Top 5 cinematic outcasts
When I was a teenager I had a penchant for black clothes, eyeliner and pretending I actually understood Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry. This attitude naturally drew me to the outcasts in movies, the characters who I felt (and still do occasionally feel) best represented my attitude to the world and to the other human beings unfortunate enough to share it with me. I loved the anti-heroes, the drop outs and the lovable nihilists, and in honour of this (and the fact that the aforementioned Salander has given us something of a good name) here’s my collection of some of the all time great movie outcasts.
#5 – Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice)
Maybe not the Tim Burton character you were expecting, but Winona Ryder’s portrayal of the ultimate teenage Goth deserves mention for a number of reasons. Firstly, she’s the best representation in any of Burton’s films of his actual fans. While all ‘Burtonheads’ (and I include myself in this newly made up category) like to think of themselves as being like Edward Scissorhands or Jack Skellington, they’re actually all just melodramatic kids with ghoulish sensibilities (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
Another reason for Lydia to make to the list is that she uttered one of the best lines in a movie ever. When told she was going to get her own dark room for her photography she replies “my whole life is a dark room, one. big. dark. room.” Had my parents not stopped me, I probably would have got this tattooed across my chest at the tender age of fifteen.
#4 – J.D. (Heathers)
A film out the same year as Beetlejuice (and also starring Winona Ryder) featured perhaps Lydia’s male equivalent in the form of JD. Played by Christian Slater during his golden period, JD is the ultimate outcast, the chain-smoking high school freak who dares to do what every lonely and bullied kid wants to do.
A cross between Holden Caulfield, James Dean and Ted Bundy, JD takes every sadistic revenge fantasy you’ve ever had about the cliques, the bullies and the girls who wouldn’t talk to you and makes it come true. Throughout the movie he poisons cheerleaders, shoots jocks, and gets to sleep with Winona Ryder, you have to admit that is pretty fucking cool. Ok, so things get a bit Columbine at the end of the movie – but at least he goes out in style.
#3 – Eric Draven (The Crow)
The go-to Halloween costume for any guy with long dark hair, Eric Draven is one of the great movie anti-heroes for reasons as much to do with real life as they do the movie. Played by Brandon (son of Bruce) Lee, Draven is an undead rock star, back from the grave to avenge his own murder and that of his beloved fiancée. He’s a sort of bastard offspring of Batman (dark avenger) and the Joker (psychotic clown), who storms across a dystopic Detroit to a soundtrack of the Cure and Nine Inch Nails.
Brandon Lee’s untimely death during filming has lent the hero a kind of tragic pathos. Lee was very much in love with the role, even learning guitar to play in a Goth band and purchasing a vintage Cadillac hearse to drive round in. Draven is the ultimate superhero for the disenfranchised – sure Batman’s dark, but he’s still a trust fund kiddie (and he lets the bad guys live).
#2 – Allison Reynolds (The Breakfast Club)
Ok, I know John Hughes movies aren’t exactly the edgiest viewing, but you’ve got to admit that The Breakfast Club has a certain something. The reason that this manic, sugar sandwich-eating, compulsive liar makes my list isn’t that she’s a great character (though she is) but because she became a prototype for a certain kind of teen character that started appearing in the 90’s and 00’s. Starting out as an anti-social nutcase, Reynolds makes a transformation throughout the film as she gets to know her fellow pupils and eventually gets a makeover from the shallow-girl-who-turns-out-to-be-not-that-shallow and becomes a normal girl.
She laid the groundwork for a series of the other vaguely offensive characters who made disaffected weirdly dressed teens feel like what they doing wasn’t right, and the only way you could be happy was to put on a pink dress and become well adjusted (Clea DuVall’s character in The Faculty is another example that particularly pissed me off). Allison Reynolds is a great character that sells out, but makes it sort of ok when we all do the same later in life.
#1 – Donnie Darko (Donnie Darko)
I’m not entirely sure that even Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly knows exactly what happens in the film, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s name-making performance as the awkward, mentally troubled teen grabs your attention from the moment he’s told by a phantom rabbit called Frank that the world is going to end. Every loner feels the centre of their own little universe – it’s just with Donnie he actually might be, as he figures out his ability to see the worm holes that pass through time and space.
While the film gets knocked for its ‘David Lynch for kids’ sci-fi agenda, it’s actually a perfectly realised teen drama, taking in all the elements that make being young harsh, frightening and isolating. Donnie is paranoid, he’s unsure of his own grip on reality, he doesn’t know if his girlfriend actually likes him, and just as everyone at one point has felt like their world is collapsing around them, his actually does. A true role model for any of us who were teenagers in the early 21st century.
Who’s your favourite movie misfit? Let us know below!
By Dan Cadwallader