*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Will & Grace. Read at your own risk if you have not watched either the previous series or the new series.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Will & Grace to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
In any comedy duo there are two important archetypes: the straight man and the comic. On Will and Grace, Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) is the comic to Will Truman’s (Eric McCormack) straight man. If Will is trying to disprove the stereotype of the gay man, Jack is the iconic gay man. He is a drama queen, chases men like a dog chases a toy, loves show tunes and rarely has a serious relationship. While Jack tries to be a performer, his career in show business never quite gets to the level that he wishes it to be. As a result, he has had a series of jobs and is constantly relying on Will, Grace (Debra Messing ) and Karen (Megan Mullally) for financial assistance.
But even with all of that, Jack supports his friends and appreciates them. He is also the kind of character that helps to foster important conversations around the treatment and image of those in the LGBTQ community. Jack maybe based on a stereotype, but the character goes way beyond the stereotype.
To sum it up: Sometimes a character or a narrative, especially one based on a stereotype is not a bad thing. Especially when the character or the narrative can foster a conversation and create change that is long overdue. Jack resonates with audiences not just because he is a funny character, but because he has human qualities that many of us relate to. As writers, when we want to enact change to create a better world, we don’t get on our soapbox. We create characters and narrative that speak to and resonate with audiences or readers. That is the way to create effective change for the better.