There are tons of characters that are easy to hate, and I’m not talking about ones that are purposely made that way, like a good villain. I’m talking about those who are unintentionally hateable. Within their stories, their inane actions are usually played for straight and are somehow taken seriously, but those same actions make us despise those characters more than we would any villain (if they are villains, then even more so). We all have at least one character, if not a dozen, that can get under our skin, and we roll our eyes whenever they appear onscreen.
Those kinds of characters just have some annoying quirk or bad habit that starts off grating and only gets worse over time. They could be bratty like D.W, whiny like Anikin Skywalker, pushy like Helga Pataki, or sappy like Ted Mosby. Sure, their distinct personalities give them a leg up on bland, forgettable characters, but they’re often the wrong personalities to have or just used the wrong way. The worst part is that, over the course of the show/movie/story, they never really change or progress, rather they tend to infringe upon the progress of other characters or obnoxiously take up valuable screentime.
I’m sure you’re already thinking about characters that you hate, so please indulge me as I take a moment to talk about a few that I dislike.
Meet Blooregard “Bloo” Q. Kazoo. He’s one of the main characters of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and the imaginary friend to Mac. Mac is a kind kid who often considers other’s feelings and is often the voice of reason, so it’s sometimes hard to imagine that he came up with a friend like Bloo. Simply put, Bloo is narcissistic and has a knack for getting into trouble over stupid reasons. He starts out as a fairly likeable scamp in the series pilot, but over time he turns into a real jerk, often giving his friends and Mac (his best friend and literal creator) the short end of the stick. He’s kind of the imaginary epitome of “With friends like these…”
I never understood the point of Reina from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She’s just plain pretentious. From her actions, to her words, to her motivations, you can tell she thinks she’s better than everyone else, but, despite all her arrogant speeches about her higher purpose, she doesn’t really do much to back up her smugness. Sure, she’s the mysterious pretty lady in the flower dress, beguiling secret agents, but effectively she’s a glorified lackey. Most of the time she just bounces from one supervillain master to another, and, when her “destiny” does play out towards the end of her story arc, it’s underwhelming, if even for the sake of irony. I say the show is better off without her.
Jessica Jones (sorry-not-sorry, but Jordan and I are likely going to keep mentioning this show for a little while) has a strong cast of interesting main characters, but the same can’t be said for some of its supporting cast, especially Robyn. Jessica’s irate, overbearing neighbor, Robyn doesn’t add much to the story. She just yells at people until she gets her way. Sure, she provides some (very) minor comic relief and even “redeems” herself later on by acknowledging how messed up she is in a heart-to-heart with another character, but, if you take her out of the overall story, it’s completely intact. She doesn’t really bring anything new to the table; if anything, she takes stuff from it.
Ok, so we’ve talked about characters that we can hate and reasons why to hate them, but why? No really. Why do we hate these characters so much? Just what is it about them that riles us up so much? Maybe we see too much of ourselves in them, that, deep down, everything we condemn them for are the same things we do on a regular basis, whether we admit it or not. Maybe we desire for these characters to be better because we’re holding on to hope: a hopethat, if even the worst of characters can somehow become better, then maybe so can we…or maybe they just annoy us, plain and simple.
There may not be a clear-cut answer, but thoughts like these help lead to an important question when discussing the quality of a character: do they entertain? A character may be hateable, but that doesn’t make them bad characters. A fleshed-out villain or anti-hero may do depraved things, but, if they properly contribute something to their respective stories, we still find them entertaining. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a number of characters, including the ones I’ve mentioned, that are arguably bad because they obnoxiously distract from the story rather than contribute to it. This might be the reason such characters seem so depraved to us: they fail at their primary purpose to entertain us.
So yes, I’d say there’s a good kind of hateable and a bad kind of hateable, and both are a necessary evil, or at least inevitable. The good kind, as I said, provides greater entertainment, but even the bad kind serves a purpose. The bad helps us better appreciate the good. Just as excellent villains like the Joker make heroes like Batman shine brighter, obnoxious characters like Bloo make positive characters like Steven Universe all the more refreshing. What’s more, the characters we hate ultimately show us how not to act; we defiantly refuse to stoop down to their level and succumb to the same bad habits and their consequences. As they say, it’s a fine line between love and hate. At best, having a character you love to hate can be a bad romance, but let no one say there aren’t benefits.