Character Profile 3: Napoleon Dynamite

The poster really is right. He is out to prove he has nothing to prove. I’m so envious of that skill!

I wasn’t going to post a character profile today but I feel inspired to talk a little bit about the great Napoleon Dynamite.  I feel a special kinship to Napoleon because it was made by Utahns (and Mormons) and speaks to a culture I can relate to a little bit.  I guess you could consider it a one hit wonder of movies as none involved have been able to strike such a home run again but some one hit wonders are classics and so is Napoleon Dynamite.

If you don’t know Napoleon Dynamite is a movie about a boy in high school named Napoleon who is an unusual kind of misfit.  He is a terrific character because he doesn’t know he is a misfit and that makes him incredibly likable.  He’s happy with his life despite the fact that everything which happens in the movie is kind of sad.  In another writers hands it could have been a tragedy.

Think about it- his brother is a borderline creepster, his parents are MIA, his grandma is injured and his uncle is a mess.  He gets rejected by the girl he likes.  He only has 2 friends and everyone kind of makes fun of him. Then why is it such a cheerful picture?  Because Napoleon is a content character.  He gets pleasure from small things like drawing ligers, acquiring skills, helping his friend win an election, learning karate and eating tater tots.  One might say he has learned to be happy on very little.  Easy to please.

napoleon and crowdAnd yet he is certainly not a cheerful or bubbly character.  Napoleon is very deadpan but this is where you get most of the laughs.  It is funny to have someone talking about tatertots or ligers in an intense/deadpan way.  It’s just a funny way of speaking.  He’s so easily pleased by simple things that as an audience we root for him to get those things.  The dialogue makes us laugh along the way (the plot isn’t particularly funny.  It is the script that makes us laugh and root for him).

Here’s a great example.  Whether it’s reciting current events, advocating for our underwater allies, signing with the happy hands club or eating tots, Napoleon is happy with his life.

He doesn’t care that the jock is making fun of him.  He cares when he takes his tots and calls him an ‘idiot’ but as far as people and his self esteem he remains consistently strong. It makes him extremely likable and funny (oblivious and unaware people can be the most funny because we think about how we might feel in that situation and maybe are even a little envious of Napoleon).


The ultimate example of this deadpan freedom is in his dance.  He doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.  He only cares about his friend and what he thinks is cool.  Wouldn’t life be great if we were all a little more like that? If we didn’t need the praise of the world to be happy but could be satisfied by such simple things?

So I think we could all learn a little bit from Napoleon.  Enjoy the life we’ve got and be a little bit less worried what others think about our choices.  Have a good laugh and watch Napoleon Dynamite again.  It’s certainly one of my favorite characters in the movies. Vote for Pedro! 🙂