Let’s face it: no character is perfect – if they were, they’d make for pretty boring television. Morality isn’t black and white, and the fact is that most people are fifty shades of grey. Since fiction reflects real life, it’s only natural that characters will have their flaws. But there are those who attain another, more detested status. They’re don’t just have problems, they’re problematic.
Although the word has been so overused that it’s hard to take it seriously, it’s still important to recognize when a character you like consistently says or does things that aren’t only offensive, but are actively oppressive. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to completely turn your back on that character; you can still like them without Losing Friends and Alienating People, and here’s how:
There’s no use in denying that your fave has behaved in awful ways, because it’s simply the truth. Even though it might be tempting, making posts about how misunderstood they are or how they had reasons for their behaviour will only result in backlash that could escalate into an all-out fandom war. To avoid getting dragged into drama, it’s best to accept the character for who they are and move on. You don’t have to condone everything they do just because they’re your fave. In fact, realizing when they’ve screwed up actually shows maturity and understanding.
There are bound to be people whose opinions will clash with yours. If the character is widely disliked, chances are you’ll see your fair share of call-outs, ‘not so friendly reminder’s, and lengthy meta about how problematic they are. If this happens, make like Dory and just keep swimming scrolling. Retaliating to these posts won’t solve anything: you can’t change the OP’s opinion any more than they can change yours. Your time would be much better spent talking to people who share your love for your fave.
Apart from those who don’t approve of your fave, there may be others who are adversely affected by them for a whole host of reasons. Some characters (and on that note, some ships) are more triggering than others. Try not to feel offended if someone asks you to tag your posts accordingly because they’ve probably got a good reason for it; they’re not just trying to make you feel bad! We should all strive to be more socially conscious in our online presence. Listening to peoples’ concerns is one of the easiest ways to create spaces that are safe for everyone. With fandom you get just as much as you give, so start spreading that positive karma!
Stick to Fiction
Having a fave who is problematic is pretty commonplace within fandom. However, we start to get blurred lines when we cross over into real life. At the end of the day, fictional characters are…well, fictional. Actual people are a different matter altogether. Whoever they are, their thoughts and actions have real consequences that can be devastating. So maybe it’s best to think twice before professing your undying love for that homophobic actor, that misogynistic musician, that racist comedian (…the list goes on). Of course, everyone is problematic to some extent – it’s up to you to decide how much is too much.
Ignore the Haters
That’s right. Ignore them, block them, report them…do whatever you gotta do. If you’re following all of the above advice and still getting hate, then it’s completely unjustified. It doesn’t matter who your problematic favorite character is. Even if they’re literally Satan (looking at you, Supernatural fandom), you don’t deserve to be harassed or bullied simply for liking them. Always remember that you’re just as entitled to your opinion as anyone else.
If you’re still with me, and I’m hoping most of you are, then congratulations on getting to the end of this list! There are a lot of don’ts when it comes to problematic characters, so good on you for reading through all of them. Seriously, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You deserve it for being such a responsible Internet citizen.
Navigating the minefield of fandom is tricky, but having a problematic fave is hardly the end of the world. As long as you’re considerate and respectful towards others, you can’t go wrong. So go on, get out there, and make the most of the experience!