Maybe I’ve just seen too much anime and read too many YA novels, but I’m starting to get tired of so-called “ordinary” protagonists.
Although the first reason that comes to mind is that ordinary can too easily mean boring, it isn’t one of my reasons at all. My biggest reason for being sick of this and all its related tropes, is that the description itself is off-base.
The last one I came across was an ordinary guy who has no memory of the past. How on earth is that ordinary? Then there are the ones who are “ordinary high school students”–except for being the orphaned grandson of a woman who collected the names of demons. Just being an orphan kills the ordinary tag. It is not rare, no, but it isn’t what the general idea of ordinary is.
I guess it happens because writers think that the perfect foil for the crazy world they want to unfold (happens most often in anime) is a completely normal person. There’s also the appeal of providing a DIY Mary Sue for fans.
In a way, the thing that bothers me about the ordinary guy (or girl, I don’t differentiate) who isn’t actually ordinary probably saves me from a more irritating issue. A boring character.
Ordinary doesn’t have to mean boring, but people tend to think it does. But writers want the effect of the mundane foil or reader-insert. They just don’t seem to think that anything is interesting about ordinary people unless they can do something big or have some kind of tragedy.
Guess what? Talented people can be ordinary. And vice versa. I used to glare at USA network’s commercials when they ran those stupid “character” things. As if people who make hats out of string are somehow more worth knowing than your soccer mom neighbour. But that’s another rant.
Being an orphan is not ordinary. Having amnesia is not ordinary (or original). Dealing with a divorce is not ordinary–but it’s closer. Usually what seems to be meant by “ordinary” is featureless. Right smack in the middle of the census stats.
Being well-read is ordinary. Liking sports is ordinary. Disliking sisters is ordinary. For heaven’s sake, Arthur is almost the perfect example of an ordinary character who is interesting, as long as you ignore the fact that he’s an aardvark. And that’s even normal for his world.
There is often something remarkable about them, and sometimes the writer is actually aware enough to make the ordinariness largely part of the protagonist’s self image. When this doesn’t work, it just ends up the same.
In case anyone else has read The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, he is a good example of–well, of being awesome. And completely breaking my point.
Ordinary Boy lives in a very compact world where literally everyone but him has super powers. Despite the fact that in such a society, this should make him literally anything but ordinary. He manages to be the ordinary interesting person that I talked about–he’s smart, but not a genius, and he’s a well-behaved, sociable kid who gets into trends like any other.
As the series goes on, his ordinary specialness (for once, I use that word sincerely) starts making you think he might actually be like everyone else. Just not quite the same way.
So yeah. I want more of that. I think I just managed to happy myself right the heck out of a rant. Which I find immensely funny. Happy and laughing, I can rant no more.
By the way, can anyone else listen to rap while writing? It’s an unnerving talent to have.