Posts Tagged ‘Commodus’

It has been a few days since my last post as I’ve spent the majority of my free time watching the latest episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones. George RR. Martin is one of the great fantasy writers of our time, but I was skeptical when I first heard that his acclaimed series was going to put on HBO. But after watching the first episode last year, I was hooked by the story all over again. Outstanding in nearly every respect, I can say little to disparage this captivatingly dark fantasy.

When I find a story as enthralling as this, I like to try and pick apart the pattern and find the threads that really tug at me. Most often, I discover that characters are at the other end. Characters such as Daenerys, Tyrion, Arya and Robb are, for me, the most relatable in the show up to date, and retain the perfect balance of internal growth and external action, which only makes their performances that much more remarkably evocative.

However, I’ve noticed that I learn nearly as much when studying characters that I utterly despise, which brings me to Joffrey Baratheon. Jack Gleeson was a perfect cast for this smarmy self-important twat who seems to do nothing but make me loath every single fiber of his being. He actually reminds me of Commodus from Gladiator, which remains one of my favorite films due largely in part to Joaquin Phoenix’ marvelously odious portrayal of the character. Though Commodus is considerably more calculating and intelligent than Joffrey, they both are infuriating, cowardly and bitterly sadistic. I did find Commodus to be a more of a well-rounded character as his greed, cruelty and hatred are balanced by desperation, anxiety and loneliness. He feels abandoned by both his father and his sister, who have chosen to deliver unto Maximus what Commodus believed to be his right, whether it be the Empire of Rome or simply their love and respect.

And just like Commodus, Joffrey is a pitiful character. We almost come to enjoy hating him. His mannerisms, his speech, his smug little smile, all seem to make you want to throttle him.  I believe that any character that can rouse such sentiments in a viewer or reader is a successful one, even if he is a sniveling spoiled brat like Joffrey. These types of characters push you to root for the protagonist, to invest in the crisis of the story, and to revel in their inevitable downfall.  But they also exist to show the viewer a side of human nature that is forcibly repressed.  The fact of the matter is that Joffrey is a product of his parents twisted sense of self-importance. We hate him because we hate the idea that such appalling qualities could reside within us all. As a writer, we must be able to create characters so abhorrently vile that we cringe every time we write them onto the page. A nameless evil that threatens the realm is all well and good, but a revoltingly pompous little shit is so much more satisfying to squash.


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