A year ago, if you told me that I would be sitting here telling you that flaws are awesome, I probably would have laughed in your face. And not only laughed, I would have laughed so hard that the tears were streaming and there would have been a 90% chance that I would pee my pants--which would in turn make you laugh and it would be one huge bundle of laughs and stupidity. But then I discovered the blogosphere and I've read many, many books and realized how much I love flaws.
The unfortunate reality of the real world is that flaws suck. You're a short male? Well, damn, that just sucks (story of my life--I'm taller than half the guys in my graduating class). Girl, you've got monstrously long legs? If only people thought they were as attractive as people tend to think they are on models (believe me, this is my dream. As someone that's five foot eight and all legs, I want some guy to love my legs because I sure as hell love them!) Personality flaws, you're slightly controlling? I don't want to work with you, but come on over and sit right here *pats seat next to me* because I want that A! In truth, that happens to me a lot because I am controlling when such a thing can effect my future and people try to take advantage of that. I'll admit it! No shame!
My point is this: flaws are glaringly obvious to us all in reality, and we often stare them in the face and wish them away for all of eternity. I wish I wasn't as pale as I am despite the fact that everyone says I'll love it when I'm older because I have good skin. I wish that I wasn't covered in freckles when the sun decides to make an appearance over New Jersey. I wish that I'm less curvaceous because only older guys tend to appreciate my body type and, well, it's creepy when a 25 year old asks an 18 year old out. Yeah, that's happened to me. Bop it down to age 19, maybe you have a chance, dude. But guys my age are too immature to appreciate that and it makes me really insecure about the way I look. I hate, I hate, I hate. I can pick out very few things that I truly love about myself because my flaws are like a beacon calling to me, "Look at me! Look at me! See how much you hate me?!"
And for those of you who don't have this problem, I applaud you because it takes insanely high self-esteem to be truly okay with yourself. Do I accept that I am the way that I am and I will not be changing? Yes. Does that make me happy every second of my life? No, though I am content with my world and the reality surrounding it. If I could be a bit tanner, have the body I'd prefer, and no freckles would I love that? Hell to the yeah! Because that's what I want! In my mind, that's some of what I deem to be physical flaws disappearing.
But, see, the thing is that when I enter the book world, I really love flaws. Why? Most heroines and characters in young adult literature these days are suffering from a disgusting disease. It's one that is so vile I can't even say the name without shivering in distaste and warding such shamefulness away from me. Want to know what that disease is? PERFECTION.
Everyone, everywhere is perfect. Too many heroines can think they're the ugliest thing in the world and some handsome guy comes along who thinks she's drop dead gorgeous and life is good. Why? Because she's perfect. So rarely are flaws there. And I'm talking real flaws that I would find in everyday life, not ones that are overplayed and make characters overemotional.
Take my two favorite love interests, for example.
Etienne St. Claire from ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
To begin, Etienne is short. He's really terrible at speaking his mind and his desire to please everyone and keep everyone happy often inadvertently hurts other people. He's got an addiction to knit hats and a fear of heights that will make him stop dead in his tracks and panic if he looks down. He's littered with flaws, and that makes him all the more special to me. Why? Because he's real. Perfection is totally unachievable in reality, so when you shove perfection in my face, I shove my infinite eyeball rolls in your face and dock some stars.
|I love you, Ryan Gosling. You're so unconventionally handsome and perfect in your own way because you own it.|
Malachi from SANCTUM by Sarah Fine
Malachi leaves me speechless. He's just so complex and complicated because he has this deep-rooted sense of hatred and paranoia because of the era he was born in (let's just say it was a time in history where many many people died because of their beliefs). He has possibly the world's worst trust issues and he hates it. He hates the loneliness, his lack of forging true connections quickly and instead having to open himself up slowly. He hates feeling as if there is nobody there for him, but he knows it's his fault that he's pushing people away. This is a main character that not only acknowledges his flaws, but he slowly overcomes them in his own way. And because he has the flaws that he has, he carries a mysterious air that draws us in because of our curiosity. Bravo, Malachi, and Mrs. Fine for being amazing as always.
These flaws are what make these characters perfect. Perfection syndrome does not make them perfect, but realism does!
Then, let's take you average character with trust issues. How many times have you come across a main character with trust issues that doesn't seem to make an effort to overcome them? Raise your hand if you have.
|I, too, have felt personally victimized by Regina George.|
That is an example of a character flaw played to make us pity the character. And, for me at least, it never works. Flaws shape who you are and how you view yourself. And they make you want to become a better person or change because you are unhappy with something. You don't roll over and let them win. You begin an emotional journey that may, unfortunately, involve many many tears and work on kicking your flaws' ass! Malachi wants to overcome his trust issues. So you want to know what he does, he works towards it, ever so slowly and anxiously, but he tries. If the character does not try, than it just angers me. Really, who lets their flaws rule their lives in real life? We just keep on living with them. What's to stop characters in books from doing the same? Nothing! But the pity parties tend to be too popular these days.
Now, an example of a flaw meant to entertain us.
Alex from TOUCH OF DEATH by Kelly Hashway
The overall characterization of Alex was flawed. I did not like it, at all, but the biggest thing that bothered me was his addiction to macaroni and cheese. You really think that's a flaw that's going to make me connect to a character?
My overall point is this...flaws are welcome in the bookish world because it's a way to forge really strong emotional bonds with characters, but if you're clearly creating a flaw to appeal to us or to get us to pity the characters as opposed to connecting to the character, you are doing it wrong.
And that's where the hypocrisy comes in. I hate my flaws in reality, but I sure as hell love them in my bookish love interests.
|Hypocrisy meter, you get me.|
You want to know why? Because my flaws are inescapable. I can sit here and rant and rave about them for days on end, or I can rant about them for a few seconds, get over it, and move on the way I normally do. That is my life, and that's the way many others live in regards to what they view to be their flaws both physically and emotionally (I chose to focus on physical flaws just because it was easier). When you put a perfect character in front of me, it's as if you want to shove my flaws in my face. But when you put a flawed character in front of me, it makes me take a tiny step back to reality and realize that, yeah, truly nobody is perfect. I'm not entirely alone. And it makes me think that there are really people out there who get what I'm feeling. I can relate to the flaws, I can't relate to the perfection.
While I won't find an Etienne St. Claire hiding among the boys in my town, I sure as hell can find a shorty with a big heart quicker than I can find a reincarnated Adonis with a smile that drops panties who--gasp!--suddenly and mysteriously only has eyes for average ole me. And the fact that there is some sort of realism to these boys that I use to temporarily escape my reality not only makes them all the more attractive, but all the more perfect in my eyes.
They were not meant to be perfect, and that's what makes them all the more real.
And reality, as much as it can suck in certain moments, always trumps utopias. Always.
Now, I'd really love to know everyone's opinions on this. Do you like flawed characters or do you like the escape that true bookish perfection can provide for you?
Do you experience hypocrisy at its finest like I do, or do you think I deserve a one way ticket to the loony bin?
Do you have any favorite flawed love interests?
Thoughts are always welcome! This is something I'd really love to compare opinions on.