Hump Day Crush: The Character Crush

The Character Crush–Also known as the Hollywood Crush or the Literary Crush. Can you fall for a fictional character? You bet you can. This is a pure fantasy crush (for most people, except, of course, Katie Holmes–who did have a crush on Tom Cruise when she was much younger). Often, it rides along with a Hot Crush (especially when dealing with movie stars). Unless it creeps into Obsession, this can be the most fun crush–and one that’s easy to share with people around you. You can learn a lot by looking at the characters you fall for.

Long ago, when I was just starting to know what an actual crush felt like, I had plenty of material to draw from for Character Crushes. Stacks of comic books, hours of television shows and movies and, yes, even real books occupied a good chunk of my time. With the onset of social awkwardness that those teen years bring, these sources proved invaluable for the crush material that real life just couldn’t match.

One of the earliest Character Crushes I remember was pulled from one of my favorite cartoons of years gone by, Battle of the Planets. The high-action sci-fi of that show was my first exposure to anime and even the “dumbed down” Americanized version that I grew up with had more character depth in it than most of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons I watched t the time.

Yes, I was enthralled by the lure of the team of science ninjas. But, oh, was I so much more drawn to the team’s electronics and demolitions expert, Princess.

Little did I know then just how much she would serve as one of the prototypical women I would later regularly be attracted to. She was intelligent, dedicated and self-sufficient. She managed to hold her own with the guys on the team. She was attractive. And, just to top things off, she’s could totally kick ass and rode a motorcycle.

There were many other Character Crushes of mine that fit that mold to some extent. In the Marvel comics I read there was Kitty Pryde (she didn’t have a motorcycle, but she did later have her own dragon). In literature there was Meg Murray from Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. And in live action there was, of course, Princess Leia from Star Wars. All of them strong, independent and intelligent.

Looking around at my current circle of friends, that theme definitely carries though. And looking back at the relationships I’ve been in, those are qualities that really make things click. Of course, that’s all 20/20 hindsight. Along the way I’ve been sidetracked by pure aesthetics, but people without those deeper qualities have never held my interest for long.

Character Crushes are great things because you rarely (if ever) have to worry about the characters letting you down. A good, long running and well developed character will have almost as much depth as a real person. You may even know the character better than you know most real people. This provides ample room for fantasy relationships without even the hint of the possibility of it ever moving on to the next level.

Character Crushes are like playing in a sandbox–there are clear and definite limits. Outside of those limits, the little plastic shovel and good old metal backhoe don’t do you any good. But the skills you learn from building sand castles and balancing buckets can always be transferred to the more robust real world.

Things can get into more of a gray area when the character you are crushing on appears in live-action media. Then it is very easy to get the actress playing the character tied up with the character herself. How many stories have we all heard of people who go up to a soap opera star and tell her how angry they were with her? Well, not with her, but with the character she was known for playing. They usually correct themselves. But that burned-in connection is there.

A Character Crush involving a real, live Hollywood celebrity can turn into a dangerous Obsessive Crush. There are many tragedies that have played out because of that slide over the line.

A full-blown Hollywood Crush transcends the characters an actor plays and is applied directly to the actor. We become enamored with their public personality–the flashy pictures on the covers of magazines and the two second sound bites that appear on the gossip shows, all of the PR created image moments that we’re fed. We may be able to know everything about them–all of their favorite things, where they grew up, how they got into acting–and have a very clear picture in our minds of what they must be like. We fall for the fame and fortune, the glamor and glitz. We make the person into a character–like a super-charged version of a regular crush.

Digging deeper into a Hollywood Crush, though, can show us just how much of a disconnect there is between the fantasy version of the celebrity and the real person underneath the makeup. In the hyper-aware media maelstrom of the 21st century, we very often get to see our Hollywood idols in a much less flattering light than we once did. Now that the cameras are watching 24/7 and the media is quick to jump on anything that shatters glossy images. Many celebrities come across as much more mundane than once was the case. Now we can actually see them as real people. Now we can get a glimpse at the reality that may not match with our fantasy.

Character Crushes are good things to look back on and compare with your more personable crushes. How does that girl you’re currently crushing on compare to that cartoon character you had the hots for when you were 13? What does that guy you’ve been ogling have in common with your favorite literary character?

And, of course, what do those similarities let you know about yourself?

  • Oh, character crushes. Generally speaking, the most satisfying, least guilty pleasure to be had.

    Only once have I gotten away with writing a book without crushing madly on at least one of its characters. It lends a little secret glow to the world, I find, and gives me the impetus to finish what I started. There’s nothing like the subtle rush of joyful energy a crush gives you, requited or unrequited, fictional or real, it matters not at all.

  • fiferjanis

    Hmm… I think that’s probably the reason I’m addicted to romance novels – I get to fall in love perpetually. Well… not just ANY romance novels… I hate authors who have milk-toasty women and asshole men and you totally can’t see why they’ve ended up together (and to top it off, there’s no sex because it’s wholesome and Christian and whatnot). But I rather enjoy Nora Roberts. 🙂

    Oh, and incidentally – I do ride a motorcycle. 😉 Alas, I wouldn’t around here, because of the traffic, and my death-wish isn’t as high as some might believe.

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