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I've been watching Fry and Laurie's Jeeves and Wooster with my mother while we eat our dinner. After watching so much of it, I've come to believe that this series demonstrated a very obvious, but essential aspect of plotting and characterisation.

(I have read a few of Wodehouse's original stories but so long ago I'm sticking with the television series like a pleb for this post)

Wooster is not an inherently interesting or sympathetic character--he's a very dim bulb, avoids responsibility, is in turns self-centered and overly idealistic, and to him, hard work (aside from climbing buildings and other such larks) is something that happens to other people while he's throwing bread rolls at other idle gentlemen at the Drones Club.

But thanks to his status and easygoing lifestyle, and the fact Jeeves is in his employ, his friends and acquaintances constantly take advantage of his time, money and apparently the fact that he exists. Last episode I watched had his fiancee break a man's leg with a car, then put him up in Wooster's flat and tell his family that Wooster was driving! His aunts, the closest thing Wooster has to parents or authority figures as far as I've seen, berate him for being useless, yet continue to give him nonsensical and dangerous errands benefiting only them.

When Wooster makes an effort to prevent more shenanigans or to defend himself, everybody talks over him or tells him to stop interrupting. The ongoing comedic intent of this (juggling the Idiot Ball, to use TV Tropes parlance) is obvious, but over a period of time it builds empathy, even sympathy towards him, and leads to a certain satisfaction when Jeeves comes through again.

Most of these figures are harmless (I can't bring myself to like Stiffy though--what a nasty pasty!) and the stories are genteel and always (as far as I've seen anyway) end in the status quo, with Wooster not learning too much from his experiences and never losing more than his pride. But who can't relate to overbearing authority figures giving orders and insults in the same breath? Or charming but irritating friends lumping their woes on them and making their lives hell, and not being able to defend themselves? And so, who wouldn't want someone like Jeeves on their side?

It's all part of the comparatively harmless comedy, and at the same time, it's great storytelling.

I'd love to read fic and meta exploring the relationship between Jeeves and Wooster, but I'll have to be careful looking for it--it's not that finding slash in this fandom would infuriate me, so much as I wouldn't be able to look my mother in the eye. 8D;;;;


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