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Why is Hating on “Nice Characters” Becoming Cool?

A lot of this is TV-related, but since TV shows tell stories, I feel like it’s worth talking about here.

How many Office fans have seen the recent Pam hate circulating the internet? Memes call her out for being jealous of Karen, “cheating” on Roy, and for “destroying Jim’s dream” near the end of the show…even though *spoilers* she felt bad about it and secretly sold their house so he could pursue said dream? At first I thought it was a joke. As one of the saner characters in the show, I thought, “okay, haha, that’s a funny way of looking at it.” But as this meme started circulating and people began to get angry, I wondered if people were truly starting to hate her.

Of course, people are entitled to like or dislike any character they want. But Pam hate is becoming a weird fad that hasn’t really started until the past year or two. So the online hivemind is one option for this trend, I suppose. Maybe the argument was presented in such a way that people started to believe it. Or maybe people like that others have a dark side that you wouldn’t think they’d have. The Office’s Angela rarely gets talked about or made fun of for her personality, maybe because her abrasive nature is what viewers see a lot already. Angela tried to have someone killed, and it rarely gets talked about in favor of Pam’s “flaws.”

One other disconcerting “flaw” that some others have pointed out is that Pam “lost her appeal” when she became more outspoken. Most of these fans, that I saw, were men. Do they dislike her for using her voice? So, people don’t like Pam for speaking out, but it’s also bad when she’s not particularly loud or noticeable? That’s a double standard, one that I have experienced for myself–and a concerning one at that. Should female characters be attacked for growing and changing? I don’t think so!

But the same thing happens for other characters too. Taken with a major grain of salt since I am not a big show watcher, there is also Alex from Modern Family. Although neither of these sisters are perfect, I see absolutely no dislike for Haley, who is (in my opinion) one of the most awful characters on modern television–a popular bully who makes fun of almost everyone and doesn’t show a lot of kindness (at least earlier on). Could Alex be a know-it-all? Perhaps, but compared to being cruel, this seems like a much less questionable trait to make fun of or dislike. Or maybe they think she doesn’t have much of a personality?

Another example: Natalie Manning of Chicago Med fame. Like Pam, she started standing up for herself a bit more–and the online community hated it. I am not sure where these accusations of being selfish and whiny come from. Although she is definitely flawed (like all characters in the show, something I feel it excels at) these accusations seem to come out of left field. Natalie simply gets more hate for it because of her personality.

But what about characters we are inadvertently trying to root against? Joe Goldberg in “You” is such an iconic character because readers often forget that they’re supposed to be rooting against him, especially with the very flawed cast of characters. Such is the case with Beck, his girlfriend. She is flawed too. She cheated, among other things. However, she too gets an irrational amount of hate, sometimes for no reason other than “she’s bland.” Okay, she’s not overly quirky. But as an English major, I could see myself in her, or possibly as someone to be writing buddies with. I couldn’t help but like her overall and did not understand how she offended so many people that much, especially compared to some other characters. Is is possible we are turning our backs on “good” characters because we are determined to root for the enemy? If so, maybe we should ask ourselves questions about why we root for them—something that You has succeeded at, except for the Beck hate train.

I imagine that modern society has its impact, too—people want edgier over kind and gentle. But is it worth hating them over when they deviate from a certain type (as long as its in character), or because they–heaven forbid–actually stand up for themselves? I personally like characters like Pam because I can see myself in them. And it’s also concerning to me, slightly, that the good, girl-next-door characters are being hated on, maybe mindlessly as characters take turns in the limelight through Internet fanbases. Characters who aren’t overly quirky have a place in TV and real life, too, and are good for balance. These characters are simply just flawed, like everyone, and don’t deserve disrespect because they are “nice” or “good.”

Thoughts? Which characters here do you like or dislike?

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