You’ve liked countless stories, but only a few had that special spark: a character you believed in. One you cried with and rejoiced with – someone that, real or not, would stay with you long after their tale ended.
Now you’ve wandered too deep in the swampy wilds of the cyber web, and the dark side approaches. Dread rises as you hear the approaching footsteps of a viscous theory. Someone wants to take your favorite characters away from you. You fight back, you try to resist, but you can no longer deny what you know to be true: the characters you love are actually terrible.
In particular, these characters.
1. The Character That Inspired You as a Child
Your memories of childhood have grown fuzzy over the years, but one spot remains bright and clear: the moments curled up with your favorite story. The story filled your imagination with countless wonders as you witnessed your hero defeat evil and struggle to stay true to themselves, all while being super cool. This hero filled you with excitement for weeks at a time, as you played game after game of pretend. You wanted to be them; you wanted to live in their world. Your parents were very patient.
But did you know this precious experience was the overblown result of a overwrought piece of hack literature? The storyteller took every overused plot device and stuffed them together with comic ineptitude. And you thought that whole “chosen one” thing was special.
In the story, your chosen one is tossed from one event to another like a rag doll, with each solution served to them on a platter. An entire town pretends to be unaware of the obvious solution to their problems, just so the hero can waltz in and take care of it for them. Even then, the hero is given strong hints so they can slowly piece the answer together. Once they declare the solution, everyone praises their wisdom. One guy even pledges his life to the hero, just because the hero stated the obvious.
And don’t take this the wrong way, but those moments you cried over as a kid? The ones where the hero was devastated by a tragic loss? They’re actually quite funny. Your parents always took a break during that part because they didn’t want you to see them laughing.
2. Your Fictional Crush
In all your years dreaming of romance, one character made a deep impression on you, defining what you knew as true love. Gorgeous from head to toe, their soft locks of hair, sparkling eyes, and heartfelt voice captivated you. They were spirited, brilliant, and totally badass. You wondered if a real person could ever be so amazing. After watching your crush kiss and court in the story, you spent years looking for someone like them.
It’s a good thing you failed, because didn’t you know? Your fictional crush is an invasive, consent-violating creep. Did you block out that scene where they got all touchy without permission? Or the one where they didn’t take no for an answer? You didn’t think that was a sign of love and devotion, did you? You did? That’s okay, there are many resources that can teach you what healthy relationships are.
While you’re doing that, you’ll get to interact with all the other people who admire this hottie. The ones who think your fictional crush is a great role model for their own behavior. If you inform them that your hottie isn’t perfect, they’ll probably get angry and accuse you of being a fake fan. Get ready for cyber mobs in the name of that fictional crush.
3. The Complex Character You Admire
As you got older, you sought stories that were more sophisticated. After looking high and low, you found the perfect elixir of insightful commentary and emotional resonance: a witty story about a character that would forever fascinate you. Each scene showed a different facet of their personality, yet the character somehow felt consistent. During moments of tragedy, their facade would crack, providing a tantalizing peek into the emotions that waged inside them. You watched, captivated, as they fought with their flaws and struggled to find their own personal truth. After you finished their story, you felt reassured that you knew what great storytelling was.
You should keep that to yourself though, because the storyteller who created this favorite character is arrogant, abusive, and an all-around terrible human being. Transcripts from conventions illustrate how they are incapable of answering a question without first demeaning the person who asked it. When speaking in a panel, they talk over any other panelist who has sold less than they have.
In an interview, they insisted their work is the only thing in the library that is both intelligent and entertaining. They think every other genre is cheap compared to theirs. They criticize women authors for writing about women’s topics, and they look down on authors of color for writing about other cultures. You thought their work was enlightened, but this storyteller insists that including anyone who isn’t white in their stories is somehow “political.” And that all pales in comparison to the scary stories about how they abuse their children.
Yeah, you want to read their next book. The most cynical critics call it fantastic, and you’ll finally learn what happened to that complex and fascinating character. But are you okay with supporting child abuse?
4. The Character You Identify With
You’ve been through some hard times, but one story was a balm for your ills. That’s because the central character was you. You knew they weren’t really you, but it felt like they were. Their lot in life was so much like yours and they approached it in the same way you did. The challenges they faced reminded you so much, sometimes too much, of your own troubles. As you went through the tale with them, you faced your own demons as they faced theirs. In watching them come to terms with their life and come out ahead, you pulled ahead too. Their story will forever be a symbol of something deeply personal for you.
And that’s nice, it really is, but you completely misinterpreted that story. Sure, stories are subjective, but didn’t you really miss all those obvious metaphors for drugs? The storyteller really liked talking about drugs.
The moment of incredible, cathartic realization your favorite character had was intended as the moment when they cast the basic rights of everyone else aside. All the conflicts with the other characters was just preachy commentary about how bad the common folk are at governing and how everyone would be better off under a monarch. At the end, the protagonist rises above it all because the storyteller was sure that using more than 10% of your brain could elevate anyone to a higher state of being. And by “higher state of being” they meant superpowers. The superpowers in the story weren’t a metaphor or analogy; the storyteller literally thought people could get superpowers by thinking hard enough.
You can keep that character close to your heart… if you want. Just know that if you tell anyone about this deeply personal symbol, they’ll wonder why your personal symbol is a metaphor for drugs and serfdom.
5. The Quirky Character You Found Endearing
Just when you thought you were tired of everything, one character proved you wrong. They stood out as the one bit of fun in a droll landscape, something you could enjoy without reservation. You cheered every time they made jokes and pouted whenever they weren’t in a scene. You even bought merchandise with them on it, even though you thought your days of doing that were long past.
It’s too bad that character is ruining the story for everyone else. You’re getting tired of answering the same questions: “In all those scenes, you never thought that character was sort of annoying? Not even in the scene where they snored through that super tragic funeral? Or the scene where they insisted they knew the answer to the big mystery, but couldn’t tell the hero because the time wasn’t right?”
More than a few people have pointed out that your favorite quirky character doesn’t belong in this story. The character has no effect on the plot at all. In fact, some fans have made an edit taking your favorite character out of it altogether. Everyone agrees this version is superior to the original.
Some stories have come out about what happened behind the scenes. As it turns out, your favorite character was inserted into the story after the rest was written. It was a cheap ploy to get your generation to buy merchandise. Everyone agrees it didn’t work.
Pour your rage and heartbreak into the comments, dear reader. Tell me how the character you loved as a child was written with heart. Describe how I don’t understand the nuances of your crush’s relationship. Go ahead, make fun of my name if it makes you feel better. It changes nothing. Sooner or later, we all have to accept that the things we love are flawed.
P.S. Our bills are paid by our wonderful patrons. Could you chip in?