Discussing character flaws and why distain for any character is all a matter of personal preference.
I’m sure you’ve heard, or maybe uttered these words before. “But ___ has done so many bad things, how could you like them and hate ___?”, ” you hate ___ but you like ___ for the same reasons”, or ” ___’s actions make sense and you still don’t like them?”
On tumblr, we have a natural need to defend the characters we love, often forgetting the vast diversity of ways people respond to character flaws. there are some characters who are coveted; that people make you feel guilty for not liking. Likewise, there are some characters that will tend to get you hate for taking an interest in. I wanted to talk a little bit about how there are several valid ways to respond to a character, and why character hate isn’t always as simple as a moral or plot based response. I am going to categorize different reasons one might object to a character and discuss them briefly.
Before I begin, I want to express how important it is that often, it is a coupling of these flaws that breeds contempt for a character. One might be okay with a character who is similar because they lack all or some of the components that a person needs to trigger a negative response. Two characters might be similar, but not equal in terms of these issues in the eyes of the viewer.
Themoral flaw is an action taken by a character that society has deemed immoral/harmful/worthy of absolute contempt. These flaws include murder, torture, rape, abuse, etc. A character might be hated by an individual for these reasons because of a personal experience, or the inability to look past these actions simply because of the fictional context. Likewise, a character may be excused for having a justified reason for these actions (forced to kill to survive for example)
The thing with moral flaws is that for some people, these actions are too far removed from every day life to respond to as dramatically as one would in a real world situation. A person may forgive/look past a character for rape or murder because they are interested in that character’s storyline, or because such dramatic violence is not something they have personal experience with. A moral flaw can be so great that it feels too big to be real (ex: serial killing is probably something that the average person can’t emotionally translate well to reality)
But hating a character for moral flaws is always, always valid no matter what.
The social flaw is sort of an offset of a moral flaw: thought crimes that are socially inacceptable to our society. This includes, sexism, racism, homophobia, slut shaming, classism, and other forms of bigotry. A character may champion an outdated or offensive opinion on a subject, or champion an offensive belief. These flaws can be especially personal to people, and can outweigh any good qualities that that character may have (especially if the person in question has personal experience dealing with prejudice) This can be a deeply personal trigger/reason to hate a character and is always worth being sensitive to.
Petty flaws are personal choices and traits that are easily to relate back to real life. We tend to react extremely emotionally to these flaws because they connect so much to personal experience, and we can instantly connect to them. These include backstabbing, cheating, manipulation, general rudeness, bullying, self righteousness, abandonment, selfishness, hypocrisy, etc.
This tends to be an area that people get up in arms about, and I think it’s important to discuss. There are many times when a person might be able to overlook a moral flaw, but will respond extremely negatively to a petty flaw. This is often where fans come in saying “well that character murdered someone and you like them, but you hate this character for doing this an that is wrong”.
It goes back to the idea that these are flaws that trigger visceral emotional reactions in us, where as a more dramatic flaw doesn’t immediately connect to our own reality. A petty flaw is the flaw most likely to translate to things that have directly affected us in real life. It is perfectly valid to take petty flaws seriously, even if they can be seen as frivolous and stupid to others. We are all different people, and we all have a variation of personal experiences that color these “close to home” issues. What may seem frivolous to some might trigger extreme rage in someone else.
Have you ever hated a character just because “they are annoying”? Well, that’s perfectly okay. Sometimes, you can’t explain why a character rubs you the wrong way. Their personality simply clashes with your own, and the mistakes they make only add to that initial frustration regardless of how silly they might be. You may never like this character regardless of any defense you read about them. They might be perfectly sweet people, but just seeing them makes you boil with rage,
Here is the thing. That’s okay. We aren’t obligated to like every person we meet in real life, and we certainly aren’t obligated to like every fictional character we meet. You don’t need to have “a reason” for not responding well to a character. You don’t owe that to anybody. Sometimes, the problem is personal. Maybe it can be defined, and maybe it can’t. Either way, it’s not somebody else’s prerogative to tell you that is a problem.
So this is that last really big flaw category I noticed, and it’s a real shitty one. That the fandom perception/response to that character may poison your interest in them. They could be the best, most interesting, most dynamic character on the face of the planet; but a few bad experiences can change that for good. Like it or not, fandom has a huge part to play in how we receive characters. When characters are frequently misunderstood or over idealized by the people around you, it can lead to a lot of negative emotions surrounding them. After awhile, all of those good traits that you may have tolerated/appreciated about them start to become irrelevant due to the culture of response to that character.
This isn’t exactly the most well written or “deep” post, I just wanted to briefly discuss it because I feel like Tumblr can get so carried away with policing other people’s feelings that they don’t take the time to appreciate that we aren’t all obligated to respond positively or negatively to the same things. It’s okay to not like Loki or Sherlock because their fandom can be crazy. It’s okay to despise Damon Salvatore for his history of sexual assault. It’s okay to hate Skyler and love Walt, because maybe the petty things she does hit you more emotionally/bother you more (even if his sin’s are clearly greater). It’s okay to love Meg and hate Lucifer even though they are both killers, because maybe Lucifer’s personality or other actions have upset you more than Meg’s. You can not like Sansa Stark simply on the basis that she annoys you. You can not like Don Draper because he’s a cheat.
On the other hand, it’s always a healthy and positive thing to question people’s arguments and respond to them of you feel like they are arguing objectively “THIS PERSON IS A BAD CHARACTER” vs “I PERSONALLY DISLIKE THIS CHARACTER BECAUSE”. You are always allowed to dislike a character as long as you aren’t enforcing that dislike one the fandom as a whole, or making it a social expectation to compare two characters and favor one. character hate, like character love, is a deeply personal issue, and we are all entitled to it as long as we respect the oppositions personal preferences as well. As long as there is no objective statements made that suggest that a character is owed love or hate by the fandom beyond the individual, a person is right to respond to a character as they wish.
Again, this isn’t an objection to healthy debate on this website, but the personal judgement of a person for the simple act of disliking something you like.