What does it mean to be broken? In my world, not necessarily by definition, a broken person has experienced any number of life’s curveballs. Things like loss, hardship, disappointment and the proverbial unexpected “kick in the teeth” are a few things that may cause a person to become broken. Some people experience lots of little hurdles, some experience that one big hurdle and some live through multiple hurdles. We all have them and have all lived through them. They are the concrete that makes us who we are, the hardening process and its lasting effect on us.
Television is full of colorful, wonderfully broken characters. These characters are the center of my obsession with television. I used to obsessive about movies. I cared for and wanted the underdog to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix. Characters like John McClain or Martin Riggs struck a chord with me. I saw hope in their actions, the actions they performed while being in pain, both physical and emotional.
Then I discovered a new way to watch television. Being available every week at the same time to watch a show with bunches of commercials really tested my ability to concentrate. Then the entertainment gods smiled down on us obsessive watchers and gave forth Netflix and Amazon on Demand. Now I could watch my favorite shows any time, and anywhere. I could even watch the entire season in one sitting if I wanted. Thus my obsession deepened. I could now get a “fix” between shows by watching older episodes.
This brings me back to my love for the broken. My absolute favorite broken character is Dean Winchester (played perfectly by Jensen Ackles and created by Eric Kripke) of the CW show, Supernatural. Dean’s brokenness has endeared him to a legion of adoring fans. As a young child, his life was dramatically changed when his mother is killed by an unknown force and his father became obsessed with finding out what killed her. Dean suffers from insecurity, a sense of worthlessness, profound loneliness, and a fear of losing what little he has left. My heart has broken when his has, I have cried with him many times and am thrilled when he laughs. He carries on and does the right thing even when he cannot think of any reason to get out of bed. His life has made Dean Winchester the beloved poster child for brokenness.
The artfully invented character of Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant and created by Elmore Leonard) of the FX show, Justified, is another obsession. Raylan is a US Marshall in his hometown in Kentucky. His dysfunctional family and upbringing have caused a break in him, but he continues on in search of that thing that makes sense to him. He acts bad and is compulsive but that makes me love him that much more. Raylan, like Dean, is a very complex and compelling character.
There is a new character to add to my obsession list. Walt Longmire (played to a tee by Robert Taylor and written/created by Craig Johnson) on the A&E show, Longmire, is an obsession after only one season. Walt is a sheriff in a large county in Wyoming. He is an old school lawman trying to deal with a changing landscape and a changing society. His brokenness runs deep but is most recently deepened by the loss of his wife. This is a new series and his character is still slowly being exposed to the viewers.
As I sit here and wonder why these characters are so compelling, I cannot help but wonder if it is a human trait to cheer on the underdog, the one who just does not seem to get a break. Maybe we reflect our own brokenness on these characters in a way to see the hope. It could be that we, as viewers, get to see what our anti-hero does when no one is looking; when they show their real self. Or I could just be reading more into this then there is. All these characters are well written and precisely acted. It is their job to become adored. It is working. I adore these characters and will continue to watch their lives unfold, cry with them and laugh with them. That is real entertainment…if you ask me. An escape from the everyday into a new world. This is just my humble opinion.