Between Kenneth and Worf: Optimists vs Pessimists

Filed Under Mind Mapping

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Pete Hunt

by
June 19, 2012

As we noted in our last post, optimism and pessimism aren’t just perspectives—they are two different, but equally effective, strategies for coping with a complex and unpredictable environment. To illustrate this point, we’ve identified some of the most optimistic and pessimistic characters from television, comic books, and sprawling fantasy novels. Each of these figures has a distinct worldview that shapes the decisions they make and the way they interact with others. For some, optimism reflects their faith in the better side of humanity and the promise of tomorrow. For others, pessimism is a reliable compass in a world of disappointment.

Between Kenneth and Worf: Optimists vs Pessimists

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Category: Mad Men
Character: Megan Draper
Trait: Optimist
At Don’s 40th birthday surprise party, his young bride Megan performed a provocative French number—Zou Bisou Bisou—to the satisfaction of Don’s Sterling Cooper Drake Price co-workers and millions of jaws agape viewers at home. Megan didn’t seem to care that she had been yet another revolving door secretary the season before who had simply stumbled into a marriage proposal.  Given her chance to shine, Megan projected pure confidence as she shimmied and shook her way to fame.

Category: Mad Men
Character: Betty Francis
Trait: Pessimist
Meanwhile, poor Betty has married the world’s most considerate campaign strategist and still can’t seem to find happiness. Every season brings a new coping device for her barely concealed misery, from the therapist’s couch to the equestrian lessons to the sage counsel of Glen Bishop. But for Betty, the bin of Neapolitan ice cream is always half empty.

Category: Star Trek
Character: Geordi La Forge
Trait: Optimist
Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge quickly climbed through Starfleet ranks from helmsman to chief engineer. La Forge can single-handedly correct imbalances in the impulse engines, re-calibrate the magnetic fields holding the ship’s antimatter supply, and shimmy the Heisenberg compensators until the subatomic particles correctly materialize in the transporter bay. His mechanical ability is seeming endless, but his vision is quite limited. Geordi La Forge is naturally blind, but you’ll never hear him complain. He’s too busy tweaking the plasma injectors and warpfield coils by the Bussard ramscoop.

Category: Star Trek
Character: Worf
Trait: Pessimist
Worf is the first Klingon main character to appear in a Star Trek series, but his cold attitude and aggressive posturing suggest he should have been the last. Of course, Worf has a tragic backstory that’s supposed to explain his moodiness. His parents were killed during a surprise attack by the Romulans on the Khitomer outpost deep in the Beta quadrant. And his Klingon heritage has reinforced in him the virtues of honor and bellicosity. But Worf never seems to acknowledge how awesome it is to be jetting around the United Federation of Planets at 4 billion miles per second with all of his Enterprise bros.

Category: Superheroes
Character: Superman
Trait: Optimist
Superman wears baby blue tights that are at least two-sizes too small. Working from this sartorial base, he accessorizes with a bright red pair of underwear threaded with a yellow belt, a billowing cape, knee high boots, and—displayed prominently across this chest—a shield emblazoned with his initial. At the end of the 90s he briefly sported a Kenny Powers-esque mullet. It’s a bold fashion statement, but Superman emerges from the phone booth without a hint of self doubt.

Category: Superheroes
Character: Batman
Trait: Pessimist
Batman frequents the same Costume Warehouse as Superman, but is a far less adventurous shopper. He fills his cart with dark hues—brooding blacks and gloomy greys—which he only seems to wear at night. Whereas Superman proudly shows off his chiseled face, flowing locks and jutting jaw, Batman conceals his countenance behind a mask with giant, pointy ears. Bruce Wayne is truly a the most tragic of tragic figures: a fashion pessimist.  The original Goth super hero, this is just another reason he’s also known as the Dark Knight..

Category: 30 Rock
Character: Kenneth Parcell
Trait: Optimist
Kenneth Parcell is a perpetually-chipper page from the backwoods of Stone Mountain, Georgia. Parcell’s father was a poor pig farmer, and Kenneth volunteers that he and his family “have eaten [their] share of rock soup and squirrel tail” but have had “lean times” as well. Despite his impoverished upbringing, Parcell projects pure optimism no matter what menial task he is assigned.

Category: 30 Rock
Character: Pete Hornberger
Trait: Pessimist
Life has given Pete lemons, and he has devoured them tart and raw, then asked for another. As a teenager he was cursed with baldness after he hit a Gypsy’s child with his car.  He was briefly the “fourth guitarist in Loverboy,” but left the band on a college scholarship to study “TV budgeting.” Pete later qualified for the Olympic archery team, but was denied the opportunity to compete after President Carter decided to boycott the Moscow games. Today, Pete is a sinkhole of self-loathing and repressed rage.

Category: Game of Thrones
Character: Littlefinger
Trait: Optimist
Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish has risen from a poor minor noble to one of the most powerful officials in the Seven Kingdoms, but his ambitions don’t end there. Baelish is a schemer, dreamer, and double crosser with a steadfast resolution never to be bettered. He thrives in time of chaos of disquiet, and his naked ambition has served him well during the violent dynastic struggles among the kingdom’s noble families for control of the Iron Throne. Always two steps ahead of embattled noblemen who despise or discount him, he’s confident he’ll be the true winner of the Game.

Category: Game of Thrones
Character: The Hound
Trait: Pessimist
Sandor “The Hound” Clegane is a more than able warrior in the service of House Lannister, whose only calling seems to be violence. His face is scarred from childhood burning at the hands of his brother Gregor. This sadism seems to have contributed to his rather scalding demeanor and lack of chivalry. Although his natural aptitude for killing has won him a prized role as the bodyguard of the young King, Joffrey Baratheon, he seems to expect nothing more than the poor treatment he receives at the King’s hands.

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