The most lovable pessimists in film and television.
Why do optimists always get the spotlight? While everyone appreciates their faith and their confidence, optimists are kind of boring. Pessimists, on the other hand, add a memorable zing to stories. From harsh commentary to catchy quips, a pessimist’s unusual embrace of negativity offers audiences a new and hilarious viewpoint on life. In honor of overlooked pessimists, DMG Entertainment highlights the top eight pessimists in film and television. So if you’re tired of the same corny catch phrases and obnoxious self-righteousness, check out these charming pessimists.
“End of the road… nothing to do… and no hope of things getting better. Sounds like Saturday night at my house.”
Milne’s Winne the Poe’s Eeyore is one of the most recognizable and cherished cartoon pessimists. Despite the old stuffed donkey’s gloomy nature, he often joins Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, and Tigger on many adventures. Although Eeyore is the “Debby Downer” of the group, his pessimism shaped a somewhat passive nature, making him a key member of the gang. Some believe Eeyore’s pessimism stems from his illiteracy, others believe it stems from his sawdust stuffing. My belief? No one can be too optimistic with a tail nailed to his butt.
“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’”
As the protagonist of the famous comic strip PEANUTS, Charlie Brown’s insecurities and gloominess resonated with millions of avid fans. Often considered the quintessential “loveable loser”, Charlie Brown developed his pessimistic outlook to manage anxiety from a life full of “rotten luck”. While most believe pessimism limits opportunity, Charlie Brown proves otherwise. Charlie Brown not only led the PEANUTS’ gang but also overcame much adversity (we’re looking at you, Lucy). According to PEANUTS creator Charles M. Schulz, “[He] must be the one who suffers, because he is a caricature of the average person. Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than winning.”
“My goal is to not wake up at 40 with the bitter realization that I’ve wasted my life on a job I hate because I was forced to decide on a career in my teens.”
Ranked 41st on TV Guide’s Top 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters, Daria Morgendorffer’s cynicism made her the queen of 1990s sarcasm. Featured in the MTV’s animated series DARIA, Daria represented a beacon of hope in a materialistic and superficial upper-middle class suburban high school. Daria’s pessimism stems from her daily interactions with students and family members that lived shallow existences. Despite her gloomy outlook, Daria didn’t lack self-esteem. Instead of throwing herself into the latest craze, Daria strategically approached her goals, often weighing her desires with the required energy. With brutal honesty and witty negativity, Daria gave hope to a whole generation of teenagers that never wanted to be ‘cool’.
“When people get too chummy with me I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don’t really care about them.”
Using emotionless pessimism and unabashed masculinity, PARKS AND RECREATIONS’ Ron Swanson developed a strong cult following. Although Ron Swanson is the director of the parks and recreation department, he routinely tries to cut the department’s efficiency in honor of his libertarian views. Ron Swanson’s pessimism stems from bureaucratic procedures and society’s declining masculine values. So how does Ron find temporary relief from his negativity? Bacon, bacon, and bacon.
“Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you’re that pissed that so many others had it good.”
In the classic film AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997), Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is a middle-aged romance writer who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and crippling pessimism. Melvin Udall enjoys a life of routine and solitude until his homosexual artist neighbor and a struggling waitress pull him out of his lonely existence. Melvin Udall’s pessimism stemmed from a bad childhood and abusive parents. Although Melvin often says offensive comments and morbid realities, he wins over audiences with his peculiar charm and hints of goodwill. To this day, many people consider Melvin Udall the embodiment of a cynical movie protagonist.
“Love, despite what they tell you, does not conquer all, nor does it even usually last. In the end the romantic aspirations of our youth are reduced to, whatever works.”
In Woody Allen’s WHATEVER WORKS (2009), Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) is a grumpy ex-quantum mechanics professor struggling with an existential crisis. After a botched suicide attempt, Boris meets a young Southern girl and they form an unlikely friendship. From criticizing philosophic ideas to judging people’s behavior, Boris reveals his quirky yet pessimistic personality. Throughout the film, Boris breaks the fourth wall and directly expresses his cynical views to the audience. So what caused Boris’ pessimism? Well… I’m not sure. From his father’s suicide to omega 3s, he kind of lists everything.
“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f**king khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”
In FIGHT CLUB (1999), Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) is a soap salesman with an anarchistic agenda. Tyler Durden had such a negative viewpoint of society that some could argue his beliefs were as concrete as an actual philosophy. Although he primarily focused on anti-capitalism and anti-materialism, pessimism was an essential component of his beliefs. Tyler believed his followers needed to strip away their illusions of self and look at themselves as nothing more than “decaying organic matter”. Durden’s cynical views of life and nihilist nature influenced an entire generation of viewers, sparking fight clubs and vandalism around the nation.
“I’d consider myself a realist, alright? But in philosophical terms I’m what’s called a pessimist… I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself – we are creatures that should not exist by natural law.”
TRUE DETECTIVE’s Rustin Spencer “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) is a troubled Louisiana State detective investigating a series of disturbing murders. As Rust works with partner Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson), Rust continuously expresses his beliefs on the meaningless of life and the self-delusion of hope. Rust’s pessimism stems from his young daughter’s death and his four-year undercover narcotic assignment. Despite Rust’s dark past and even darker nihilist beliefs, Rust wins the audience with his strong values, pragmatic nature, and unyielding determination.
Here’s to the pessimists! When you’re feeling down, just remember: life has no meaning and we’ll all die in our own arms.
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