How to Change Someone’s Mind About a Character in Eleven Words
So I have this friend. I’ve known her for like… 20 years but we lost touch when we stopped working for the same employer. Until Facebook that is. About two years ago we started getting together again. Movies, dinner, shopping (which is so not something either of us normally does). And then about a year ago, we made plans and I belatedly realized that my husband had plans so she came over and hung out at my house (with my four kids :p). We’ve been doing that about once a month most months since (on a night my hubs goes out with one of his friends).
The last time she came over for our semi-regular dinner and DVD, we watched Jurassic Park with my 13yo in preparation for the release of Jurassic World this summer. My husband had an unexpected work thing one night so she came over again sans Jurassic Park II because she’d loaned it out and didn’t remember to who.
Instead, we trawled through my Amazon Fire Prime selection and she insisted we watch Veronica Mars. I’d heard of the show but had never watched it.
Warning ;). Spoilers ahead :D.
The basic premise is this:
Keith Mars, former sheriff recalled after trying to find proof implicating a very wealthy very powerful man of killing this man’s daughter, has become a PI. His daughter, Veronica, helps out after school and on weekends. The girl killed was her best friend (and her boyfriend’s sister). While investigating the truth about her friend’s death, she becomes a sort of Nancy Drew solving assorted crimes and helping out friends.
Anyway, the new sheriff in town is a real… not great guy. He’s a know-it-all who doesn’t want help on anything from the former sheriff, much less the former sheriff’s much-more-competent-than-he-is daughter. The great mystery about the murder is solved in the final episode of season one, but the aftershocks are felt well into season two.
You’re not supposed to like the new sheriff. He’s arrogant, smug, and an all around not nice guy. But in episode seven of season two, Veronica and her boyfriend are caught sneaking into a house trying to find proof of child abuse. The parents come home and catch them. They, of course, call the sheriff and he shows up to arrest Veronica and her boyfriend. They get put in the back of the squad car and the sheriff goes back inside to follow up on what Veronica told him.
Despite loathing her and believing she had no investigative chops, he opened the closet and found the hidden room where the girl had been kept. The dad, standing there with his baseball bat in hand, said something to the effect of “What makes you think you can come in my house and do this?!”
The sheriff turns around and says, “You know, I remember my father giving that exact same speech.” Then he walks off.
And suddenly, you have a whole new outlook on the man.
He likely wasn’t physically abused – or not just physically anyway. But emotional and verbal abuse can leave hidden scars just as deep. But knowing he suffered from an abusive childhood, makes you see him differently.
Now… I’m only a couple of episodes past it so we’ll have to see if it holds up, but it struck me immediately as excellent writing and a fabulous example of how to pull off making an unlikable character sympathetic.