Isn’t it odd that you can love and hate a character at the same time? Like House. I love it when he’s painfully honest with an idiot who needs a dose of reality. I hate it when he’s cruel to his boss and co-workers for no reason.

Then there’s Ari Gold from Entourage. He’s horrible to everyone except his favorite client (Vinnie Chase) and his own kids, but I still enjoy watching his character in action. I think it’s the Jeremy Piven factor. I’ve been a fan forever. On the other hand, I simply loathe the Johnny Drama character on that show.

What about Dennis Leary’s character in Rescue Me? He’s a womanizer, an alcoholic, and an irresponsible lout. Few of the other men in his fireman crew are much better. Yet the show is strangely compelling.

Does a complex/obnoxious/morally-challenged character make good entertainment? Perhaps more so in TV and movies than in books.

Then there’s Susan in the Spenser novels (Robert Parker). I quit reading this series long ago, but those who still love the series hate his girlfriend with an intensity. One mystery discussion poster said, “Susan Silverman must die! Rarely has a more  annoying character appeared in contemporary fiction.” Many mystery lovers say they quit reading the series because they hated her so much.

What is the difference between characters we love to hate and characters we simply hate? (Ari Gold versus Johnny Drama, for example) Are we more forgiving with offensive male characters than offensive females? (And did you notice that the TV shows I watch have all-male casts?)

I think most readers/TV watchers are attracted to extreme personalities, as long as the character has redeeming qualities, which can include simply being rich or smart. Being a hero, such as a doctor or firefighter, is an even better balance.

Which characters do you love to hate? Which characters do you truly loathe? Have you ever quit a show or series because of a single character?

  1. I’m reminded of those grating, witty, honest women of TV past – Maude and Murphy Brown come to mind. I loved them, but I know not everyone did. When I was developing my lead character, Peri, I was thinking of Murphy Brown meets Jessica Fletcher.

    I know he’s not a main character, but Jack Daniel’s ex-partner Harry in the J.A. Konrath series is one of those guys that some people adore and some people want to drown in the Chicago River. Put me down for drowning.


  2. I’m totally with you on House. I wince when I watch that show and always end up saying, “I can’t believe he did that!” or “That’s not RIGHT!” to my husband. But I keep tuned in…

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. I can’t get cable so the only show I’ve seen on your list is House. And I’ve almost quit watching it. He’s so infuriating. He seems to try to kill each patient over and over again each show. I keep thinking if he’d sober up, maybe he could figure out what’s wrong with them without torturing them.

    Incidentally, I gave you the “G” in the BINGO Beautiful Blog award today. Partly because I love the new look of your blog, but mostly because I love your great posts.

    Straight From Hel

  4. I haven’t thought about it before, but we are more forgiving with offensive male characters than females. Is it that society still wants women to follow ‘role-model’ guidelines? I enjoy all the shows you mentioned and I’d add Dexter as well.

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