Books and feminism #2 – annoying/unlikable characters

Books and feminism #2 - annoying/unlikable charactersThe last post I wrote about Books & Feminism got a lot more views on my blog than I’d ever gotten before. Thank you for that! I also think that shows that a lot of people are interested in this. It also showed from the messages I got. I hope that you’ll also appreciate this one as well.

Just like in the previous post, I’d like to point out that it is absolutely possible to enjoy reading a book or even love it, while still being critical about its content.

Something I’d never really thought of, but have mostly noticed other noticing, is the plethora of annoying, whiny, bitchy characters in books. Except, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone saying this about a male character. All the characters I’ve seen classified as unlikable have been female. Coincidence? Or implicit ingrained misogyny?

Maybe a bit of both. After I’d asked people about their most unlikable characters/annoying characters, the female characters seemed to be in the majority. Though male characters were also mentioned. Thus, when prompted readers can come up with unlikable male characters as well. On top of that, a bunch of the male characters mentioned (and a smaller amount of female characters) seem to be characters that were meant to be evil, and thus not necessary unlikable.

What I wanted instead were characters that were unlikable even though you were supposed to root for them, feel for them, and like them. Yes, the characters you’re supposed to like, but didn’t. Most of the ones mentioned that fit these criteria were, in fact, women.

It seems that whenever a character is found to be annoying and whiny, it’s a woman. Almost everytime a character is bitchy, bossy, arogant or inconsiderate, it’s a female character.

You can buy this print on Etsy here

One of these that I remember best is Eadlyn in The Heir by Keira Cass. She was bossy, stuck up, arrogant, inconsiderate and almost everyone who read the book thought her unlikable. Okay, no problem, right? No, there is a problem, because when male characters have these characteristics they’re considered (hyperbole coming up) the best protagonist ever, because they know what they want and they’re not afraid to go for it.

It seems that even in books, women have to be likable, if they’re not than of course the book can be no good. Though, if male characters are the same, they’re considered tough, rough, misunderstood, or perhaps the silent-type. Is it just me, or is that a double standard?

Another type of unlikable women I spotted was those that were too whiny, indecisive or otherwise considered ‘weak”. It seems that there’s no winning this one; too many ‘male’ qualities and the protagonist is considered a bitch (and therefore unlikable), too many ‘female’ qualities and you’re weak and shouldn’t be the protagonist.

I thought the drawings to the right were quite appropriate to this topic; no matter what a character’s personality might be, there will always be criticism if it doesn’t exactly comply with society’s current standards.

Here is the list of names I compiled from all the suggestions send to me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (I’ve included all the ones I received. if I’ve missed any, please let me know):

F – Tris Prior – Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
F – Hermione Granger – Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
F – Bella Swan – Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
F – Mary – Persuasion by Jane Austen
F – Scarlet Benoit – Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
F – Tessa Gray – The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
F – Feyre – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
F – Rachel – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
F – America Singer – Selection Trilogy by Kiera Cass
F – Anita Blake – Vampire Hunter Series by Lauren Hamilton
F – Anastasia Steele – 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James
F – Alina Starkov – Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
F – Brooke – Real by Katie Evans
F – Sienna – Lords of the Underword by Gena Showalter
F – Cath – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
F – Rita Skeeter – Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
F – President Coin – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
F – Nyx Triskelian – Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
FE – Dolores Umbridge – Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
FE – Jeanine – Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
M – Caleb Prior – Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
M – Harry Potter – Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
M – Gale Hawthrone – Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
M – Chaol – Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas
M – Noah Shaw – Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin
M – Theo Decker – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
M – Peter Pettigrew – Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
ME – Jonathan ‘black jack’ Randall – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
ME – Joffrey Baratheon – Game of Thrones George. R. R. Martin
ME – Ramsey Snow/Bolton – Game of Thrones George. R. R. Martin
ME – Peter – Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
ME – President Snow  – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Total Female: 21
Total Male: 13
Total Female (minus evil ones): 19
Total Male (minus evil ones): 8

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11 thoughts on “Books and feminism #2 – annoying/unlikable characters

  1. I was never sure if there actually were more female characters like this or I just only noticed the females. Who knows. I can think of a few male annoying, whiny characters off the top of my head but it’s mostly females I’m thinking of. Men are just usually portrayed as the brave, tought ones while females sit back and watch. That’s my least favourite part. Not just female characters being whiny and annoying, but when they need a man’s help for anything they do. Example: Bella Swan. She drove me insane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the gender roles are closely related to that; it makes the men interesting and the women passive. And well, there’s not very much to like about a passive character most of the time, like you said.

      Like

  2. Ohh, I like this post. I was thinking about this male/female difference and to me, what makes me dislike male characters the most is that they’re boring, flat and bring nothing to the plot, show no personality. And I could list a bizillion characters that fall into that category, but not so many female characters.

    Let me add Tonks to the list of people we were supposed to like but hate instead. Oh, she’d me my number one but I know it’s an unpopular opinion :p

    Liked by 1 person

  3. interesting post!
    Would personally add Jace (mortal instruments), Peeta (hunger games) and Edward (twilight) to the male list
    and Clary (mortal instruments) to the female list.

    Maybe the female list is longer because a lot of these (YA) books focus mainly around the female character, and often the male is mostly there to be (one of) the love interest(s), which might be why they get less of the characteristics that people tend to get annoyed by, because you know, we do want everyone to love the love interest..
    Idk, just some thoughts, I don’t think I’ve actually read enough YA to Judge..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t specify that people had to pick from certain (YA) books, but you’re right. Most of the books the characters are from indeed focus on the females. I don’t really know the reasons either, but I found it very interesting that usually when I hear someone complain about a character, it’s a female, and when I ask for annoying/unlikable characters most are also female.

      Like

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