Pop Culture

5 Clichéd Movie Character Types I'd Like to See Go Away

Like many other people, I'm a hardcore movie fan, and watching them eats up a lot of my spare time. Anyone who has spent significant time in front of a screen watching films has probably realized that a lot of them trot out the same hackneyed plot elements over and over. That can become tiresome, but worse still are the clichéd character types that still seem to clutter up a lot of modern movies. Here are a few I'd personally like to see go into retirement.

5. The Surly (But Basically Good) Bad-Boy Rebel

This male character type has been around forever. He's the guy who starts out the film being a dick who plays by his own rules. He seems to have purely selfish motivations at the beginning, but eventually is revealed to have noble qualities and usually gets the girl at the end. One of the most obvious examples of this character type is Han Solo. The problem is we've all seen some variation on this scruffy, rough-around-the-edges good guy hundreds of times now. In real life, he'd probably be the type of guy who wouldn't call a woman back after seducing her and stealing the spare change out of her purse, but somehow these guys are the heroes in film after film.

4. The Cinderella Nerd

This character can be of either gender, but is most often female. Usually she's portrayed as nerdy and a wallflower ugly duckling, despite being played by a beautiful Hollywood actress laboring underneath some homely glasses and dowdy clothes. The movies these Cinderellas end up in are most often romantic comedies, and the plot involves some intervention by fate and supporting characters, where the character ends up transformed by the end, usually to gain the attention of a Prince Charming type. It's a formula, but kind of a creepy one, especially when the message seems to be "you have to change yourself to get the man of your dreams." Gross. The Princess Diaries is a good example of a film using this type of clichéd character. Grease is another. Miss Congeniality is another one, and the list goes on and on.

3. Minorities Who Exist As Stereotypes or As One-Dimensional Side Characters

Movies have a long and usually troubled history when it comes to realistically portraying minorities. Go watch films from 50 or 60 years ago, and it's shocking how blacks and other people of color were portrayed back in the early days of Hollywood. A lot of the time, Asian and Native American characters were played by Caucasian actors in makeup, and pretty much any character who wasn't lily-white was treated like a one-dimensional stereotype. A person doesn't even have to go too far into the past to see terrible depictions of minorities in film. Take for example a much-beloved film like Sixteen Candles, which came out in 1984. Long Duk Dong is the only Asian character in that whole movie, and his appearances play out like a prolonged racist joke. I can't imagine a character like that getting green-lit for a romantic comedy marketed at teenagers today. While things have improved somewhat in recent years, or at least we don't see white dudes wearing yellow face to play Asian characters anymore, mainstream films still have a very long way to go. A lot of modern movies still use minority characters who are one-dimensional side characters who seem to exist primarily to help white protagonists with their goals. It's rare to see an Asian male as a romantic lead in an American film, but they're often portrayed as gangsters or super-intelligent nerds. I'm not sure what has to happen for more films to have minority characters that seem like real people with their own goals.

2. Horror Movie Character Clichés

This is really a broad category of character types who have populated horror films for decades. I'm a huge fan of horror movies in general, and usually watch several scare films every week. For that reason, there are a few character clichés I'd love to see abandoned by filmmakers. First is the sexually promiscuous horror movie victim. This became a cliché almost immediately after it started appearing in the '70s and '80s, but if a character or characters smoke a joint or decide to have sex, it's pretty much a given that their heads are getting chopped off in the next scene. This weird tendency for horror filmmakers to punish people for breaches of morality seems strangely puritanical, and it is silly.

Then there is the "Final Girl" character that became the norm in the first wave of classic slasher films. She's the last survivor who is relentlessly pursued by the killer until she finally manages to dispatch him somehow. She's usually the chaste friend of the killer's victims, and the only one smart and resourceful enough to survive the encounter. It would be nice to see a few more survivors, or some other variation on the plot device.

Most of these types of horror films also feature a masked killer, and in some cases those characters are as iconic to the genre as can be. Which makes me wonder: Why do all of these guys wear masks? I mean, no one is going to create a new slasher villain who is going to top Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, so why bother? Wearing a mask just looks scary, I get that, but it doesn't offer any real advantages to the killer in the mask. A lot of the time, it's revealed at the end of the movie that the murderer is someone all the victims knew. It would probably be easier for him to just walk up and stab them while pretending to be friendly. But no, the slasher guy always has to go and wear a spooky murderclown mask, basically telegraphing to anyone seeing him that that person better run away. It's dumb.

1. The Perpetual Manchild Who Is Somehow the Hero

These characters seem to appear in movies as often as masked killers do in horror films, and I've grown to despise them. They're the slobby, middle-aged males who seem to have stopped developing mentally and socially sometime in high school. Adam Sandler has made a long and terrible career out of playing these dudes, and that is as damning as anything else. In the films that feature these heroes, we're introduced to a protagonist male who either never blossomed into the potential everyone thought he had, or who is just stunted in perpetual adolescence and still living in his parents' basement. The plots of these films always introduce some crisis that forces the manchild character into action. Either his (always out of his league) girlfriend has decided he's going nowhere in life and leaves him, or his parents want him out of the house unless he can take over the family business. The rest of these movies generally have him and an assortment of colorful and equally stunted friends somehow achieving the manchild's dream while still holding onto his inherent slobbiness. At the end, this character will have "improved" himself enough to win the day, while somehow being rewarded with the affection of another woman way out of his league. I think these guys are supposed to be funny and endearing, but usually they come off as pathetic and gross. It's time for them to go away, along with any future movies starring Adam Sandler. Please.
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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.