Today I'd like to talk about writing dumb characters.
You see, I've just watched this movie called Freddy Got Fingered, and I have to say, I've never been this angry at a fictional character in my entire life.
This movie has a main character who is meant to be stupid, which I think was meant to be some kind of charm for the audience.
And I'm aware that there are a few people who think he IS charming, as this movie actually has a cult following.
But to me... it deserved all the hate it got.
Now what do I mean with dumb characters? Well obviously; characters who have low intelligence and tend to be kind of awkward, but are lovable because they've got a big heart, they do mean well and their antics are fun to look at for slapstick reasons.
Characters like Frank Drebin from Naked Gun or Son Goku from Dragon Ball or Kronk from The Emperor's New Groove.
Now why is Nord (The main character of Freddy Got Fingered) not as likable as the three examples above?
Well because his low intelligence and awkwardness is ALL he's got.
All throughout the movie he's just being annoying and awkward, never saying ANYTHING that actually remotely sounds like natural speech, doing everything he can to alienate anyone around him, yet he still ends the movie with having a friggin' girlfriend and making his dreams come true. Halle-friggin-lujah...
He DOESN'T have a big heart, everything he does is for selfish reasons and his antics aren't even funny.
They're just outright stupid, and I grieve for any animal he has abused to film what he so affectionately calls "funny scenes".
This is not to say an idiotic jerk can't be funny. On the contrary, they can be hilarious.
But they're hilarious because they have the reactions of the OTHER characters.
Because the OTHER characters are likable, you can instead just love to hate the idiotic jerk, since you relate to the other characters who rightfully are annoyed by him.
It, however, doesn't work if the OTHER characters ALSO are unlikable jerks!
Freddy Got Fingered has a whole cast of characters who all have to put up with Nord's antics. That SHOULD be a nice set up to have some funny reactions.
But Tom Green (The director and writer of the movie, also the actor of Nord) seems to be unable to realize that his character is in the WRONG here, so he writes all the other characters as unlikable so the viewer would "logically" be on Nord's side again.
Here's the problem; just because the ones opposing a character are unlikable does NOT mean that the character in question suddenly becomes likable!
Let's say there's a character named Bob. He kills puppies for a living.
Then you have a Terrorist. He breaks bicycles of 9 year olds.
They meet and you have Bob annoying the Terrorist, with the Terrorist getting a well-deserved "funny" angry reaction towards Bob.
Well, obviously the Terrorist isn't likable, but that doesn't stop Bob from being the jerk who KILLS PUPPIES FOR A LIVING!
Instead of switching our hatred for Bob to the Terrorist, all you did is give us TWO people to hate!
Now how WOULD a dumb character work?
Well, how about give him a bit more depth than just being stupid?
Doesn't even have to be something innovative. Just have the dumb character at least mean well in everything he does.
Make him honestly not see that what he's doing is wrong, have a scene where someone calmly explains to him why something he's done is stupid and have him actually respond with;
Idiot: "Oh... gee, I didn't think of that... Sorry, Old Man Jenkins, I didn't realize the anvil was going to be heavy... Is your back okay?".
Have him propose to his girlfriend and have the proposal play up the charm of his stupidity, like;
Idiot: "Mary, when I first met you I never imagined that I'd be popping the question in front of this big romantic fountain... I actually imagined popping the question inside the USS Enterprise, but I just found out yesterday that Star Trek is not a documentary..."
Have him be optimistic and simply trying his best to cheer up a friend, ignoring the fact that the friend is grumpy because he just thinks it's his duty as a friend to cheer him up;
Friend: "I just lost my job as a Game Designer"
Idiot: "Oh, that's terrible! What's the reason?"
Friend: "They think my knowledge and ideas of games aren't up to the company's standards."
Idiot: "Come on, that's nonsense! What kind of ideas were they?"
Friend: "You're trapped in a building with killer animals, you're supposed to escape."
Idiot: "Ooh, so kinda like Mario?"
Friend: "What? How the heck does that resemble Mario?"
Idiot: "Well you know, you jump around, roll into a ball, run through a goal sign..."
Friend: "... You mean Sonic the Hedgehog?"
Idiot: "No, Sonic's the girl with the sword and shield, right?"
Friend: "You mean Link... from Legend of Zelda... who's a guy?"
Idiot: "Wow, you know so much about games! Can't believe the company thinks you're not up to their standards!"
In general if you want a character to be likable, whether they're stupid or smart, they have to be more than just their intelligence.
You have to look beyond just their own personality and look at how other will perceive them, both the audience and the other characters.
A character is always half of what he is inside and half of what others perceive him on the outside.
Regardless, a Protagonist has to be able to carry the audience with him, and while it doesn't HAVE to be because they're likable (although it's very much preferred), they still have to at least give the audience something to think about, or something to be entertained about.