This morning, on a Jerry Seinfeld post about his hostility toward political correctness, one of our illustrious commenters left a comment noting that Seinfeld is smug, and smugness “is never a good quality.”
No offense, but …
Smugness can not only the defining characteristic of many characters — and people — in real life, it’s what we like most about them. There’s nothing wrong with being congratulatory, arrogant, and overly pleased with oneself, so long as you are right — and you stand their in your rightness — in the way that we want you to be right. Anne Coulter is smug, but we hate her opinions, therefore her smugness is unattractive. Jerry Seinfeld can also be smug, and those things about which he is smug do no sit well with many of us.
Here, let me illustrate. If you’re a Republican, you hate this face.
If you’re a Democrat, you hate this face.
But then there are these characters, who are quintessentially smug, and very often flawed, but they are smug about things with which we agree, and therefore, that smugness is euphemistically referred to as confidence.
John Hancock from the movie Hancock.
Cary Agos in The Good Wife (and even Gilmore Girls), who is so smug you don’t know whether to make out with him or punch him in his smug face.
C. J. Cregg from The West Wing, owning her rightness.
Deadpool from that X-Men movie and also his forthcoming film. The same can be said for about half of all Ryan Reynolds’ characters, including — to date — his best, Hannibal King in Blade Trinity.
Sterling Archer from Archer, the epitome of self-satisfied vainglorious asshole (but you know you’d bang him, animated or not)
Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones, which is why she’s not only my favorite character on the series, but in my opinion, the sexiest (incest notwithstanding)
Tony Stark, who can at least back up his smugness with results.
Bill Murray in real-life (and in many of his characters). His is a very rare brand of endearing smugness.
Gregory House, who is smug and dismissive.
James Spader has made an entire career out of his smugness, and as far as I’m concerned, can do it for another three decades.
Walter White, mostly in the later seasons, when you were tortured between thinking he was an irredeemable sociopath and weirdly kind of sexy.
Sherlock Holmes, especially the Cumberbatch version, which is why he’s one of your favorite versions.
Dr. Cox from Scrubs, who is not only one of the smuggest characters in TV history, but in my opinion, the best character in sitcom history.