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Related: actor - actress - drama - fiction
List of stock characters: anti-hero - archetype - damsel in distress - hero - incubus - father - femme fatale - man - mad scientist - monster - mother - Pan - succubus - stereotype - stock character - vamp - victim - villain - woman
List of fictional characters: Lucifera - Satanik - Adam - Andromeda - Barbarella - Casanova - Diabolik - Dracula - Emmanuelle - Eugenie - Eve - Fanny - Fantômas - Gwendoline - Judith - Juliette - Justine - Lilith - Medusa - Nosferatu - Frankenstein's monster - Harry Potter - Salome - Satanik - Valentina
King Kong (1933) - Cooper, Schoedsack
A fictional character is any person who appears in a work of fiction. More accurately, a fictional character is the person or conscious entity we imagine to exist within the world of such a work. In addition to people, characters can be aliens, animals, gods or, occasionally, inanimate objects. Characters are almost always at the center of fictional texts, especially novels and plays. It is, in fact, hard to imagine a novel or play without characters, though such texts have been attempted (James Joyce's Finnegans Wake is one of the most famous examples). In poetry, there is almost always some sort of person present, but often only in the form of a narrator or an imagined listener.
In various forms of theatre, performance arts and cinema (except for animation and CGI movies), fictional characters are performed by actors, dancers and singers. In animations and puppetry, they are voiced by voice actors, though there have been several examples, particularly, in machinima, where characters are voiced by computer generated voices. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictional_character [Apr 2005]
Peter Lorre, photecredit unidentified
Peter Lorre (June 26, 1904 - March 23, 1964) was a Hungarian-American actor known both for playing criminals (particularly psychopaths) and comic roles. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Lorre [Jun 2005]
A character actor is an actor who predominantly performs supporting parts, often in similar roles throughout the course of a career. While some actors aspire to leading man or leading lady status, many notable actors have had enduring careers in less prominent, but important and memorable character parts. Character roles run the gamut from bit parts to secondary leads.
What defines a character actor?
Typically, character actors lack some of the stereotypical physical attributes associated with stars. A character actor may be very short or very tall, heavy or thin, balding, or simply unconventional-looking. Many older actors and actresses find their access to lead roles limited by age as well. Similarly, actors of colour were often barred from roles for which they were otherwise suited; some found work perfoming ethnic stereotypes. Foreign actors may be famous in their own countries but find themselves limited in the United States under the strict unofficial guidelines of Hollywood casting; Marcel Dalio, Cantinflas and Jet Li illustrate this. Some character actors have distinctive voices or accents which in the opinion of casting directors limit their suitability for most leading roles; actors such as James Earl Jones, Selma Diamond and Julie Kavner have been able to turn this to their advantage, often in voice-over work. Sometimes character actors have developed careers because they had specific talents that are required in genre films, such as dancing, horsemanship or swimming ability. Many up-and-coming actors simply find themselves typecast in character roles due to an early success with a particular part or in a certain genre.
See stock character and commedia dell'arte for a discussion of theatrical traditions.
Some character actors play essentially the same character over and over, as with Andy Devine's humorous but resourceful sidekick, while other actors, such as Sir Laurence Olivier have the capacity of submerging themselves in any role they play. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_actor [Jun 2005]
see also: character - actor - actress - stereotype - stock
Fictional character as representative
Another way of reading fictional characters symbolically is to understand each character as a representative of a certain group of people. For example, Bigger Thomas of Native Son by Richard Wright is often seen as representative of young black men in the 1930s, doomed to a life of poverty and exploitation. Dagny Taggart and other characters from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand are seen as representative of American's hard-nosed, hard-working class.
Many practitioners of cultural criticism and feminist criticism focus their analysis of characters on cultural stereotypes. In particular, they consider the ways in which authors rely on and/or work against stereotypes when they create their characters. Such critics, for example, would read Native Son in relation to racist stereotypes of African American men as sexually violent (especially against white women). In reading Bigger Thomas' character, one could ask in what ways Richard Wright relied on these stereotypes to create a violent African-American male character and in what ways he fought against it by making that character the protagonist of the novel rather than an anonymous villain.
Often, readings that focus on stereotypes demand that we focus our attention on seemingly unimportant characters, such as the ubiquitous sambo characters in early cinema. Minor characters, or stock characters, are often the focus of this kind of analysis since they tend to rely more heavily on stereotypes than more central characters. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictional_character#Character_as_representative [Jun 2005]
see also: fiction - character - representation - stereotype
Round Characters vs. Flat Characters
Some critics distinguish between "round characters" and "flat characters" or types. The former are made up of many personality traits and tend to be complex and both more life-like and believable, while the latter consist of only a few personality traits and tend to be simple and less believable. The protagonist (main character, sometimes known as the "hero" or the "heroine") of a novel is certain to be a round character; a minor, supporting character in the same novel may be a flat character. Scarlett O'Hara, of "Gone With the Wind", is a good example of a round character, whereas her servant Prissy exemplifies the flat character. Likewise, many antagonists (characters in conflict with protagonists, sometimes known as "villains") are round characters. An example of an antagonist who is a round character is Rhett Butler.
A number of stereotypical or "stock" characters have developed throughout the history of drama. Some of these characters include the country bumpkin, the con artist, and the city slicker. Often, these characters are the basis of "flat characters", though elements of stock characters can also be present in round characters as well. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictional_character#Round_Characters_vs._Flat_Characters [Apr 2005]
Some unusual uses of characters
Post-modern fiction frequently incorporates real characters into fictional and even realistic surroundings. In film, the appearance of a real person as himself inside of a fictional story is a type of cameo. For instance, Woody Allen's Annie Hall has Allen's character call in Marshall McLuhan to resolve a disagreement.
In some experimental fiction, the author acts as a character within his own text. One of the earliest examples of this is Niebla ("Fog") by Miguel de Unamuno (1907), in which the main character visits Unamuno in his office to discuss his fate in the novel. Paul Auster also employs this device in his novel City of Glass (1985), which opens with the main character getting a phone call for Paul Auster. At first the main character explains that the caller has reached a wrong number, but eventually he decides to pretend to be Auster and see where it leads him. In Immortality by Milan Kundera, the author references himself in a storyline seemingly separate from that of his fictional characters, but at the end of the novel, Kundera meets his own characters.
With the rise of the star system in Hollywood, many famous actors are so familiar that it can be hard to limit our reading of their character to a single film. In some sense, Bruce Lee is always Bruce Lee, Woody Allen is always Woody Allen, and Harrison Ford is always Harrison Ford; all often portray characters that are very alike, so audiences fuse the star persona with the characters they tend to play. The film Being John Malkovich explores the strange situation of characters in film.
Some fiction and drama make constant reference to a character who is never seen. This often becomes a sort of joke with the audience. This device is the centrepoint of one of the most unusual and original plays of the 20th century, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, in which Godot of the title never arrives. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictional_character#Some_unusual_uses_of_characters [Apr 2005]
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