I watched the pilot for AMC's Lodge 49 this weekend in the hopes of finding a new show. I managed to get through it, but I don't think I can stand to give it another episode, because the main character is a certain type that I find particularly infuriating: the lovable loser.
I feel as if there should be quotes around the first word there, because all the traits that make this character type someone the audience likes can't overcome my reaction to the "loser" part. The lovable loser is usually quirky, endearingly awkward, good-natured even to a fault, and often has a treasure trove of trivia to hand. But this is a character who often doesn't have a job, or if they do, it's a subsistence job that they keep screwing up. Unemployment itself isn't a vice, but the lovable loser generally isn't even trying to find a suitable job. If they're on the hunt, it's usually for some ridiculous, pie-in-the-sky scheme.
Often, the lovable loser doesn't have a home. They crash on someone's couch, or there's an endearing vignette about them breaking into their old apartment - which they've been kicked out of - and sleeping there. Or a hammock on the beach is fine ... until it starts to rain. The lovable loser doesn't have long-term ambitions. Sometimes, there's a backstory of tragedy to explain why the lovable loser has fallen apart, but many of these characters outlive their welcome on this.
The nail in the proverbial coffin, though, is the fact that these characters routinely let down the characters in their lives. They borrow money and don't pay it back. They disappear for weeks at a time. They don't have phones. If nothing else makes them snap out of it, letting down the people they love sure ought to. (You could argue that clinical depression might be preventing this, but I've yet to see a take on the lovable loser seriously incorporate this rationale.)
The lovable loser is the overgrown man-child in Knocked Up. He's the screw-up brother in every family dramedy; he's probably every character Owen Wilson has ever played. And he's often the love interest for a female lead who is "too straight-laced, too ambitious, too career-obsessed."
And the lovable loser is pretty much always male. I can't think of a female example off-hand; Annie from Good Girls is the closest I can come, and she's not always that likable. In fairness, I wanted to knock that character in the head several times, too. Seems like women don't get to implode this way.
Seeing these characters grow up and redeem themselves is often supposed to be part of their arc, but sometimes - especially in a television series - they just exist as a foil for everything around them. The problem is, personally, I don't have patience for their nonsense, unless they're going to shape up within the first few episodes ... and then if they aren't the lovable loser, what are they? Of course, when it comes to movies, this is when the curtain conveniently falls ...
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