6 Fake Pop Culture Personality Types People Need To Stop Adopting


I’m currently reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and early into the book there’s this one passage in which the lead character makes this great observation about honesty (or lack thereof) with ourselves and society, how watching TV shows and movies has transformed us into a parade of characters, and no one is a pure human being anymore. I’m paraphrasing, of course, and probably butchering Flynn’s words, but that particular passage rang very true because it’s something I’ve noticed as well for a while (and even mentioned it in a couple of past posts).

I’m not gonna high horse this shit because I know that I’m guilty of the same thing, especially back in college when I wanted to project a very specific image that was only half honest (hey man I was open in saying my favorite movie evar was The Lion King; the tsundere was real). This isn’t me being patronizing, or hypocritical, because this post will come off as insufferably cynical.

I’m just writing what I’ve seen, in others or in myself.

Whether we like to admit it or not, pop culture does influence the way we act and the way we present ourselves to the world we think is always looking. Half the time it’s really harmless; seeing a guy trying to project the image of the mysterious tortured loner, or the secretly sad class clown won’t really bother anyone. It happens, and no one is getting hurt.

Yes, even when we decide to dress in a trench coat and fedora despite being pasty white and overweight (because Bogart looks classy as fuck in that movie we saw half of), the only person who’s gonna have a problem is the bully looking at you. To each their own. Who the fuck cares? Identity is something we struggle with for many, many years (especially as young adults) and the influence of our surrounding culture helps cope with the fact that sometimes we just don’t fucking know who we are.

The problem is when we decide to adapt the 100% fake stereotypes we see on TV or movies that would never, ever, work outside of TV or movies. Some characters can only exist in scripted universe, because this chaotic hole would only crush them. Here’s a list of six such characters, and why we need to drop those particular acts.

The Puppet Master

Who they think they are: the brain of the group who knows each member so well they can anticipate feelings and choices. They can use this knowledge to manipulate and improve the lives of their friends.

What they really are: An entitled baby.

Remember my Friends post? I hate Phoebe. She’s the worst character in that show for many, many reasons. One of the main reason is that, like Rachel, her personality is too toxic to work outside of TV. One of the sides of Phoebe which places her here (and again in another category later) is the fact that she “likes to think of herself as the puppet master of the group” (S09x01). She’ll scheme plans to shift power plays, make and break relationships around her because she is the only one who can.

Identifying yourself as the puppet master not only puts you in a position of power, but makes you think that, as the person who is capable of playing around with others, you are the one who best knows all of them, the one who can more keenly look into them and know what will work out, and what won’t. You are smarter than the rest, and you work your magic to make them happy without them even noticing it.

Here’s the thing about that: you don’t know what’s best for anyone, or how your little schemes will work out in the end. What’s worse is this: in any given group of reasonably close friends, you won’t find one who doesn’t identify him or herself as “the glue that keeps it together”. When you’re older you might stop giving a shit (as many of us eventually do), but when you’re younger, this often leads to crashing realities. You know what happens in a group when people want to manipulate everyone else to their own ends (be it some legit friend’s wish, or just the high given by a sense of power)?

The Gang from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Another example of this is Lilly from How I Met Your Mother. I’m glad they dropped this little side in her character around season four because it came close to ruining her. Trying to break two adults up because you think they’re not a good fit (despite only knowing the relationship from the outside) doesn’t make you a manipulating mastermind: it makes you an entitled little shit who always needs to get his way, and doesn’t care whom he hurts to get it.

The Brutally Honest Cynic (with PhD in Sarcasm)

Who they think they are: The smartest and wittiest person around, who doesn’t give a fuck about what anyone else thinks. He can see flaws no one else can, and express them with a sharp tongue. People fear their judgment. Not many things please them, and everyone needs them for validation. At least, if they’re being jerks, they’re being honest, and funny.

What they really are: An insecure asshole.

There was a huge rise in BHCs during the mid-2000s thanks to the enormous popularity of characters like Gregory House or Simon Cowell (notice I said characters). There are two reasons why I think this is the worst kind of fake personality to take: one, every group likes to have a Simon because cynicism and sarcasm is always welcome as long as it’s appropriately counter-balanced, so whomever is identified as the BHC will have his/her often hurtful attitude enabled (until it implodes); two, 96% of the time, the Simon isn’t an eighth as smart, observant, or sharp as they think they are.

Three, and most importantly, they do care what others think, and the instant they get the treatment they’ve been serving out, they are crushed.

I just googled “buzzfeed sarcastic” and I got four identical aneurism-inducing posts with minimally different headlines meant to do one thing: tell every reader that if they identify with one of their shitty gifs, they are “sarcastic”, but that’s okay. These posts are shared like motherfuckers because once more, it’s a position of power. You think the ~ 19^10^100 readers of Buzzfeed going “Oh that is so me!” are brilliant masters of sarcasm because they have unlocked the power to roll their eyes like princess bitchface, or because they got drunk once and got in a fight with their friends and went away crying telling themselves they don’t need them?

(I will not link these articles, by the way, because I’d sooner support the anti-vaxxer movement than Buzzfeed)

House was a good character because he actually had to face the fact that his mean-spiritedness, gauge-less honesty, and sarcasm, often isolated him and made him miserable and lonely. He was never trying to impress anyone; he was never trying to be make anyone laugh; he was never trying to play a role in a group of people. He legitimately didn’t care.

And you do. Not one of these BHCs trying to be the Simon of the group could ever deal with that. There always comes a moment when the tables are turned and someone, often from outside the group of friends, calls the BHC for what they are: an asshole. That’s when trouble begins.

First, the word “asshole” is a compliment to you, because you see it as a word weak people use to refer to those who aren’t afraid to speak honestly. TV and Buzzfeed have led you to believe that being a sarcastic cunt is fine. Every group needs one, right? Sadly, no—being a sarcastic cunt isn’t fine. You will hurt the feelings of people you love (and for 10 minutes pretend you don’t care), and the disingenuity of your act will often result in you yourself getting hurt.

You are not in a position of safety being House, and chances are you cannot deal with the treatment you’re giving others, so this is a particularly harmful role to assume.

The Perfect Woman

Who they think they are: The strong woman who can do anything a man does, and does it even better. They can fight and drink, and never stop being wholesomely female and drop-dead gorgeous even if not in the traditional "Monroe" way. This is the woman every man wants to spend the rest of their lives with.

What they really are: Desperate.

You know that bullshit “Man’s Man” archetype? Gerard Butler in fucking any of his seven trillion “Battle of the Sexes” movies? You know the type—cigar smoking, charming, handsome, rich, Alpha Male who is surrounded by Beta minions who eat his shit up.

The Perfect Woman is the female version of that bullshit type. No, not a “Woman’s Woman” because there isn’t such a thing (lol!), but the woman every Man would like to have. She's the perfect counter-weight of the Man's Man.

How I Met Your Mother often sold Robin as this character. She could be both stylish and sporty, could defend herself physically, drink any man under the table, pull off smoking a cigar effortlessly, play poker with friends, and go to a strip club and even appreciate the show, all while being straight and not even remotely tomboyish. If you haven’t quite pinned this type, another example would be Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (which incidentally also has the “man’s man” type in the male lead for Dynamics 101).

So many women want to desperately become this perfect image of the ultimate hottie. The problem is that this ultimate hottie isn’t representing a powerful woman because she’s “as good as any man in anything a man do”. The Perfect Woman isn't about that; it's representing a woman who will never nag her man, who won't give him shit for anything because she's too cool for that "typical girlfriend stuff". Yup. This is actually a male fabrication, created as a male fantasy, and doesn’t exist. Yeah, lots of girls will try their hardest to be her, but it comes at the price of not only sacrificing your identity for male attention, but also—like many of the others in this list—the risk of hurting yourself in some capacity.

You can be okay with your boyfriend punching people in a mosh pit. You can be okay with your boyfriend smoking a cigar. You can even be okay with your boyfriend going to a strip club. This is fine. But forcing yourself to be part of something that is decidedly a male activity in order to appear more attractive must be fucking exhausting. And you're not doing your gender any favors.

If it’s you, it’s you, and that’s cool. But chances are it isn’t. In any relationship it’s entirely okay to not engage in the exact same activities all the time, and you becoming a dude with a vagina isn’t an acceptable compromise, even if your boyfriend tells you how hot it is. You’re basically being Ariel giving up her voice to be with Prince Whatshiface.

The Playboy

Who they think they are: The irresistible sexual hunter. He can zone in on a lady and bring her to bed within minutes. Just don’t expect him to ever call her again after that because that’s not how he do.

What they really are:  A misogynistic prick.

I don’t think this type really needs any degree of explanation. You know this type because he’s been a part of sitcoms since the 70s. Handsome guy who knows every trick in the book to pick up chicks. He’s boned half of the country, and never calls them again. Joey Tribbiani, Charlie Harper, Fonz, Steve Stifler, Barney Stinson. You know the character.

The most shocking part about the popularity of this type (which is probably the most common of the whole list) is that no audience member, male or female, seems to give half a shit about how grossly misogynistic it is. The Playboy treats women like cum sponges and his stories always involve the exact same fucking jokes: 1, he doesn’t know the girl’s name, 2, he doesn’t want the girl to stick around after boning her; 3, he’s in deep trouble because she’s wants more and he’s done with her.

Men’s admiration of this type of character is obvious, as it represents the masculine, confident, well hung alpha male every young dude wants to be. But what’s up with the women’s admiration of these characters? Why is Joey or Barney so popular even among women?

It’s not because “they’re sensitive deep down”. It’s not even because “women think they can change them” (can we drop that bullshit logic already?).

It’s actually because in the shows that they appear, they’re surrounded by female characters who live in what I’m going to call the “Splash Free Zone”. This is a safe place. Joey would never hit on Monica or Phoebe (unless it’s a throwaway joke). Everyone watching Friends (or any sitcom, really) immediately believes that his/her group of friends is interesting/fun enough to relate to the titular gang (spoilers: you’re not), so when they watch the show, they see themselves as Monica, or Phoebe, or Rachel. They see themselves as a member of the Splash Free Zone.

They’re not. They’re more likely to be the chick Barney bangs and drops, than Lilly giving him the loving hard time lecture the next day. Oopsie there.

I went on a tangent there, but it’s exceedingly obvious why taking the role of the Playboy is dangerous. Joey is the worst example of this because this one-dimensional shithead never faces any negative repercussions of his misogyny. I mean, damn. Even fucking Charlie Harper, in a show as white-dog-shit as Two & A Half Men, often gets beat up, sick, humiliated publicly, loses money, etc., over his misogyny. Barney also gets beat up and even gets someone pregnant in the finale. Nothing similar ever happens to Joey. He tells the world the shameless lie that you can be a massive, massive asshole to women, and as long as you’re nice to your close girl friends, it’s okay. You don’t really hate women; you just like to party and there's nothing wrong with that.

And, well, this is all assuming you’re actually capable of being a Playboy. Because if you’re not physically attractive, charming, or maybe even rich, trying to be Barney would bring forth a disaster of a far more obvious nature. Something something ego. Something something delusions. Something something you’re really fucked.

The Random Free Spirit

Who they think they are: Someone who is. There isn’t a person on Earth, Hell, or Heaven who can judge them because they just act the way their heart tells them to, and if the sheep of society find it weird, that’s their problem and a pity.

What they really are: Off-putting and annoying.

God I fucking hate Grey’s Anatomy (and I’m aware I’ve expressed this before, once through reverse fan-scripting). All the characters, especially the women, are so painfully artificial. It’s all written in a way that will force young women to identify themselves with characters that are no more dimensional than in any network TV sitcom. Millions of girls will relate, but mainly because they want to believe, again, that they’re interesting enough to have a 10+ season show based around them.

They’re not. You’re not. I’m not. No one is. That’s why shows don’t stay good for too long.

And one of the messages that Grey’s loves to send out is that we’re all a beautiful, unique snowflake, and the way to be happy is to stop caring what everyone else thinks and enjoy your relationships in any way you want. That’s why the show will have supposedly realistic adult women deciding to dance alone in their underwear, or just have a moment of catharsis with their BFF as they randomly dance to some song together.

People don’t do that—not unless they’re trying to be a Grey’s character.

And that “be yourself” shit turns into a license to be unapologetically, insincerely weird. I don’t mind weirdness because everyone is a bit weird in one way or another (I have a gross amount of stuffed animals in my bedroom and I am a dude), but when you get people who begin to act like Phoebe, or worse, Dharma from Dharma & Greg (a terrible show 100% based on a ‘free spirit’ character being a ‘free spirit’ character; see this great spoof as reference), a type of person who wouldn’t last 10 minutes in the real world.

Again, reasonable weirdness is fine if it’s you. But that “free spirit I don’t care what people think” bullshit isn’t because, again, you do care what others think. You’re terrified of realizing that maybe you aren’t really unique in any significant way, which is fine (just a spoke in the wheel), so you fill the gaps of your ordinariness by randomly screaming out “Pants!” and dancing in your underwear.

You’re much better off being truthful and accepting the fact that not everyone is special, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be unique. Being ordinary doesn’t mean you’re part of a herd; it only means you’re a functional human being.

The Cold, Nihilistic Misanthrope

Who they think they are: A shell of a man. A mystery. An enigma. Why does he love solitude so much? Why does he hate people? Is he hurting? Will he ever open up to someone? The only way to find out is to crack open that shell, but it’s a challenge for everyone except that one perfect person.

Favorite movie: Fight Club, man.

What they really are: Socially anxious timids.

A bit of an extension, or a sub-set, from the Brutally Honest Cynic. This guy goes further, not caring enough about anything to even have an opinion. He’ll use that Bukowski quote (“I don’t hate people. I just feel better when they aren’t around.”). He’ll go drink alone at a bar and think about the one that got away.

Scrubs did well with this type. It had two characters who fell into the category, if in varying degrees, in the shapes of Kelso and Cox. This is common in a medical show because the contrast between “hates people” and “wants to help people” is immediately interesting and obvious, but Scrubs worked the archetype well because for fucking once, it seemed sincere. And even the parts that were the character itself being insincere, rang true (like that scene when Cox lies to JD about having his pals over, when he’s actually completely alone).

This is another character that finds himself in a position of power—his armor is so hard that he can’t be hurt. It’s the defensive version of the BHC (though, again, they’re often one and the same). The problems with adapting this particular persona are the same ones: you can’t pretend you don’t care when you do.

People misuse the word “misanthrope” too much. A misanthrope isn’t someone who doesn’t like being around people when we go to the mall because they’re noisy in movie theaters. A misanthrope is someone who stays at home 24/7, writes violent prose just to burn it, and then goes into the movie theater, but to shoot everyone in there.

This is a character you adopt when you’re timid, bored/boring, angry, or impatient/intolerant. Which, again, in itself is fine. But if you just can’t find people you like anywhere, even for small lengths of time, the problem is probably you—not them. This is a legit thing, but masking your social problems with an aura of manufactured, insincere mystery, won’t do you any favors in the end, and deliberate solitude eventually turns into crushing loneliness.

Trust me here.


Surprisingly I don’t have a nice wrapper for this post, but while I was writing it I kept thinking that one of the reasons why It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is so good is because of how honest it is. I swear that show is a great study in people being insincere with themselves and those around them, and how fucked up that is for everyone involved.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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