I seemed to have hit a nerve in yesterday’s post where I described a recent character archetype that I absolutely cannot frickin’ stand: The Snarkbuckler:
But the specifically theological and religious aspects of this are for another post. Religion is a part of a society, and our society has spent generations teaching girls and women to be more masculine, and men to just . . . I don’t know, to just shut up and go hide in the corner. Life is safe and secure. Manly virtues, we’re told, don’t need to be cultivated because they’re somehow not necessary anymore, at least in the ahistorical lands of abundance we call Europe and America.
And so we get the snarkbuckler. He’s like a swashbuckler, but annoying as hell and, in real life, the kind of guy women run away from. Yet he represents what a lot of novelists and screenwriters are–they write as though the repulsive man-children they are have taken over the world, beaten the Jock-Chad-Alpha-whatever you want to call him, and ride off into the sunset with the cute girl like a John Hughes movie (except for Pretty in Pink–Duckie ends up holding the bag in that one).
I’m rather fond of the term snarkbuckler myself. It totally fits because what it is, at heart, is a complete subversion of the lovable rogue archetype.
The lovable rogue is an enduring character type because they represent a different spin on the manly virtues. Infogalactic has a very good summary of the lovable rogue that’s worth reproducing in full:
The lovable rogue is a fictional stock character, often from a working-class upbringing, who tends to recklessly defy norms and social conventions but who still evokes empathy from the audience or other characters. The lovable rogue is generally male and is often trying to “beat the system” and better himself, though not by ordinary or widely accepted means. If the protagonist of a story is also a lovable rogue, he is frequently deemed an antihero.
Lovable rogues are not the standard paragons of virtue because they frequently break the law or seem to act for their own personal profit; however, they are charming or sympathetic enough to convince the audience to root for them. Although they appear at first to act only for personal gain or to break the law needlessly, lovable rogues are often justified in these actions later on due to some ethical motivation that had not yet been revealed at the time or, at least, have the capacity to atone for their wrongdoings. Many lovable rogues are simply prone to being misled when making ethical decisions while others who appear to act unethically actually maintain a flexible and complicated but legitimate code of ethics.
The lovable rogue’s wild disposition is viewed not as repulsive and alarming so much as exciting and adventurous. Snide or arrogant remarks, brawn over brains, they challenge calls to action with wit first before brawn, they use their gut instincts to get out of hostility if personal profit is at stake, they love themselves more than women, they think fast and talk faster, and they may have aspirations for a better life. He is generally regarded as handsome or attractive and his daredevil attitude further makes him sexually desirable to other characters. He often has a fiery temper and is streetwise—possessing practical knowledge—usually having self-taught and never been educated in a formal setting.
Despite his common external appearance of selfishness, foolhardiness, or emotional detachment, the lovable rogue may in fact strongly associate with a highly idealistic belief system and understand the concept of a code of honor so highly valued that it transcends normal social constraints such as conformity, tradition, or the law. This sense of an internalized, personal code is usually what makes the lovable rogue lovable, since it serves to confirm that he is moral whereas he may have appeared at first glance to be immoral. The lovable rogue, thus, is not a villain, because he has either a sincere, strong sense of morality (though he may be unwilling to expose it) or has the definite potential for establishing such a moral sense. In addition, his tendency to violate norms may be regarded as a positive trait—having a highly individualistic, creative, or self-reliant personality.
So in condensed form, the lovable rogue is:
- Usually working class
- Defies social norms
- Lives by his code of ethics, but has a sincere and strong sense of what is right and what is wrong
- Sexually desirable to women
- Using a daredevil attitude or seeming immorality as a shield against sharing honest emotions
- Creative, self-reliant, and individualistic
Contrast this with the snarkbuckler, who is:
- Of indeterminate socio-economic status
- Is incompetent
- Conforms to the social social norms of wokeness
- Is constantly humiliated when he does not conform to the social norms of wokeness
- Has a code of ethics that is defined for him by others (usually women)
- Is sexually repellent to women
- Constantly snarky and sarcastic
- Is a cringing, lazy coward who must be goaded into being heroic
What a revolting character type.
Film critic John Nolte describes the snarkbuckler in his recent review of the, by all accounts execrable Men in Black: International:
Hemsworth plays Agent H who, we’re told, is the top agent in the London MIB office. For reasons that never make any sense, though, he’s now a slacker, a wiseass, a Jeff Spicoli, a total incompetent — so incompetent that when a prominent alien he’s been charged with keeping safe is desperate for a private moment to talk, H blows off him to crack wise and party on. Even after this ends in disaster, H never processes his own role in that disaster.
. . .
H is a goof incapable of saving the day, much less the world. You keep waiting for him to snap out of it, to rise to the occasion. He never does, though, because today’s woke politics demand this kind of retribution against masculinity, even if it undermines your ability to believe in the story and world. You might as well cast Jerry Lewis as James Bond.
. . .
We are supposed to believe H is such a lout he’ll sleep with an alien but won’t give someone as attractive as Tessa Thompson a second look. Why is such an absurdity allowed? Politics, of course. We can’t have our characters act like real human beings when the politics of the day demand rigid enforcement of the no-objectification-especially-on-the-job rule.
I mean, this is exactly what I’m getting at. It’s why I couldn’t stand to watch all of Guardians of the Galaxy, because Star Lord was such an annoying idiotic goofball I could not take seriously as a hero.
Contrast Star Lord with one of science-fiction’s most famous lovable rogue, the perennially popular Han Solo. Han, let’s not forget:
- Risked his neck to take Luke, Obi-Wan and the droids to Alderaan even when things looked bad;
- Agreed to help Luke rescue Princess Leia in the Death Star;
- Discovered he wasn’t a lout after all and came back during the first raid on the Death Star to help out the Rebels, saving Luke from Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter, thereby allowing Luke to blow up the Death Star;
- Risked freezing to death to leave the rebel base on Hoth and look for Luke, even though he knew he very well might not make it back alive;
- Allowed himself to be frozen in carbonite in Cloud City in order that Leia might be let go
- Agreed to lead the Rebel forces in their assault on the forest moon of Endor in a bid to blow up the shield generator
And so on. In countless ways, after realizing he really did have a heart of gold at the end of the first movie, and realizing he didn’t want to abandon ship when things got bad at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, Han never had to be told to be heroic. He never had to be forced to be brave. He just was.
As a result, Leia wasn’t the only woman who fell in love with him. He’s pretty much the most popular Star Wars character with the fairer sex, and I’m sure plenty of gay dudes have a thing for him as well.
Star Lord? Eh. I mean, Chris Pratt’s a good-looking guy, but the character he plays is an overgrown man-child. Maybe he’s different in the other movies, but I found him smug and annoying and craven.
On a slightly tangential note, I cannot stand man-children, overgrown adolescents, in real-life or in my fiction. For God’s sake, grow the hell up, take some pride in yourself and your appearance, accept responsibility for your life, and stop blaming women as the cause of your problems!
But sadly, this type of person must be everywhere, especially in writing rooms across the entertainment industry. Or if not, then that’s how the dorks who work in mainstream entertainment think of us men. Worse, since they wield disproportionate influence, their product both reflects and influences society. It probably influences it far more than it reflects, and in fact reflects the image that they themselves made.
Confused yet? Me too. Let’s move on.
In modern fantasy, I find both Tyrion and Jamie Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire to be snarkbucklers. And yet Mat Cauthon from The Wheel of Time is a classic lovable rogue and therefore not annoying. I confess I’ve been reading older fantasy lately, so if there are any other good examples of snarkbucklers in current stuff, please let me know so I know what not to read.
The common denominator, however, can be summed up in a pithy axiom I’m willing to share with you for free on this here blog:
Rogues have balls. Snarkbucklers do not.
No snarkbucklers in my book, A Traitor to Dreams, but plenty of heroes.