Thursday, October 28, 2010

Whom Do You Hate? Er...Unlove? Strongly Dislike...

I received an email from a reader, Lindsay Samuels, a few days ago asking us to plug her site, and I must say it's worth plugging. She's pursuing a degree in Library Science (no easy task, I assure you) and has a site up which is informative and entertaining. Her latest post is great - 50 Most Hated Characters in Literary History. 

Lindsay begins the post with the disclaimer that literature is highly subjective art. Yeah, we all know about that around here, don't we?

I found it interesting and disturbing that the 1st hated characters on Lindsay's list were Twilight's Edward and Bella. Following in the list are Beth March from Little Women, Hamlet from Shakespeare, and Robert Langdon from the Dan Brown novels. I liked Lindsay's little blurb about him:
Historical and religious inaccuracies aside, one of the biggest complaints that readers had against Robert Langdon is his veritable Mary Sue status. The man can do no wrong and has no discernable flaws, making him exceptionally boring and frustrating to read about.
Ah, so true.

Lindsay's article is a fun read. You should check it out. And if you don't see a character you hate (or love to hate...) in the list, add them here! And tell us why. It might be fun to compile our own list of hated characters and put it up somewhere alongside our most loved characters (we'll save that for another day).

One character I strongly dislike is Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair because the reader spends a good portion of the book rooting for her only to see her turn into a scheming, devious murdering (murdering is debatable) liar. That wouldn't be so bad if one views it all as her position as a woman in that time period - and that her terrible deeds are all crimes of circumstance (haha) - but the fact that she never truly loves her child and remains un-devoted to him at all is what makes her unlovable to me. I love the book, though. Go figure. I do think the fact that Becky is unlovable in so many ways makes her an admirable tool in the literary work. We can save that for another day, too.


  1. That list was delightful. I agree with the Gone with the Wind characters and the Potter characters. Love to hate them.

    My favorite character to hate: Marquise de Merteuil from "Les Liaisons dangereuses" by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. She's so damn clever, and so evil. Makes me want to reread the book again.

  2. Character I hate: Percy in Stephen King's THE GREEN MILE. He is spoiled, sniveling, spineless, and just plain mean. Although it works very well, because it makes me cheer when he finally gets his come-uppence.

    Characters I love to hate (or hate to love:
    - Hannibal Lector. Is it too twisted to think he's cool?

    - The Judge in Cormac McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN. The pedophilia moves him to a solid hate position.

    - Gollum / Smeagle- In my opinion, he is the most fascinating character in 20th century fiction. I really love to hate him.

  3. I hope this doesn't sound glib or dismissive, but the idea of hating fictional characters always boggles my mind.

  4. Crimey: Glad you enjoyed the list! Looks like I need to read your favorite character to hate. :)

    Rick: Oh! I love your little list. I also think that Gollum is a truly fascinating character. I could interpret things about him all day long.

    Nevets: No,I agree with you 100%. It boggles my mind, too. I honestly don't think there is one (well-written) character I've ever read that I absolutely hate. Like I said with Becky Sharp - I dislike her, but I love the book, and because I love the book I love parts of that main character because she's fascinating to study.

    This is why I added other things to the title besides hate. More than anything, I LOVE to hate characters. You know, like Umbridge in Harry Potter. Oh, she's just so downright horrible that I hate her and love her at the same time. Crazy.

  5. The Dursleys from the Harry Potter series - in the majority of the books. Dudley redeems himself - somewhat by the last book.

    It was interesting to note that many of the characters listed seemed to suffer from the 'Barbie and Ken', i.e. perfect character, syndrome. So, basically, my point that flawed characters make sense has merit. Ha!

    Oh, and about that Christina character from 'Cinders' . . . Kidding. You know I loved her for her imperfections and relateablility!


  6. Tom Buchanan is a good one on that list. Love to hate him.

    One of my all-time favorite characters, and someone I love to hate is Lady Macbeth. She stole the show for me, and is a character I would have loved to create.

  7. I really hate the narrator in Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet. And I really wanted to just slap Jo March in the second half of Little Women. There's no way she's the same woman who was in the first half of the book. She's been replaced by a pod creature. And Tom Bombadil from LOTR can go away forever, too.

  8. Scott: Yes, flawed characters. Must love them! I thought, hmmm, someone is going to think to themselves that they hate my Christina from CINDERS... ;)

    Domey: Okay, YOU WIN. Lady Macbeth is so super fantastically unlovable that I stole her as my online presence. Kind of. Lady Glamis. Innocent Flower. It's all so deliciously complex. :)

    Scott: You made me laugh very, very hard! Hah! Jo March...I need to read that book again. I don't remember her completely changing, but you're probably right. So how does that tie into your character changing post? That's a good example of what not to do, right? Pod creature replacements are a no-no unless it's sci-fi...

    Tom Bombadil annoyed me, yes. I'm glad he wasn't in the movie.

  9. Scott- Good call on Bombadil. Somehwere between him and Weathertop Tolkien shifted from kid's book to adult, and Tom's the most out-of-place character in the series.

  10. Death to Bombadil! Death!

    Michelle, you should read "LW" again and watch what happens to Jo's character. Since the two halves of the book were originally published separately, and since Alcott didn't want to write a second half where all the girls grow up and get married, the whole second half is sort of forced and mindless romance. I really don't see how sparky, independant Jo March turns into submissive and worshipful Jo Behr. I don't buy it at all and it pissed me off when I read it. But when Beth died, I joined the chorus of readers all thinking "it's about time."

    I also really hate Rochester in "Jane Eyre," and I hated Jane until almost the very end. It's only when Rochester asks, "Am I hideous, Jane?" and she replies, "Yes, but you always were" that I decided I like her.

    Likeable characters are way overrated anyway. To be interesting is the primary job, not to be adorable.

  11. Scott: Oh, well said about interesting vs. adorable. I agree. I will have to read Little Women again, yes. Makes me wonder what's wrong with writing a story about people who grow up and get married. That's where all the interesting stuff happens if you ask me.

    Rochester is not on my "like" radar. I kind of cheered when he ended up blind. :)

  12. Tom Bombadil was actually the first character to pop to mind. A waste of paper. If he'd been real, probably a waste of air.

    Who else? Hmm.

    Well, the priest in The Stranger is pretty hateful philosophically.

    I'm sure there are others... I'll ponder... But honestly, it's very rare for me to have negative emotional experiences with character other than for literary reasons.

  13. Wackford Squeers (and his wife), the monstrous rulers of Dotheboys Hall in "Nicholas Nickleby." Their son and daughter are nasty pieces of work, too.

  14. I love Lindsay's lists and this is a great one. I think it's significant that the two biggest romantic "heroes" of the Bronte sisters make the list. Heathcliff and Rochester really are monsters. I have a theory that all the Brontes "flawed heroes" are based on their alcoholic, drug-addicted brother. When I saw their house at Haworth, and the brother's much bigger room, I realized how he--and his addictions--must have dominated them. That's why their heroines are mostly abused co-dependents. That was pretty much the only life they knew.

  15. Great post and comments. As to the article, I found some of them woefully obvious- do we even have to say we hate Voldemort? Who could possible root for him? It's just a given, while hatred for the MCs (such as Bella, Holden and Robert L.) is far more interesting.

    I think hatred for some, such as the GWTW crew, comes from not truly grasping the mores of the era. Rhett for example, his "womanizing" was really a way of saying the purity- obsessed culture of the South actually victimized women-why the heck can't a girl go buggy riding in the afternoon without a chaperone, if she wants to? or so I like to think. And Melanie is the perfect foil/partner to Scarlett. Melanie knows exactly what's what and she survives-look how brilliant a deciever/player she can be when she needs to, she just chooses a kinder way.

    And the Tom Bombadil haters crack me up. He is bizarre and not particularly important to the plot, but he's my zany brother-in-laws favorite character. He was so bummed when he got cut from the movie.

  16. Nevets: I think my "negative emotional experiences" with characters in fiction is usually a positive experience, if that makes any sense at all? There is a huge difference for me, however, between a poorly written/misplaced character like Tom Bombadil and well-written evil character who sparks dislike in me because of who they are in the story.

    Mizmak: I've seen "Nicholas Nickleby" but I haven't read it. I need to read it. :)

    Anne: Oh, interesting theory about the Brontes. I'm not a huge fan of their work except Jane Eyre. You're lucky to have visited the house!

    SB: The last one on the list was woefully obvious, yes, and I'm not sure it truly belonged there, but it's her list and she can add who she wants. I thought it was all quite fun to read. Interesting how you bring up the word foil because I was just thinking it's usually the foils we love to hate in stories... :)

  17. @Michelle - I think the thing is that I am painfully empathetic. If a character is well-written enough that I don't hate him or her for literary reasons, that I usually empathize with them in some way, even if they're essentially evil.

    I don't remember the details, but there was a fantasy book or series I read when I was a kid. There was this bear who was a traitor and did all kind of evil things, but I cried so hard when he died. I ended up getting a teddy bear and naming him Bern after that evil bear.

    Not because I enjoyed the evil, but because I emphasized with the core person.


  18. Umbridge from Harry Potter is a fun one to hate. She's twisted, power-hungry, sweet on the outside, sour on the inside...

    I strongly dislike Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility. He's a player. Grr...

    But I have to say the one I would like to squash is Shelob. Giant evil spider. 'Nuff said.

  19. LOL @ Shelob. Totally ditto that one.

    Agree with Heathcliff.

    Clary from The Mortal Instruments books. She's so horrible to Simon because she just luuurves Jace. I want to smack her.Love to hate would def. be Umbridge and Voldemort. (Love that the former name gets a red squiggly but not the latter.)

  20. I was thrilled when Dan Brown finally had the good sense to kill Robert Langdon in that book about the Masons. You know, the--they all blur together, those stories. The Washington,D.C., one. The Crashed Cymbal? Anyway, when Langdon drowned in that water-boarding tank, I thought I'd finally get a break from redundant, characterless thriller fiction. But like so much else in Brown's world, the death scene was a cheat.

    Don't get me wrong. I love Brown's research, actually. His premises, his crackpot way of connecting all the dots in the universe to yet another single Grand Unified Conspiracy. And he does know how to create suspense. I just wish he had a clue about his lead character. Langdon needs to get falling-down drunk and embarrass himself in a scandal with a boy prostitute. Or find out that he's not actually descended from Jesus Christ but from a fling Mary Magdelene had with the guy who bought Judas. Something. Maybe he could just be wrong once.

  21. As far as I'm concerned, Madame Bovary can eat all the arsenic she wants to. Have at it, Emma darling.

    btw Scott, how did you manage to make it all the way through Jane Eyre if you disliked both Jane and her master so much??

    And Crimey, thanks for a great recommendation! I am enjoying "Les Liaisons" very much! :)

  22. I'll have to go read that post. It's crazy that people hate the heros in so many stories. I can't believe that Beth March would be anywhere on the list. Why would anyone hate Beth? It makes me wonder who's voting on this list. Going to read now and see what I think. (I'm not a big fan of Becky Sharp either.)

  23. I always thought Becky Sharpe was supposed to represent evil. She was the protagonist, but the villain not the hero.


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