Sunday, 13 January 2013

I Hate That Guy!

Have you ever come across a character in a book that enraged you so much, you found your knuckles had gone white from gripping the book too hard? Someone who grated on you so much that you could actually feel your blood pumping as you contemplated just how much you hated the character? Of course you have; literature is chock-a-block full of characters designed to make you want to punch something; part of the fun is how involved you get, how much you desperately want that person to get their comeuppance. It's not just constrained to literature either; the most fun at the pantomime is booing the villain in their speeches, and there's nothing like watching a sanctimonious character in a film get shot to smithereens (metaphorically or literally). Recently, because I was inspired by Emerald Fennell's Top Ten Villainesses that she wrote for the Guardian, I've been thinking a lot about the characters that I have hated most throughout my reading experience, so I've compiled a little list; my Top Ten Most Hated. With any luck, I'll have your blood boiling by the end of the post.

WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT!!! In order to reveal why I hate these people, I've had to give away some plot points. So watch out!

10. Rebecca from Bridget Jones' Diary: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
Ugh. The simpering, smirking, jellyfishing uber-cow from Hell, Rebecca is one of those characters that are designed to be hated by all girls; it's not that she's beautiful, talented and clever - though that can rub salt in the wound - it's that she's a complete traitor. Whilst masquerading as a friend, she sneaks in little insults to conversations (known as jellyfishing, as you don't know you've been stung until it's already happened), she demands all attention is focused on her, and worst of all - she steals boyfriends. The ultimate non-friend and the kind of girl you'd very much like to slap - or see fall off a bridge.

9. Mr Wickham from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
What a cad and a bounder. A complete rascal and rapscallion. An utter cur. And so on and so forth. Mr Wickham does his utmost to ingratiate himself with beautiful women and their families whilst bad-mouthing perfectly lovely gentlemen (who are just a bit misunderstood), yet all the while hiding his true, seedy character. He has affairs with serving girls, elopes with impressionable women, gambles, and runs away afterwards to avoid trouble. If Mr Wickham was a modern man, he'd be the kind of bloke who'd appear to be the most amazing, charming boyfriend, until you find out he's come on to your sister and stolen your dad's laptop when he came to stay for the weekend, then disappears into thin air, taking half your savings with him. A most unpleasant man.

8. Blanco from The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.
This is a bit of an odd one as Blanco is only a very minor character - a vehicle for a main character to find her way to God's Garden and stay there. Yet despite this, the mere presence of the man throughout the novel is like a big, fat, vicious, ugly cloud hanging over the story. Blanco is a mean, petty beast, who preys on those he thinks are weaker and uses women like tissues - including the bit where you rip 'em up a bit. He's a massive bully but unpredictable in his behaviour, and that's what makes him so hateful and terrifying.

7. The Entire Cast of The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling.
They say time heals all wounds but I'm sorry, I'm still unimpressed with Rowling's post-Potter offering. Not a single character - except maybe the dead one, who doesn't have much of a part - can be considered redeemable. Rarely has a book been stuffed so full of such selfish, arrogant, ignorant, rude, boring characters. I might've enjoyed it a bit more if they weren't in it.

6. Mrs Danvers from Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
She's the creepy old servant of a creepy old manor house, with more than a little bit of an obsession with the previous Mrs de Winter, and so a massive grudge with the current one. As far as playing mindgames go, she's a pro, manipulating and distressing the impressionable new Mrs de Winter to the point of near-madness for no other apparent motive than for her own gratification - all the while acting as if she is the most subservient and helpful person you'll ever meet. Spine-tingling in her sheer evil.

5. Mrs Puri from Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga.
This is a character who is all the more hateful for being someone that, originally, was a friend. The story follows an elderly widower, Masterji, as he battles against his neighbours and the property developer they want to sell their apartments to. As emotions run high and battlelines are drawn, Masterji quickly discovers who his real friends are in the building - of which Mrs Puri is not one. A selfish and greedy woman, she uses her disabled son's condition to justify her increasingly appalling campaign against Masterji. What makes it worse is that she initially appears to be a kind, friendly neighbour, until the prospect of money forces her to show her true colours.

4. Narigorm from Company of Liars by Karen Maitland.
Narigorm is terrifying. An angelic-looking little girl, she hides a dark power within the runes she obsesses over, using them in her campaign to expose the truth - no matter what the reason for concealing it is. With the story set against the backdrop of plague-ridden medieval England, the culture of suspicion, misunderstanding and fear helps Narigorm along on her way, as well as her butter-wouldn't-melt look of innocence. What's all the more frightening is her motive for the cruel little game she plays with lives - or lack of it. She's ambiguous as well, for shouldn't a character hell-bent on revealing truth be commended?

3. Hilly Holbrook from The Help by Kathryn Stockard.
You want racism? Ignorance? Bullying? Selfishness? Look no further - Hilly Holbrook has all in abundance. A sixties housewife in the Deep South of America, Hilly is everything that was wrong with the era; she treats her maids like they're less than human, treats her friends like children and generally just plays with people's lives to further her own ambitions and opinions. Rarely have I felt such disbelief when encountering a character; it's so hard to comprehend that people as unpleasant as this can exist even in literature, never mind outside of it.

2. Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling.
A bit like Narigorm, Umbridge is made all the more despicable by her outwardly-innocent appearance. A terror in a fluffy pink cardigan and a simpering smile, she loves nothing more than to wield her power over others, using torture as her favourite means-to-an-end, and she giggles all the time she's doing it. One of the most sadistic, evil characters in children's literature.

1. Joffrey Baratheon from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.
Now this is a character who, even as I contemplate him, is making me angry. A spoilt, bratty, violent little prat, with more than a streak of cruelty, Joffrey is another power-mad maniac with no consideration for anyone else. He lies, humiliates people, treats everyone like crap and, being arrogant, refuses to listen to anyone. So unpleasant, I spent most of the chapters featuring him wishing he would get killed off. Really, I cannot convey enough what a vile character and nasty bit of work this guy is. Oh, and he's only about thirteen. Charming.

Well there you have it - the characters I hate the most. You'll have to excuse me now, as I have to go punch a wall - writing about such a despicable lot has got me all riled up.

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