On Liking Characters

Remember over the summer when I binge watched the first two seasons of Scandal and couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about? I tried watching the first few episodes of this season thinking maybe I would enjoy it more on a weekly basis when I could join in the conversation of everyone freaking out over whatever crazy thing happened that on that week’s episode. After a few episodes though I found it still didn’t work for me. I now have 3 or 4 episodes built up on my DVR that I have no desire to watch so I think it’s time to delete my season pass and move on. I have figured out that one of the main reasons I don’t really care for the show, though not the only one, is that there is not a single likable character on the entire show. If the White House managed to burn down with all of them inside I wouldn’t shed a tear for a single one of them.

My dislike of all the characters is also one of the main reasons I hated the book Gone Girl, which makes me pretty much the only living human being on this planet that didn’t think it was the most amazing book ever written. There is nothing redeemable about either of the main characters in that book and I there was nothing enjoyable to me in watching them continuously trying to do outdo each other for the worst person in the world award.

There was some online conversations in various places I saw in passing a few months ago that seemed to indicate that it was immature to think that things aren’t good just because you don’t like the characters. I think that is a slightly different argument, but I’m going to address it. I am not saying that books, movies, tv shows, etc that are composed of unlikable characters are not good. I am just saying they are not for me. Obviously many people love Scandal and everyone seems to love Gone Girl. I still recommend Gone Girl to people even though I disliked it because I get why other people enjoyed it. It doesn’t change my opinion that I found the characters to be hateful, awful people and I prefer to spend my time with people I don’t wish would get hit by a truck or something.

I’m not even saying that I need all the characters in the media I consume to be likable. There is certainly something to be said for a great villain. I just want there to be someone I can be rooting for. It doesn’t even have to be super black and white. The characters can be flawed human beings. I just need there to be someone who has some kind of redeeming quality and who deserves to go on living. Let’s take for instance the spate of anti-hero television that has pervaded cable television for the past decade or so. I like many of those shows like Sopranos, Mad Men, and Dexter to name a few. As flawed as the lead characters are in those shows they are written in a way that they at least have some qualities that are likable despite the horrible things that they do. There is something that makes you want to root for them. Or let’s think about things where there is a clear villain and the main characters are trying to beat that villain. It’s great to have a well-written villain that you can root against while also enjoying. Let’s take the mayor from season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for instance. No one wants the mayor to win, but he sure was fun to watch. It’s essentially the same thing for Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies. Ultimately you’re not supposed to want him to win, but he is such a fun villain that you almost want to root for him.

If you enjoy pop culture that includes nothing but horrible people, then please continue partaking of it. I on the other hand would prefer to spend the time I have to consume pop culture on things with characters who I like in one way or another. I will never be able to take in all of the pop culture in the world and not even all the pep culture materials that I would like to have time for. The queues of books, movies, and tv shows I eventually want to watch and read are long. I would prefer to not waste time consuming things that doesn’t please me even though other people think they’re good. I don’t think that makes me any less mature or cultured or whatever the argument was. I am a firm believer that there is enough pop culture in the world that I can enjoy what I want to enjoy and you can enjoy what you want to enjoy and then we all win.

One thought on “On Liking Characters

  1. Very interesting that you should mention Gone Girl in your blog today. I happened to see that Target book club chose Reconstructing Amelia for some kind of promo, so I looked it up on Goodreads. There was one very scathing review there with 41 comments. So there were a lot of people who read the review, many agreeing with it. I looked on your book list to see whether you had read it because there was some comparison to Gone Girl. The premise of RA seemed interesting but after reading that review and your review of Gone Girl, I doubt that I will ever read either of these books. I definitely like characters I can root for.

    Now one statement If you didn’t like the characters in Gone Girl and you gave it 3 stars, I’m feeling a little low that you gave my book 3 stars. Did you not like my characters? 🙂

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