Lessons From…Zero Charisma

Movies and television are some of the ways that I learned about, and how to interact with, the world. Thinking back, this is probably a sad realization I’ve made but not untrue. I led a sheltered existence in a sheltered family within an extremely sheltered, and very closed minded, community. Hell, at one point The Simpsons became taboo in my home. That amazingly has not changed.

With this background, I lost myself in the worlds and culture provided by film, television, and books. I knew these were fake immersions, but I still found them a worthwhile escape. I suppose in some ways I have never really stopped using these forms of electronic entertainment as a means of escapism and self-education which explains the weekly post on morals derived from examples of popular culture.

Anyhow, excuse the odd self-introspection and let’s move on to this week’s discussion topic: Zero Charisma. As always, I’ll try not to but possible SPOILERS ahead.

Zero Charisma is an independent film relating the story of Scott and his rivalry with a hipster for the hearts and minds of a Dungeons & Dragons group. Yeah, I know how can this not make for mass, riveting entertainment, right? Surprisingly, or not for those among us who enjoy tabletop gaming, it actually works for the intended narrative.


What works best, at least for me, about this film is that there are no caricatures but several characters. Typically “nerds,” “geeks,” and “gamers” of any ilk are not shown in the best light in popular media. Now, Zero Charisma does not necessarily show these cultures in a better manner, but the depictions serve the narrative and have some basis in truth and fairness.

So today’s lesson has to do with depicting sub-cultures and people within said sub-cultures. The main character, Scott, is an asshole. He is completely anti-social outside of moderating D&D campaigns and other nerdy topics. He has anger management and control issues and alienates the few friends he has in the film.


All these characteristics have nothing to do with Scott being a gamer or a fan of heavy metal music or having sub par job. The film could have taken the easy route and simply mocked Scott using his particular eccentricities and interests. Instead, the movie is an exploration of character and culture through a focus on Scott without being patronizing, demeaning, or forgiving.

Scott runs his D&D campaigns with an iron fisted totalitarianism because he has no control or direction in his actual life. He loves listening to metal music because it helps him express his anger and frustrations for a few minutes. He has poor social skills because he never really recovered from being abandoned by his parents.

Not an inaccurate depiction.

Not an inaccurate depiction.

The film explores these facets of Scott’s life without passing judgment. There are reasons but never excuses. So today’s lesson (admittedly this one is more for creators) caricatures are amusing but forgettable while characters are enticing and memorable. People are a complex mixture of so many bits and pieces; to see them as less so is a disservice to them and you. With the addendum that just because a person can be complex does not mean he or she cannot also be a tremendous douche.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Also, see Zero Charisma. It’s a pretty good film and worth the time.

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