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Question for Philcon Panel

I'm on a panel at Philcon tomorrow about cerebral characters and why we love them. I have my own thoughts but would love to hear yours. Why do we love characters like Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Strange? (And don't say "Because they're played by Benedict Cumberpatch.)

Here's the description of the panel: "The Martian. Sherlock Holmes. Bones. We really, really like characters who kick ass with their brains rather than their brawn, and there seems to have been a resurgence of these types of stories lately. What attracts people to these cerebral characters? Is this a shift from traditional superheroes to a different standard? Why is it happening?"

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sara_merry99
Nov. 18th, 2016 01:13 pm (UTC)
Science heroes go back a long way -- Sherlock Holmes has had many iterations going back over a hundred years. Spock and Data both fit as well. KITT and Bonnie (the mechanic) in Knight Rider (though KITT could also do a lot of physically impressive car-things and Bonnie was more a sidekick than a hero). Murray Bozinsky in Riptide (minor 80s TV show, just one I'm terribly fond of). Charlie Eppes from Numb3rs.

(It's interesting to me that there wasn't a science/cerebral hero in Star Wars (the real trilogy) -- unless R2D2 counts, but he wasn't real articulate.)

I don't know that I could say what attracts people to them -- aside from the tautology that people are attracted to science/cerebral heroes because some folks just like brainy characters -- but I strongly suspect that they don't appeal to *everyone*.

A lot of them -- Sherlock, Dr. Strange (sort of), KITT, Spock, Data -- I think get an extra fascination because in addition to kicking ass with their brains ALSO can also fight and do more traditional Action Hero Things. Spock was a hell of a good fighter and had the Vulcan Neck Pinch. Sherlock was a boxer and knew whatever that martial art was that let him flip Moriarty into Reichenbach Falls and escape unharmed (blanking on the name and too lazy to look it up). KITT was more capable than any other car in the show (except maybe KARR) AND was the brains of the operation (to an extent, Michael wasn't an idiot). Dr. Strange is smart and uses his brains but his magic can also subdue bad guys physically. I think I remember seeing Data being crisp and entirely effective in a fight -- and also pretty impervious to fisticuffs.

I think that juxtaposition is particularly fascinating.

(Murray from Riptide and Charlie Eppes from Numb3rs are distinct counter-examples to that. They were both pretty useless in a fight. There were a couple of episodes of Numb3rs where violence happened right in front of Charlie and he found it very difficult to deal with, in one case he nearly shut down. Murray was just a gangly mess in a fight, though he was the only character in the show to shoot someone and kill them.)

I feel obliged to say: "played by Benedict Cumberbatch" isn't a bad reason to like a character. :D
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