Damaged Characters need not apply!

A post I’ve been thinking about for a while based on some advice from potential agents is a trend towards creating damaged characters in order to somehow justify their actions.

This happens in all kinds of genres, from comedy to tragedy to yes, detective fiction.

For example:

Show Damaged Character
The Pretender The
Pretender
Oh Jarod, you damaged genius you… kidnapped from his parents as a child and raised in an evil secret lab, this man solves crimes and saves people by using his brilliant ‘mind’ to pretend to be whomever and whatever the situation requires.
The Mentalist The
Mentalist
I never watched this show because of its stupid stupid name, but according to IMDB, Patrick, the lead character, is a very damaged soul – having lost his wife and daughter to a ‘madman.’ Ya. Cause you can’t pursue justice unless you’re a damaged man.
The Finder The
Finder
I only got introduced to the finder in an episode of Bones (coming up, don’t you worry!) – and discovered that the detective known as The Finder was ‘damaged’ by the wars in Iraq. It is this damage that allows him to miraculously see connections between seemingly unrelated things and solve crimes! Well thank God the man is a veteran!

At some point we need to talk about why so many shows are named by the adjective that most simply describes the activity of the lead, including ‘The Closer,’ and ‘The Ghost Whisperer,’  [Honestly, as an audience, I can take a little more depth of thinking ok Fox?]  but that is a whole other blog post.

Back to the point at hand – the predilection to create characters who have gone through something horrible in order to become the amazing detectives they now are. I touched on this a bit in my post about creating villains here, and the concept is the same – it’s ok to be motivated by something OTHER than trauma.

It’s why Bones is not on the list – despite having childhood trauma (Brennan was abandoned in her teens by her parents who turned out to be running from their criminal friends) – she actually earned the abilities that she uses to solve crimes by going to school and become the best Forensic Anthropologist in the country. So yes, her past does drive some of her passion, but her skills are something she nurtured over decades of schooling and experience.

I think that is a fair mix – everyone has baggage, some more than others, but for the love of God, it has to be ok to be a talented person in your field without the damage.

What do you guys think?