There are many heroes that have something they get teased about. My own knowledge of this stems more from manga and anime than anything else. Still, I remember Halt in Ranger’s Apprentice gets teased once or twice for the way his hair is cut. That means it isn’t only Japanese culture that allows heroes to be silly or the butt of a joke. Not just the butt of a joke either, but a running joke that isn’t simply comments on how deadly and badass a hero is. Height issues, bad hair, ‘creepy’ eyes, and a variety of other flaws can be used here. Most importantly, this is typically something that doesn’t go away easily or at all. Hence, it’s something that can get brought up constantly.
I’ve heard a few arguments against this and I’ll get those out of the way. Some feel a hero who is teased is seen as weak and unworthy of the protagonist role. Even flawed, they should have the utmost respect of those around them. At the very least, they shouldn’t react poorly to such comments. For example, teasing someone about their height should be countered with either calm ignoring or a witty comeback. Because we all know most people do this in real life . . . I couldn’t write that with a straight face. Real people get annoyed with they are teased about their flaws and have knee-jerk reactions to such barbs, especially under stress. Heroes are usually stressed. As a 5’5” guy with 6’+ friends, I’ve received a fair amount of teasing for this. I don’t always react maturely and that’s part of being human. For some reason, people feel that such a thing is a bad sign for a hero and wish for them to be teflon against teasing.
So, why would you want to do this to a character? You might not want to and it might not fit in the atmosphere of your story, but there are positives to making the character the butt of a running gag.
- It shows they’re human in the way they’re react and that they’re not perfect. We all have triggers, so our characters having them isn’t too far-fetched.
- Humor can be an excellent ice-breaker and tension reliever even in literature. A few lines where this happens can change a scene that is getting darker than intended and cheer people up.
- Proof of character friendship can come from these scenes. Good friends tease each other and shrug it off as an act of camaraderie. It isn’t malicious or immature if done correctly. For example, two characters can have a quick insult/tease conversation when they’re in a mild disagreement.
- For characters who tend to be haughty, these types of interactions can bring them down a few pegs. As much as people hate flawed characters that get teased, pompous perfect heroes get equal if not more flack. A teasing can help to ground them.
Now, this isn’t for everyone and every genre. If you don’t want to have humor or high school drama then this wouldn’t work. It definitely falls into quirkiness, but it can be fun to read and write.
So, anybody use running gags that happen at the hero’s expense? Any examples of your favorites?