It's OK To Love 'Problematic' Characters
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It's OK To Love 'Problematic' Characters

The label gets unfairly tossed around.

It's OK To Love 'Problematic' Characters
Walt Disney Pictures

If you love books, movies, tv shows, musicals or just stories in general, then there's a good chance that there are characters that you're attached to. There are characters you like because of how funny they are, characters you like because of how smart, or lovable or charming they are.

But even these characters can earn a certain label, "problematic." The textbook definition of the word problematic, when used as an adjective is "presenting a problem or difficulty." When applied to characters this can usually mean that the character presents some sort of problem and that they shouldn't be admired. What's interesting is that this term is almost never applied to characters who are obviously a problem, like Lord Voldemort from "Harry Potter," or Todd Packer from "the Office." Usually the term is applied to characters that are often painted as a protagonist or hero in a story, like Cinderella or Ross from "Friends."

But sometimes the label is thrown around loosely and can often be unfairly thrown on a character (remind me again why Jim Halpert is seen as "problematic").

For example, Cinderella is seen as "anti feminist" and a "terrible role model." When I was little, she was one of my favorite Disney princesses, and then later felt ashamed with myself for loving a princess that was so weak. But looking at the film again more recently, it becomes clear that Cinderella is a victim of abuse, the narrator even clearly states that she was abused by her step-mother and forced to be a servant in her own home. Cinderella has traits that are more realistic of a victim of abuse, being practical and not always fighting back in order to survive. It's insane to portray all victims in fiction to be sassy and make plans of escape, because realistically, it's not always the case. Yes the film isn't perfect, and definitely a product of it's time, but it's still unfair to passively watch and label Cinderella as problematic.

Ron Weasly is another character that often gets the label thrown at him. Then again the films do fail to capture his true personality from the books and take away any flaws Hermione had, but that's a rant for a different day. People often say that he's a "terrible friend" and gets jealous and gets into fights with Harry and Hermione for no reason. I think it's important to remember that Ron is a product of his environment. While he did grow up in a loving family, he does have five older brothers and often felt overlooked, especially after his little sister Ginny was born. Then he befriends one of the most famous wizards of all time and is only seen as "Harry Potter's friend." So in Ron's eyes, the odds have been stacked against him since he feels he'll never live up to his older brothers and his best friend. So the way he acts sometimes isn't because he's a bad guy, but because he's human but still a good person. He could've decided being friends with Harry was too dangerous and ditched him. But instead, Ron sticks by Harry's side and goes on dangerous quests with him.

Even Ross Geller is a product of circumstances. He grew up the favored child, but was still ridiculed by his father when he was a little boy wanting to play dress up, or wanted to study dinosaurs. So he felt like he has to repress a side of himself at times. And it's because of that repression he lashes out later in life. Then he developed trust issues after his wife Carol came out as gay, and found out she was cheating on him with Susan. So while his jealousy and possessiveness toward Rachel isn't okay by any means, it's easy to see where it comes from.

I think what often happens is we hold fictional characters to absurd standards. Basically if they're not "perfect" then their "problematic." Then they're a problem is they're too perfect. I think we need to remember that the flaws we see in characters are what makes them human, and therefore, more interesting stories. Even flawed characters can be inspirational. If someone can see themselves in Ron, or has similar flaws to him, then it gives them hope. Because in the end, Ron is a hero who helped defeat the greatest evil in the Wizarding World.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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