I came across this NY Times op-ed by actress Anna Gunn, who plays Skyler on the popular show, “Breaking Bad”. She talked about the immense hatred many viewers have for her character. So much so, they even start Facebook groups voicing their hatred for Skyler.
Yikes. I think that’s going a little too far. In fact, very far. We’ve all read books or watched shows with characters we’ve despised – I myself have – but is having so much anger toward a fictitious person who does not exist in real life a good idea?
Sometimes when I browse Goodreads and Amazon, I am surprised when I see such venom for certain characters. I consider Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth” to be one of my all-time favorites. Yes, I despised the main character, Wang Lung, halfway through the book like many others. But it didn’t stir vile hatred in me. He’s fictitious, he’s not real. I have never let him ruin my day.
I once saw a discussion like this on an author’s blog. One commenter mentioned that we seem to hold fictional characters to higher standard than real-life, everyday people. Whether it is at work, at school, with neighbors or in-laws, we all deal with people who are hypocrites, annoying, rude, idiotic and many other flaws. But if we read books – or watch TV or movies – that have characters with such flaws, we seem to hate them more. Its as if we can’t shrug off what a fake person does, but we accept what a real person does.
It may be because there is no consequence. If we hate a character in a book, we can toss it aside and never deal with that person again. In real life, we could get fired, sued, suspended, or just cause tons of drama, if we did anything to express our frustration toward such a person.
But I am still baffled that there are thousands liking a Facebook page dedicated to bashing a fictional character. Especially when that character is neither good nor bad. I could see liking a Facebook group bashing King Joffrey of “Game of Thrones”. But anyone else? I don’t get it. We’re all flawed, and we don’t all handle drama or crises perfectly. Nothing is all black and white, and there’s a lot of room for gray.
That probably is why such outrage happens. When it comes to fiction, readers can get black and white. There’s no rule to reading and everyone has their own experience with each book, much like we all have our own fingerprints.
But I still think there’s more to life than hating on someone who only exists in the realm of fiction.
Author Victoria Grefer is currently discussing this issue on her blog, and she has some great theories of her own! Check out these two posts:
- Why Readers Cut Real People More Slack Than Characters (Who Don’t Exist)
- We See Ourselves In Characters: Is That Why We Judge Them So Harshly?