We’ve all heard about the parade of archetypal girls that appear only in TV and movies, the most recent being Gone Girl’s “cool girl,” the trope that has already launched a thousand think pieces. The glorious Mindy Kaling even wrote an excellent piece cataloging these fictional creatures.
But now I’d like to explore some uncharted territory—the men of the small screen. While male characters are generally allowed to be more complicated/human, there are still several very specific versions of guys that exist solely for your television viewing pleasure.
1. The lovable grump
This guy/man is a total curmudgeon who hates people, especially happy people, with the notable exception of our perky and effervescent heroine. He will drop everything to help her out of whatever this week’s zany situation happens to be. Think Luke in Gilmore Girls, Danny in The Mindy Project, or Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation. Girls love daydreaming about this type of guy because his hatred for everyone else only magnifies his love for his leading lady. But let’s face it: If a guy is that grumpy to everyone he meets, chances are he does not have a secret heart of gold. Next.
2. The simple buffoon
OK, we all can be a little silly sometimes, and the best of us have our dumb moments. But on TV, there are some guys who would not be able to function in modern society. How would Andy from Parks and Recreation or Joey from Friends ever survive in the real world? As lovable as these doofy guys are, cleaning up their messes would eventually become a real chore.
3. The handsome devil who is above morality of any kind
Barney Stinson is the most egregious example of this, but there are others—30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy, Mr. Big of Sex and the City, and Colin and Finn on Gilmore Girls. These guys and their shenanigans are so much fun to watch that they have our affection as viewers at home. They even have loyal friends on screen. But if a guy in real life pulled just a fraction of the tricks these guys do, no one would want to be around them for more than a minute. In one episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney literally has a lever rigged in his bedroom to send unsuspecting women to God-knows-where. Come on.
4. The “lonely” guy surrounded by friends
Picture early seasons of Chandler Bing, all seasons of Ted Mosby, etc. They are fit, good-looking, have decent jobs, and hang out in a vibrant city with their beautiful friends in fancy apartments. Now think about how they are portrayed as sad, lonely, and desperate while still managing to attract strings of inconsequential women. Something is wrong with that picture. We don’t see the real lonely men of cities, because they don’t have ready-made posses or a regular bar/coffee shop. Actual sad sacks wouldn’t make for good weeknight viewing.
5. The subservient goon
I’m sure when I say “goon,” you automatically thought of 30 Rock’s Kenneth Ellen Parcell, and you would be correct, but poor Ken is not the only one. There is also The Mindy Project’s Morgan Tookers, Stars Hollow’s Kirk, and many more. These men are the embodiment of zany, the very definition of quirky. Like the simple buffoon, they would have trouble leading independent lives, but that’s OK, because they only exist to serve as the protagonist’s punch line or to put weird plot lines in motion. In real life, these goons would not be let within 50 feet of our sane, fairly normal main characters.
It may sound like I am annoyed with these fictional types, but that’s not true. I enjoy all of these characters and would dearly love to find the real-life versions of any one of these TV dudes. Let me know if I left anybody out on my list.