Addictions, Vices and Obsessions: 8 Pop Culture Characters We Love Despite (or because of) Them

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck on October 18, 2012

in Movies, Television

Think back for a moment. Who are some of your favorite TV and movie characters of all time?

My guess is that most of the characters you’d name possess some quality or passion that you can relate to. Whether it’s their pride, their love for their family, or even their witty charm- there’s something there that you identify with.

Sometimes the best way to develop a character that the public will care about is to give them flaws. We’re not perfect, and market research indicates we don’t want our idols to be either. The public’s focus has shifted from the hero to the anti-hero in comics, television and movies, giving rise to wildly popular but heavily flawed lead characters such as Tony Soprano, Don Draper, and Tony Stark.

After I read this article listing the 5 fiercest cartoon No-Limit heads up poker players in the world, it hit me- we love it when a character has a strong passion for something. We love it even more when that passion goes a little bit overboard. As a society, we tend to favor the excess – a little too much to eat, too many drinks, spending a bit more than we should – but we prefer to feel that we’re not alone. We know it’s wrong, but if everyone’s doing it, it can’t be that bad.

In reference to the cartoon characters in the above example – I’m not saying that playing poker is a harmful vice, but to be that good at it, you have to throw yourself in deep. You’ve got to completely immerse yourself in something to be that successful at it. There’s no moderation here, it’s all or nothing.

Here’s a list of eight beloved pop culture characters and the quality that makes them most endearing – their vices, addictions or all-consuming interests.


Homer Simpson – donuts, beer

Plentiful is the American male who loves donuts, beer or both. We know these indulgences aren’t good for us, and we know we should consume them in moderation. It’s just so hard! That’s why it’s nice to see someone else give in to the temptation on a weekly basis. Homer’s not perfect but ultimately his wife and family love him, and that’s what we all want most: to indulge our desires with no ramifications.


The Golden Girls – late night cheesecake

The Golden Girls’ preferred household discussion forum was late at night, in the kitchen, while eating an entire cheesecake. They would frequently comment about how bad it was for them, but “one more piece wouldn’t hurt”. When the episode-specific conflict needed resolution, the only way to tackle it was head-on, over some cheesecake. The Golden Girls became lovable characters who won over millions of viewers who could relate to raiding the fridge at night.


House, M.D. – painkillers

Medical and procedural shows come and go every television season. House was able to maintain an 8 year run on FOX not because the viewers cared if Dr. House’s patients lived, but because the viewers cared about him. According to Eurodata TV Worldwide, House was the most watched show on the planet in 2008. What made him so riveting? His addiction.

In the first season, House reveals his daily use of Vicodin to manage the leg pain that requires him to walk with a cane. This plot point would remain an overarching theme throughout the show’s run, with many individual stories branching from it. House was vulnerable and prone to addiction, something so many of us could relate to.


Dan Fielding (Night Court) – women

Night Court’s prosecutor was a sex-crazed, chauvinistic womanizer named Dan Fielding. He was also the show’s breakout star. The only actor to get his own show at the end of Night Court’s run, John Larroquette brilliantly played a character whom we all should have despised. Dan mercilessly hit on every woman he came in contact with, professional setting or otherwise, and his primary weekly target was public defender Christine Sullivan.

What made Dan lovable? He had a weakness, and he didn’t try to hide it. He swung for the fences every time, fearless of the strikeout. His obsession with sex was all-consuming at times, but the viewer got just enough of an occasional glimpse behind the obsession to see that Dan was a good guy under it all.


Rusty Ryan (Ocean’s Eleven) – food

One of the things I love most about the Ocean’s franchise is how often Brad Pitt’s character is shown eating something. No matter how tense the moment, or how mobile Ryan is, he always seems to have time for a snack. In fact, Brad Pitt eating in all of his movies is apparently a documented thing. Here’s a list Vulture published of every item of food that Pitt has ever eaten in a movie.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – pizza

To say that the discovery of pizza changed the lives of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael would be a drastic understatement. Once they had their first bite, there was no turning back- they had to have more. The Turtles can never get enough pizza, which makes them relatable to their entire target demographic.


Karen Walker – booze

If Karen Walker’s awake, she has a drink in her hand. Or in a flask in her purse. Originally a supporting character on Will & Grace, audience reception of Karen was so strong that she became a show centerpiece. So how does an out of touch, morally challenged socialite garner so much viewer adoration? She loves to drink, and she has no filter.


Cookie Monster – cookies

This one was obvious, folks. Perhaps the most self-destructive, out of control, compulsive personality on this list – and we love him dearly. The Cookie Monster is wholly, undeniably obsessed with cookies, and who can fault him for it? He doesn’t try to hide it, bearing his passion like a flag for the world to see.



Howie Decker (@HowardtheDeck) is the co-creator and editor of UnderScoopFire. He likes fantasy baseball & taco night. You can read his Letter from the Editor here.


ShezCrafti October 18, 2012 at 12:01 pm

If you pretend that pizza is a metaphor for crack cocaine, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles becomes a totally different show.

Awesome, overly-specific list as usual!

Howie Decker October 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Don’t do that to me, you know how I over-analyze things. Here we go!

Kevin Hellions December 9, 2012 at 12:09 am

There may be no better TV character than Dan Fielding. Its a shame that the complete series of Night Court was never released on DVD nor is it on Netflix.

Howie Decker December 9, 2012 at 12:11 am

Often imitated, never duplicated. Wonderful character in TV history.

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