I won't bore you with my qualms at watching people work out for hours a day and lose 15 lbs. in a week. I'll let you make your own judgment calls on that one. But this season's winner has brought something to my attention that I feel I should comment on, if only because it's something that plays out both in my real life and in my writing.
The winner, a woman named Helen, seems overall to be a nice person. I should be happy she won, happy she gained control over her weight and lost as much as she did. I should be happy she got all that money.
But I'm not.
And it isn't because I was particularly rooting for either of the other players. It's because of one event, which occurred somewhere in the middle of the show's running. At one point, Helen, who came to the ranch with her daughter as her partner, convinced her daughter to volunteer to go home instead of her mother so that Helen could stay at the ranch.
In contrast, another parent-child team made it all the way to the finals, yet Ron (aka, "The Godfather") had only one interest: his son. When they both came up for the final vote, and viewers were going to make the decision, he pled only for them to vote for his son Mike. Not a word pleading for himself. As much as I didn't care a whole bunch for his tactics throughout the season, I respected him for that.
Had I been in Helen's place, and be at the ranch with my daughter, there is no WAY I would ask her to go home. Never. And while Helen kept losing and losing, her daughter didn't, and she still has far to go before she is where she should be. Perhaps Helen will earn back my respect when she turns her attention towards her daughter and returns the favor.
And this all leads me back to writing (although by now you are probably wondering how). A character in the world I've created could be mostly likable, yet one particular trait or action of hers could turn readers against her. It could be infidelity, or even something as simple as a caustic comment at the wrong time. But that little trait or event could haunt my readers, making the end of the novel or play something less than satisfying.
Readers can be forgiving. Scrooge was a highly unlikable character, yet his reform is so goofy it actually works, and has for well over 100 years. But Scrooge had to face his own shortcomings. Helen didn't face hers. It's the same reason I detest romances where the guy rapes a woman, and then they fall in love. Nope, doesn't work for me. I need to see more than regret with something like this... the bigger the sin, the more extreme the repentance.
Think about Oedipus Rex. When he discovered he'd slept (for years) with his own mom, and fathered four kids with her, he didn't say, "Oh, well," and remain king. And his sins weren't even intentional. Yet he lost his mind from remorse, and poked his own eyes out so he wouldn't have to look on what he'd done anymore. THAT is what I'm talking about (and it's another reason I love myth... people do take responsibility for what they've done, often in big ways).
Perhaps I'm unforgiving. But if I am, I'm sure some of my readers will be, too. What do you think?