mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Via umadoshi, a post on unlikable heroines. YA is a separate field, I think. It has not just female protags but teenagers, who tend to have unlikable behaviours anyway. There are, for better or worse, genre expectations that almost require there to be a love interest, which then raises the 'what could he possibly see in her?' question. Compare and contrast, if you like, the expectations in a kids' book like Harriet the Spy- Harriet is immensely likable but OMG what a pain she is, or Hilary McKay's Casson family, with the batty but sympathetoc older sisters. (The commenter who drew a distinction between likable and sympathetic was on to something, I think.) Or the British Marlows of Antonia Forester, that's all about teenagers and growing up and school and the first steps to relationships, but whose characters are likable and unlikable simultaneously- you know, like real people. (Another country: they do things differently there.)

I may be in a minority in not cutting the guys more slack. An obnoxious hero is obnoxious, and it's usually the one with the manly behaviours and the lack of empathy for other human beings. Not always- Harry got on my nerves something dreadful, and Ron was worse, just for being wet and a weed in the first instance, and a teenage boy in the second; but I was also reacting to the feeling that I was supposed to like and identify with them. I liked Hermione, though she'd have driven me batty in RL; but she thought about people other than herself.

I also wonder at what Writer of Wrongs considers 'likable' behaviours. 'Basically, I'm conditioned to make myself small and quiet. When I give my Starbucks order, I say "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me". In restaurants, I ask permissionto order, like I'm afraid if I get too demanding or show too much desire for something, I won't be liked. And I hate that I do that.' You do? You want to command an overworked and under-paid barrista to make your latte grande and be quick about it? You don't want to say 'Can we order now?' to tell an overworked and underpaid wait-staff that you now know what you want? That's called common courtesy where I come from; it's the people who snap orders at perceived underlings who are considered unlikable. Which they are: people one cannot like.
Tags: reading, rl

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