Tuesday, May 10, 2011

30 Days of Genre - Who Is the Most Annoying Character?

Harry Potter

I know. I'm almost certainly going to catch some flak for singling out every one's favorite boy wizard as the most annoying character in genre fiction. But I'm going to do it anyway. Because he deserves it.

I could have picked someone like Sansa, from A Game of Thrones, with her simpering naivete. But the deluded princess character who believes in romantic knights and handsome princes is such a cliche that Sansa is almost not even a character so much as she is a caricature. Or I could have picked someone like the house elf Dobby, who is so annoying that even Gollum hates him. And although Dobby is a truly annoying character, he, like Gurgi from the Chronicles of Prydain, is once again just another example of a recurring character type - the comic relief sidekick. Based solely on reputation I could have picked Bella from the Twilight books, but the only problem there is that I haven't actually read them, and I refuse to include characters, locations, or scenes from books that I have not read in my 30 Days of Genre selections.

And I'm not picking Harry Potter because of annoyance at the enormous popularity of J.K. Rowling's books. As far as I am concerned, the more books an author sells the better. No, I am picking Harry Potter because he's an obnoxious lazy jock. Is Harry smart? No. Hermione is. Is Harry studious? Nope, Hermione again. Is Harry at least naturally talented at academics? Not really. He's decent at defense against the dark arts magic, but in every other category, Hermione outshines him. Who solves the problems? Almost every time it is Hermione. Whenever there is heavy lifting to be done, almost every time it is done by Hermione, and on the rare occasions when it isn't, it is usually done by some other character while Harry stands around gawking. And what is Harry good at? Well, he has a natural talent for broom-riding and is thus drafted into being the star player on the Gryffindor quidditch team. Potter, without most people knowing it, is a stereotypical dumb jock. Not only that, he's a wealthy dumb jock who dates a girl he doesn't really like using her just to get some sort of petty revenge when his two best friends strike up a relationship.

And people fawn over him in the books. He's the boy who lived after all. But this just makes him more annoying, since every part of his character that is not a lazy dumb and mostly thoughtless jock is a tired cliche. Harry Potter is the chosen one. Why? Because he is prophesied to be the chosen one. One would think that all the people around Potter would notice that he's pretty much just a dopey teenage athlete bumming around school with nothing in particular to recommend him as anything special. Even so, Dumbledore takes Potter under his wing and makes him into the Headmaster's pet, which makes him an even more annoying character (compounded by the fact that Dumbledore is a very annoying character in his own right). And all this based more or less on an accident of genetics and random prophecy.

So for being the lazy, indolent, and thoughtless jock who stumbled undeservedly into being treated like a hero, Harry Potter gets my vote as the most annoying character in genre fiction.

Go to Day 5: What Character Do You Feel You Are Most Like (or Wish You Were)?
Go to Day 7: What Is Your Favorite Couple in a Genre Novel?

30 Days of Genre     Home


  1. Ok I can't comment on your character pick because I disagree (though I know a good amount of people who agree with you). My most annoying character pick though could possibly be Nora from Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick. She was alright in Hush, Hush but her actions in Crescendo almost had me throwing the book down at one point.

    My friend disagrees with me there though.

  2. So...

    Only smart people can be heroes? The whole *point* is that Harry is not supernaturally awesome at everything. But, he sucks it up and acts the hero anyway, because he's brave. That's his schtick.

    I'll grant you the jock point. I hadn't really thought of it in those terms, but you are right.

    I'm really confused by the comment about dating a girl for petty revenge. I only recall him dating Cho Chang and Ginny, both of whom he genuinely liked.

    The "chosen one" cliche is very present, but is also explored as a theme. It is not just a vehicle to move the plot along, but Rowling explores what it means for a teenage boy to have that kind of pressure and attention.

    Harry has a lot of flaws, but I think that your marks are pretty off target.

  3. Oh honey, Bella is the most annoying character ever written (aside from Dobby) and after reading the Twilight series, while I got the appeal the books have to tweens, I was floored by the awful quality of the writing. It's the concept that sells, 'cuz it sure ain't the story or the writing. I felt so duped. Yes, Bella annoyed the hell out of me. I wanted to smack her to Kingdom Come and then some.

  4. Okay, Harry Potter. I read book one, found it entertaining, and tried book two. Got bored. Never finished the series and have no regrets. My husband enjoyed every book, as did one of my children. My son finds Harry annoying because his stature is derived from the fact that he's the anointed one, not because he manages to do much on his own. Mostly he just stumbles into situations. What I have read in the successive books reminds me of the Hardy Boys, but a much more complicated, wordy and lengthy version.

  5. @Sandy: I haven't read anything by Becca Fitzpatrick, so I cannot comment. I may have to go and pick up some of her books now and see for myself.

  6. @Marshall: You miss the point. Harry is not only not the smart one, he's the lazy one. One might think that knowing that a powerful wizard is trying to hunt him down he might be motivated to get good at magic. But no. He spends his time goofing around and staring out the window during class waiting to get out on the quidditch field.

    You're right. He's not good at much of anything. That's because he's a lazy jock. Daydreaming in class and spending your time trying to evade your teachers tends to have that effect. He's not admirable because he's mediocre at stuff and shoulders on anyway. His mediocrity is his own doing, so he gets no bonus points for having to deal with the consequences later.

  7. Even though I love the Cal Leandros series I just can't stand Goodfellow. The dude totally gets on my wick.
    I hope the muggles aren't sending you death threats after picking Harry Potter! :)

  8. @Julia: I am reasonably sure you are right about Bella but since I haven't read any of the Twilight books, she's not an option for me.

    I read all the way through the entire Harry Potter series. You can pretty much figure out every story by reading the first chapter and looking at the cover art. You didn't miss much of anything but being part of the cultural phenomenon.

  9. @BookMarc: I'm guessing I will have a hundred angry e-mails in my in box when I go check it.

  10. I always find it fascinating, how different people read the same things and come up with such different opinions on the characters. I find Harry irritating for most of the series and I don't really like him even though I love the books, but I can't agree with this reasoning for picking him as the MOST annoying in genre fiction. I've always thought of him as a jock but he ISN'T stupid, nor is he lazy. I can't quite get my head around that interpretation...

    But my major gripe with this post actually has nothing to do with Harry. It's to do with Sansa Stark. My jaw dropped at the comments about her and I was left wondering if this blogger read the same books I did. O_O

  11. @Rowan: I just can't see Harry as anything other than a dumb jock overly praised for extricating himself from problems that are mostly his own doing. I probably could have picked someone like Kale Allerion or Tipper from one of Donita K. Paul's books, or maybe Paladin from the same series books, but they are so obscure and they aren't so much annoying characters as the inhabitants of annoying books.

    As far as Sansa goes, I find her simpering and annoying. Perhaps you are thinking of Arya?

  12. I most wholeheartedly agree with regard to both Harry and Sansa. Harry bothered me for precisely the lazy behavior you describe. I loved the books for the world far more than for Harry. Even if he is supposed to be an Everyman, I wanted our hero to succeed on more than just luck!

  13. No, I definitely know the difference between Arya and Sansa, being on my seventh full series re-read at the moment. I wasn't disagreeing with "simpering and annoying," because she absolutely is (in the beginning, especially). My issue was with "almost not even a character so much as she is a caricature." She's one of the least static and most dynamic characters in the whole series...

  14. +JMJ+

    Harry Potter as "lazy, indolent and thoughtless jock"???

    I never saw it before (my own issue with Harry being his emo tantrums) . . . but it works!

    One of my friends had an awful time slogging through the first Harry Potter book, and when he was done, he said the problem was that Harry is not a real boy, but a woman's idea of a real boy. And having grown up reading more "testosteronic" SF and Fantasy in the 60s, that's something he's not going to overlook.

    Great post, by the way! I'm glad I found your blog and read it. =)