I wrote on this topic before, when I pointed out that people wanted an atheist character who everyone thinks is just tops is stupid. The examples of atheist characters they had were, according to the person who made the meme associated with it, totally unlikeable. You had the likes of Dr. Gregory House, from House MD. There was Dexter Morgan from Dexter. There was Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. There was Dr. Cox from Scrubs. You know what all those characters have in common – they are almost-all fan-favorites from their respective shows. The fans of the people who watch the series think that they are the most interesting characters. So, how does that display unlikeability? I want to know. Is the idea to appeal to all the little easily-butthurt Christians? If they see that the character is an atheist, they are going to hate him/her, regardless of how good a character they are.
However, now the person who made that has decided to make a fake contest offering $25,000 for a person to create a likeable atheist character. As if all of this couldn’t get any dumber, now there has to be money riding on it. This seriously annoys me, because it ignores some critical elements. To show this, I am going to enter my own atheist character and show the flaws of this person’s argument once and for all.
My likeable atheist character is Ling. She’s an Asian-American. At 30 years old, she works as a coder for a tech company, but lives in Chicago, doing the work long-distance. They are currently designing a new device that will create holographic technology without the need of something you wear on your head. Suck on that, Microsoft! That sure is neat. The company is young, and she was one of the people who helped start it. It is looking to go public and she could be worth a lot of money soon. Good on her!
What are Ling’s religious beliefs? Well, you wouldn’t know unless you asked her. Because, really, who just talks about their religious beliefs to casual people at their job? That’s always been one of those things that you avoid. For real, it’s an understood part of professionalism that when at work, politics and religion stay home. The watercooler is for shooting the shit about the football game or the weather or other boring topics that are unlikely to offend anyone. It’s just polite. So we don’t know much about Ling’s religious belief.
At home, she doesn’t go to church or anything. In her private life, she does not believe in God, therefore making her an atheist. But since most Christians in this country are casual Christians, who believe in God as an idea about being nice to people and all that, liking that there is an entity in the sky that is watching their back, they don’t go to church either. Unless you live in the Bible Belt, going to church is just not that big thing for the majority of Americans. However, Ling has never felt the urge to be really public about her atheism, because she’s 30 years old, and at this point – who cares? Religion has become so commercialized and watered-down in modern culture that nobody else does, so why should she?
She is dating a man who grew up in a semi-religious household, but it was never a huge issue and when he found out that she was not religious herself, his reaction was pretty much – okay. I’m not super-religious myself, so it isn’t much of an issue. They care about each other and that is all that matters. They have had some frank discussions on the matter, but she accepts that he just wants the comfort that comes with believing that all of this mortal stuff is leading up to something. She may not get it, but she accepts how he is. Well, they certainly sound like a nice couple.
You notice something about Ling? She’s not that interesting. She’s just…normal. She’s a normal person. Her personality is compatible with most other people. She’s polite, doesn’t want to ruffle people’s feathers unnecessarily. She’s like anyone else. So here is my question – how is that interesting? What kind of TV show could you make with her as a character? Some show about the humdrum of office life? That could be kinda funny. It’s been done before, several times, but still. It could be funny. The truth is that if you have a character in a TV show, you want them to stand out. That means that they are going to have to have qualities that make them stand out.
Every single character I listed at the top of this does have those qualities. Greg House is a brilliant doctor. Sheldon Cooper is a mega-nerd. Dr. Cox is an asshole who just happens to have a good guy buried beneath that who wants to do right by his underling who becomes his friend, along with his wife, who is also kind of a bitch. Character traits that make a character stand out will inevitably be at odds with characters who contrast to that. That’s how it works. A guy who thinks that dolphins are the most amazing thing and wants everyone else to know how much he knows about and loves dolphins will clash with normal people who think – how little of a life does that dude have?
So this entire goal – to make an atheist character that everyone would like – is dumb, because the fact is that in real life, someone’s lack of religion isn’t something that they talk about. Why? Because they don’t care what you think about it. Live and let-live. Because in the real world, people don’t just up and ask, “hey, so how about that God fella?!”
Can I get the $25,000 now?
Until next time, a quote,
“You ever notice how everyone you meet is the same? It’s odd. It’s so rare that I meet someone and think, ‘wow, I’ve never met someone like this person before.'” -Naofumi Tokino, The Sky Crawlers