The Joy Of…. Hedonistic Characters

2015 Artwork The Joy Of Hedonistic Characters article sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about one of my many favourite character types – I am, of course, talking about hedonistic characters.

For the most part, I’ll be talking about characters from TV shows and movies here, since these are fairly recognisable examples. However, these types of characters appear in literally every form of entertainment media.

In case it isn’t obvious already, hedonistic characters are characters who believe that life should be enjoyed and who often, but not always, see life as some kind of wonderfully decadent party.

Although many of these characters end up being slightly aristocratic (like Tyrion Lannister from “Game Of Thrones”, Lord John Marbury from “The West Wing” and Londo from “Babylon 5”), hedonistic characters can come in all shapes and sizes.

Whether it’s virtually every vampire character ever created, whether it’s a chain-smoking 1990s fashionista (like the main characters in “Absolutely Fabulous), whether it’s a rum-swilling pirate character like Captain Jack Sparrow (from “Pirates of The Caribbean”), whether it’s the main characters of any stoner movie, whether it’s any 1920s “flapper” character or whether it’s a “manic pixie dream girl” character – these characters are amazing for a whole variety of reasons.

The first reason why hedonistic characters are so amazing is because, these days, they’re extremely subversive. In an age where the government and the media can’t help but lecture us repeatedly on what we should and shouldn’t eat and drink etc… having a character that actually enjoys delicious food, who goes out partying, who actually thinks for themselves and who believes that life exists to be unashamedly enjoyed (rather than endured for as long as possible) is a beautifully rebellious thing.

Likewise, these characters are also beautifully rebellious because the rules don’t usually apply to them. These days, there are so many formal and informal rules about virtually everything. There are almost even rules about what you can and cannot think these days. Hedonistic characters can usually break all of these rules with gleeful impunity (often with a witty joke or two too) and this allows us to vicariously experience a type of freedom that many people can only dream of.

The second reason why hedonistic characters are amazing is because they are timeless. Although all of the many modern “rules” I mentioned earlier are justified by the people who promote them for reasons of “health”, “politics” etc… there have always been killjoys in the world. It’s just that, in the old days, these miserable souls cloaked their aversion to joy in the guise of religion, traditionalism or “morality”. As such, hedonistic characters are basically rebels in whichever time they appear in.

Likewise, most things that are fun are fun, regardless of time and context. As such, the experience of – say- reading about a Roman bacchanal or a Viking feast is still vicariously enjoyable centuries later. So, hedonistic characters represent a timeless part of human existence and, as such, are timeless themselves.

Thirdly, these characters make us think about the meaning of life itself. There are a lot of messages in the mainstream media about what the meaning of life “should” be – you’re supposed to work hard, to conform to modern cultural norms and not to think too much about the meaning of life.

Likewise, for millennia, religions and philosophers have provided ready-made answers to people who ask “what is the meaning of life?”. But, the fact is that no-one can know for certain what the meaning of life is (or even whether there’s just one meaning for everyone or, more likely, lots of different meanings).

Hedonistic characters embrace this fact by trying to make their lives as enjoyable as possible. They recognise that life may possibly be completely meaningless and that we should just enjoy it whilst it lasts. This makes us question our own ideas about the meaning of life.

When confronted with a hedonistic character, you either have to disagree with their ideas about the meaning of life (and work out why you disagree), partially agree with their ideas (after all, unlike the original hedonists of ancient Greece, modern hedonists often neglect things like intellectual and creative enjoyment) or completely agree with their ideas. Regardless, you’ve learnt something about the meaning of life.

So, there you have it. Hedonistic characters are subversive, timeless and they also make us think about the meaning of life. Seriously, why aren’t there more of these characters?

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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