One of the most interesting things about reading a popular book is realizing how differently some people view the characters.
Take The Hunger Games trilogy, for example. I always saw Katniss as a strong character who did the best she could under difficult situations--particularly in Mockingjay, where her problems became less about her own life-and-death struggles and more about maintaining her humanity and sanity.
Turns out, some people thought she whined her way through the whole thing -- who knew?
One of my all-time favorite books is The Stand. With literally dozens of main characters and exponentially more fans, there was bound to be at least one controversial figure. But color me shocked when I realized the prime candidate for I Love Her/I Hate Her status was little Frannie Goldsmith. (And I'm not even talking about Molly Ringwald's phenomenally bad portrayal of her in the made-for-TV movie.)
For those of you who haven't read it, Fran Goldsmith is a twenty-year-old college student who realizes she's pregnant about a week before 99.9% of the population is wiped out by a strain of super flu. She's caught in a dysfunctional love triangle between Harold, a socially inept high school kid she grew up with, and Stu, a 30-something widower from Texas.
I say it's a dysfunctional love triangle simply because Fran is never into Harold--she finds him creepy even before he becomes one of the last men on earth. He manipulates her, spies on her and is possessive of her. Keep in mind, all this comes before he develops megalomaniacal, homicidal tendencies.
On the other hand you have Stu. Stu is kind, respectful and loyal. He doesn't try to coerce women into having sex with him just because it's the end of the world. I can't speak for every woman, but I generally consider that a plus.
So Fran falls for Stu and Stu falls for Fran and Harold is left out in the cold. It's life, in my opinion, and for what it's worth, a pretty obvious result. Leaving out all of Harold's bad character traits and all of Stu's good ones, would you rather have a grown man or a teenage boy as the new step-daddy to your little flu-orphan-baby?
Yet when you glance over message boards on IMDB, comments on Entertainment Weekly, or other sites, it becomes obvious that there are people who think that Fran does treat poor Harold pretty poorly--and that perhaps if she had not, he wouldn't have (CENSORED FOR SPOILERS).
So there's the other side of the coin--Harold is, after all, a seventeen-year-old kid. He was bullied in school, not particularly adored by his parents. He's overweight and plagued with bad self-esteem despite being brilliant. Everyone he knows is dead, except for his dream girl--his older sister's best friend. He saves her bacon on more than one occasion, and what does she do?
She falls for the middle-aged, uneducated Texan, all the while making snide comments about Harold in her secret journal.
Now, obviously I did notice these things about Fran as I was reading The Stand, but they mattered less to me than they apparently did to other people.
Not to reduce this down to boys-versus-girls, but I imagine most of the people who are on Team Harold also have a Y-chromosome to their name.
From my perspective, Fran was about as nice to Harold as she could be. She did not like him. What's more, he gave her plenty of legitimate reasons to hate him. But even if she had liked him, who says that she still can't fall for some other guy?
But maybe to a boy -- who see things like Harold dangling off the barn roof to sign his and Fran's names so other survivors will know where they're headed as an gallant, romantic gesture -- it seems less forgivable that Fran is cavalier toward Harold's affections.
Or maybe it's not a boy/girl thing. Maybe the Harold apologists were also bullied in high school, leaving them more sympathetic to why a kid like Harold might snap. Whereas I just an average girl in high school, much like Frannie---liked, but nothing special. From where I'm sitting, Fran was just a girl who made some bad decisions, some good decisions, but overall tried to do her best. (And did I mention how she's pregnant, orphaned, 20-years-old, had to bury her father herself, and is occasionally threatened with rape? OK, just wanted to be clear.)
Who are some other characters seen as polarizing in pop culture? Both very popular and more obscure suggestions will be accepted - to get things started, I will add Bella Swan from the Twilight books, Patch in the Hush, Hush series, Mickey Haller in The Lincoln Lawyer and sequels, Mikael Blomkvist in the Millenium-a.k.a.-Girl Who Was Generally Badass-Trilogy.