal with it, but are too weak to act the best way possible. they make mistakes, they act selfish and everything comes back at them, just to make it more worse than it was before. one big downward spiral, and in the middle of all one person who does not deserve it all. a spiral of doom, ending in the most classical ending imaginable.
for me Six Feet Under will always remain the perfect drama series, because it tells Nate’s destiny so great. it’s like hearing to a great masterpiece of classic music. it’s rounded and perfected to a great level and just feels that way. you wouldn’t change a bit and even enjoy the sadness it spreads. sweet melancholy all the way. and Nate in the middle of it.
i think it is also his positive approach in the first place, that makes him so likeable. he started as a sunny-boy, just enjoying his life. and than seeing him suffer for no particular reason, because fate wanted it that way, or so, is just so damn cruel. you really feel helpless, and the show stresses this feeling so much. great story, great characters, great actors – likeable characters that you feel pity for and an ongoing downfall of the psyche of the main character, told in a so extremely deep way that you as a viewer feel helpless about the happenings. that’s why it is such a great experience to see this show. and to participate in Nate’s life.
in the end it is hope, hope that everything gets better, that keeps you watching. the most tragic about it is that the series first builds up this hope, and then takes season after season of systematically destroying this particular hope. that’s the ultimate tragedy.

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last modified: 2010-Nov-29, 0:01:00
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