Do Lame Characters Exist or is it All Just a Case of Bad Writing?

There are a lot of characters in fiction who are loathed by the general populace. Reed Richards is a prime example, I myself hate him for being an arrogant putz, but there are others who get more hate than even him. I talked about Aquaman, I’ve mentioned my hatred for the animated Slimer, and Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager has garnered some hatred in the fan community.

I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as a bad character, only bad writing. It may be hard to believe, when fans hate a character they really come to loathe said character. Still, it’s an interesting aspect of storytelling that deserves some analysis.

I hate the animated incarnation of Slimer. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The Real Ghostbusters was a great show despite his presence, and it only got worse when they decided to make him the focus of the show. Every second with him is cringe inducing, he’s an annoying waste of time that drastically reduced the quality of any episode. With that said, I didn’t mind the movie version. He had a much smaller role and he wasn’t a nuisance like he was in the cartoon. He played his part and that was it. He wasn’t needlessly shoehorned in, and when he was, it was just a quick cameo. The reason why Slimer doesn’t work in the cartoon is that they tried to put him in a role that didn’t suit him.

Another character, or set of characters I should say, that I hate is the Wonder Twins and their space monkey, Gleek. I know, it may seem odd after I wrote a whole article defending Aquaman, but I’ve seen how the character can work well. People have tried to modernize the wonder twins, both the DCAU and Smallville took their crack at the characters. They weren’t as bad as the Superfriends incarnation, but there was nothing that made me think that these are characters worth bothering with. When you take out Gleek, the lameness drops drastically, but they still aren’t very good characters, even when handled by better writers.

A lot of Trekkies hate Captain Janeway. I never watched much of Voyager. I watched it for awhile, but kind of stopped after a while. I didn’t really hate it, I just stopped watching it. Evidently, she has made some, let’s say questionable decisions as captain. This is a prime example of a character who was handled by bad writers. There is a subset that says that they really have no problem with Janeway, but say that she just got stuck with bad writers.

It’s tough to differentiate sometimes. Bad characters are almost always the result of bad writers, but not all characters can be redeemed by being handled by someone else. No one, I mean no one could make Jar Jar Binks or the twins from Transformers 2 compelling characters. They will always be abominations and are beyond saving. Even the likes of Stephen King, Alan Moore, or even Shakespeare himself couldn’t make characters that bad interesting.

As much as I’d like to believe that all characters can be written well, it’s simply not the case. Many can, but there are some characters who just plain suck.

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