Why Do Terrible Characters Make For Great Shows?

I was on Reddit a few days ago because I was bored and what else is there to do when you’re bored other than to go onto Reddit? While I was there, I happen to come across the Veronica Mars subreddit and I saw a post about how a Redditor (is that what we call people who use Reddit?) hated and had always hated a particular character from the show and didn’t understand why people could like his character after everything he had done. I understood completely where the person was coming from, but my argument was that his character grew to be a better person as the show went on. Did that justify all his past mistakes and crimes he had done? No, not at all. However, his character growth was why I and so many others like and love his character.

I also passively mentioned that I thought all the characters on the show were by definition, bad people. Somehow that was the only point they saw and sought to comment on, forgetting everything else I had written. So I responded why I thought that and mentioned other shows where the characters were terrible people like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. This got me thinking why is it that we watch shows and seemly love said shows that focus on terrible characters? Of course, there are plenty of expectations to this. There are characters that are good people that happen to be on great shows. For example, Kimmy Schmidt from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the sweetest TV character you’ll probably ever watch and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a very good show. However, I find that to be the expectation, not the rule. Terrible characters make up for a lot of great television.

What I mean by terrible characters isn’t that they are written badly, actually quite the opposite. I mean characters that if they existed in the real world they would be regarded as horrible people. I’m talking about the Carrie Bradshaws, Ross Gellers, and Don Drapers of the television world. The worst of the worst of TV characters other than the murderers and rapists. So why do we watch these shows even though their protagonists or characters are pretty terrible? I can only answer for myself, but I have more than just one reason why I do.

1. Nice People Are Boring

-Said by a fellow nice person. We nice people, sorry to say are pretty boring and boring doesn’t make for good television, now does it? That’s why we have reality shows, most people that come from reality shows are bad people, or at least they’re portrayed that way. That’s because no one would watch a show where everyone is nice, honest, and sweet with each other. It wouldn’t be entertaining to watch and there’s no point in watching TV if it isn’t entertaining you, the viewer.

So yes, I watch television shows because bad people make for good television. It’s kinda like playing video games like GTA (Grand Theft Auto), it’s fun because we wouldn’t do any of those actions in real life. We watch these shows with these horrible characters because they’re entertaining, but if they were a part of our daily lives they would be intolerable. Luckily they’re in a fictional world where we can’t be bothered by them, just infatuated by them.

2. We Are So Much Better Than Them

This might sound awful, but doesn’t watching terrible people make you feel better about yourself? It’s along the lines of my life’s a mess right now, but at least it isn’t as bad as hers. I don’t know, but watching television always makes me feel better about my life and myself. Of course, sometimes it makes me feel worse, but for the most part, I always feel better about my own life and even myself when I’m watching Rory Gilmore fumble her own or Carrie Bradshaw making a complete mess out of hers. It shows I’m not alone and that some people (even if they’re fictional) have it a lot worse than me.

3. They Make Us Feel Something

My final reason is that terrible characters provoke emotions in us that we probably wouldn’t have displayed otherwise. Going back to the person who hated a character from Veronica Mars, they hated that character, but they can’t deny that character made them feel something. Sure they probably felt anger or disgust, but emotions are emotions and it’s better to feel something than nothing at all. It’s why we love to hate characters and go on a website to rant about them. They make us feel something for them. I watch television to be entertained and to feel something, terrible characters indeed do that for me.

However, that’s just me. That’s why I watch so many shows that feature terrible people. I’m curious what other reasons some other people may watch shows led by these awful people. Or maybe you don’t because they are too insurable for you to handle. I get that too, either way, comment below and tell me how you feel about this topic.

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One response to “Why Do Terrible Characters Make For Great Shows?”

  1. This is great. I love a show where you can actually root for the bad guy. Not because you necessarily want the bad guy to keep doing bad things, but because you come to care about their situation and you want to see them become better. Honestly, I think that’s what drew me into the first season of Daredevil the most. I knew that Wilson Fisk was the big bad and there was no way Daredevil wasn’t taking down the Kingpin. But as the season progressed and we saw more and more about this horrible person, you kinda felt for the guy and wanted so badly for his relationship with Vanessa to develop and flourish. A part of me wanted the bad guy to succeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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