There’s a distinct difference between broken and just flat-out unlikeable protagonists. It’s one thing to dislike a protagonist based on misguided goals or moral ambiguities, but it’s another to dislike one based on whining, moaning and generally shallow characteristics. When a writer chooses to create a character that’s unrelatable, more often than not they end up being despised. But not a “Walter White is a bad person I can’t help but root for” despise, more like a “I hope the bad guy wins to shut you up” kind of despise.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the 10 most unlikeable protagonists in media and ponder just what the heck the writers were thinking here.
10. Luke Skywalker – Star Wars
Who doesn’t love the original Star Wars trilogy? It’s fun, action-packed and full of ridiculous and likeable characters. Except, well, Luke Skywalker, the supposed main character of the series. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we didn’t want him to succeed, after all he’s insulated with Han Solo and Chewbacca, but his incessant whining and moaning and coming-of-age story gets a bit tiresome. It makes sense from a writing perspective; after all, they want him to experience some character development, but we can’t help but feel he was just a little too whiny to take seriously. Still, we’re looking forward to his return in the upcoming sequels.
9. Dante Hicks – Clerks
Clerks, and arguably Clerks II, are solid comedy flicks. It jump started the Jay and Silent Bob series and fared relatively well with critics. But if there’s one gripe viewers have had with Clerks, it usually revolves around its main character Dante. The pudgy convenience store worker can be summed up in a few words: incessantly whiny, narcissistic and cynical. To put it simply, he’s just annoying. Knowing this, it’s easier for the viewer to relate to Randal’s shenanigans than Dante’s misguided goals. Personally, whether Dante achieved his goals, like getting the woman he loves, never really mattered. We’re in it for the laughs.
8. Chris Redfield – Resident Evil 5 and 6
This is an especially sad selection because Chris Redfield used to be a likeable character back in the Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Code Veronica X days. However, at some point between those games and the announcement of Resident Evil 5, Capcom thought it would be a great idea to have Redfield undergo substance abuse—one can only assume—and transform into the ultimate cardboard cut-out character. Even some of the annoying villains found in the game are more likeable than Redfield. If only there were a special edition allowing players to control badass villain Albert Wesker instead. What a shame.
7. Jar Jar Binks – Star Wars
Oh, Jar Jar Binks. To be fair to George Lucas, the idea to insert comic relief in mainstream films, thus expanding your potential fan base, is not new. It’s a good idea. Unfortunately, Jar Jar Binks is not subtle, like, at all. His clumsy movements and annoying dialogue are almost always useless and do nothing but kill scenes and take away from the overall tone of the films. He’s basically constantly ignored by other characters, too, further proving his uselessness. In fact, if you can imagine The Phantom Menace, which abused his inclusion the most, without him, it would have likely been better received from diehard fans who despise the prequels.
6. John Hancock – Hancock
Hancock was just not a good movie. It had an interesting premise, but having Will Smith drunkenly stumble around and fight crime quickly wore out its welcome. At several points throughout the film I wondered if it would benefit from the small-time crooks actually achieving their goals instead of being repetitively thwarted. It’s not Smith’s fault the writing is lazy and uninspired, but the character on the screen simply can’t carry the load and drag the film to respectability. Regurgitating the same jokes throughout the 92-minute runtime might be the biggest culprit in making Hancock an unlikeable protagonist.
5. Sam B – Dead Island
Remember that chilling, goose bump-inducing announcement trailer for Dead Island? Gamers rejoiced at the thought of a tropical open-world zombie apocalypse with several characters with different abilities to choose from. Unfortunately, the game was a buggy, forgettable mess with some of the worst and most unrelatable characters to ever hit the screen. The worst of which was Sam B. The melee specialist was fun to use, sure, but he was also a walking stereotype fueled by ridiculous anger and blinding amounts of bling. By far the worst part about him, though, is having to hear his terrible song, “Who Do You Voodoo,” which is truly cringe-worthy. Even if it’s a joke, it’s an excessively annoying one.
4. Batman – Batman Forever and Batman & Robin
Let’s be honest, this is all Joel Schumacher’s fault. Having Batman as a one-dimensional, one-liner superhero is just a crime for the ages. It’s myopic to blame George Clooney and Val Kilmer entirely for their depictions of Batman because, well, they didn’t write the material. As an actor, how much could you realistically accomplish if you’re asked to sport a Batman credit card, ice skates, and stuff as much one-liners in your dialogue as possible? Schumacher turned one of comics’ best and darkest superheroes into an unlikeable and laughably bad character. It’s difficult to decide who’s more unlikeable, Batman or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze.
3. Jacob Black – Twilight
It’s unclear why Stephanie Meyer decided to create the mindless and shallow character that is Jacob Black. Twilight characters aren’t exactly the brightest bulbs on the tree to begin with, so to include one that is exclusively shirtless and driven to woo the whiny and helpless Bella is mind-boggling. His entire purpose is to contend with Edward over a 1950s cut-out character and transform into an unimaginative and poorly CGI-ed werewolf. I suppose if you’re going to make millions off clichéd subject matter you might as well go the whole nine yards, right? Well, at least Jacob doesn’t fall in love with Bella’s daughter and become some sort of pedophile. That would have been weird.
2. Edward Cullen – Twilight
Edward Cullen is as transparent a character as they come—literally. Like much of the characters in Twilight, he experiences little development and is a perpetual representation of unlikeable people everywhere. He’s borderline abusive, controlling, sappy, simplistic and psychotic. It’s difficult to think of any redeeming qualities he possesses to even consider balancing the scale. He’s just awful in every sense of the word. Maybe if the acting had been better they could have gotten away with it, but even that department is a fail of epic proportions. But let’s be reasonable here, it could have been worse. He could have impregnated Bella with a demon spawn. Could you imagine?
1. Bella Swan – Twilight
Jeez, stop your whining and mind-boggling decisions and just choose between Edward and Jacob already. Much like her miserable and “woe is me” lifestyle, it’s ironic Bella Swan has such a difficult time deciding on which stale and lifeless character to love—or love more? Character development is thrown out the window to facilitate her unrelatable and excruciatingly tedious choices. Frankly, what makes her so unlikeable is that she is essentially the antithesis of feminism and decades of progress. Why stand on your own two feet when you can rely on two men? Instead of acting as a strong heroine, Bella is a perpetual damsel in distress and the representation of an outdated mindset.