Have you ever watched a film and found yourself thinking “My God, but that character is getting on my nerves”, when said character is not necessarily meant to? There are plenty of onscreen characters throughout the years who are meant to be vexing or obnoxious. But at what point does that frustration transform into something a little more intense?
What do I mean by intense? Here are two possible definitions. First is that the hatred extends far past what is meant to be felt, becoming a somewhat preposterous fixation. The second is that the ‘irrational hatred’ for the character overflows to the point where you begin feeling adverse effects to the entire film itself.
Of course, these are more extreme side effects of the topic in question. For one thing, there are plenty of characters on this list that get on my nerves, but have never jeopardized my willingness to rewatch the film they are part of. For another thing, some of the characters on this list are supposed to get on your nerves; to a point. When you cannot move past it, when it grates on you beyond normalized reason, then it counts for this list, whether one is supposed to be annoyed by the character or not.
Something else to note; it does not have to be the character. In fact, many of the lists inclusions irritate me because of the performances attached to the character.
This is not the type of list I see around too much and so I thought it would be a fun and harmless road down which to venture. I like these kinds of lists that really have nothing to do with being the end-all be-all of anything, and focus more on ones personalized relationship with a variety of films. And anyone that reads this blog with any regularity knows I favor embracing the subjectivity of lists and somewhat resent (at least for myself) any attempts for a list to speak for anyone but myself.
The idea for this list came about from reminiscing about Apollo 13. In a management class for my graduate school classes for Library Science, we watched a few clips from the film. We had to discuss the various methods of group collaboration taking place and insert all the terminology we had been discussing about teams and groups into examples from the scenes (most featuring Ed Harris). I had been thinking about how much I truly like Apollo 13, and was lamenting about how long it had been since I watched it.
I then started to think about the one glaring downside to that film; Kathleen Quinlan. I flat-out do not like Kathleen Quinlan in this film. I realize that she was stuck with the obligatory ‘wife’ role and that it’s a pretty thankless part (although not thankless enough; she was nominated for an Oscar). There are a lot of similar thankless roles that actresses get saddled with, but none really got on my nerves the way she did. My memory recalls one worried facial expression throughout, and distractingly garish late 60’s/early 70’s wardrobe and makeup. At a certain point the negative feelings I have become inexplicable.
And thus the idea for this list was born.
There are some questionable choices here; I realize this. Some of the irrationality can be argued. I have a few characters on here where my reactions could be argued as being completely rational.
There were many that came to my head and I decided not to put them on. I felt either that my feelings were entirely too justified or that too many people hate the character for it to really feel ‘irrational’. How can it feel ‘irrational’ if so many others hate them as well? So no Jar-Jar Binks will be found here.
I hope everyone enjoyed the first installment of “Film Characters I Have an Irrational Hatred Towards”. It is now time for installment to, which will be covering three decades; the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s. I wish I were able to come up with more for this 30 year span but alas.
Someone I decided not to put here is Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The reason for this is, though I physically am unable to watch his scenes, I feel entirely justified in my hating him. I don’t find it to be irrational. I think we can all agree that performance is as bad and offensive as it gets.
What would you have put for these decades? Hopefully you can come with more than I was able to.
Pinocchio – voiced by Dickie Jones - Pinocchio (1940)
This installment kicks off with another major Disney character. I have a stronger fondness for this film than I do for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It attains a majestic quality at points and its certainly one of Disney’s most beautiful pieces of animation. Pinocchio is a naive wooden being; he does not have any life experience to guide him. He is a child, a selfish and foolish wooden child, who gets himself into a host of perilous situations.
Overcoming this selfishness and naiveté is embedded in the parable of this story. The journey is about him overcoming this near-fatal flaw. Still though; it is difficult to get past just how idiotic Pinocchio can be. His shockingly devil-may-care attitude is pretty staggering for someone who has only been in existence for a mere day.
The reasonable part of my brain keeps saying “but Pinocchio has no idea how the world works”. And the sillier, far too heavily involved part of my brain says “with the equally bothersome Jiminy Cricket at his side he has no excuse. Screw him; I hope he ends up a donkey slave”. It’s a bad sign when you want a cherubic character like Pinocchio to get his comeuppance.
Charlie – Teresa Wright – Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Over the years I never had a problem with Teresa Wright as Charlie. I thought her character was relatable and refreshing; a bored small-town girl who is just waiting for something exciting to happen.
The last time I watched it her incessant enthusiasm and refusal to see a situation for what it is got on my nerves. She is far too happy in the beginning and far too stubborn in the end. She plays these two emotions in every single scene and uses restlessness as a go-between throughout. And I realize how unreasonable it is to expect Charlie to see the situation for what it is. We as the audience have the advantage of omniscience.
I don’t hate Charlie; but as I get older, I just don’t like her very much. She strikes a high-pitched note that gets a little too under the skin. Every time she says “Uncle Charlie” all I hear are nails on a chalkboard.
Is there a bigger snafu than Uncle Billy’s misplacement of $8,000 in It’s a Wonderful Life?
It was an honest mistake. The guilt Billy feels as a result turns him into a far more tragic figure than George Bailey at his worst. In the end, it all turns out all right. We can forgive Uncle Billy right? Wrong.
Why anyone would ever trust Uncle Billy with that much money is beyond me. In a sense this whole thing is George’s fault too. Yet Uncle Billy will always remain an irrational source of aggravation for me. His nonexistent ability to keep track of large sums of money effects how I see him from the get-go. Uncle Billy and his stupid goddamn crows are the pits.
I don’t know how many times I have seen It’s a Wonderful Life; lots. One would think my fury would die down, but no. It doesn’t. Not even close. The tradition of watching Capra’s masterpiece every Christmas season is coupled with yearly shouting matches I have with myself. Without fail I always end up hurling insults at a lit-up box that projects Uncle Billy’s dimwittedness. Without fail I always end up shaking my head in shame, smacking my hand to my forehead mumbling “He’s so fucking stupid. Why is he so fucking stupid?”
It is safe to say my feelings got out of hand long ago.
Uncle Billy is cinema’s biggest hooplehead.
Tom Ewell gets the distinction of playing the only character from the 1950’s to appear on this list. Sad isn’t it? But just look at that face. Ew. Ew. Ew.
Part of it is that I rather superficially don’t like his face. He has that vibe that suggests he belongs on a 1960’s sitcom destined to forever be accompanied by a laugh track. His performance, which is admittedly good, is shadowed by his experiences performing the role on stage. He plays the part as if for a live audience, hence the laugh track vibe. The incessant ongoing monologue isn’t exactly endearing either.
He belongs to a class of bumbling overzealous male characters. His character and Ewell’s performance are exactly what they are meant to be; but that does not mean I have to like him.
The Jets – played by various - West Side Story (1961)
It was a long time ago when I realized I side with the Sharks in West Side Story. There is a sympathetic quality there as well as a laid-back ‘cool’ factor that The Jets lack. The Jets may have the song ‘Cool’ (the film’s best scene and the most exhilarating musical number I have ever seen onscreen), but that song is about harnessing rage and anger and not about actually being cool. Because they aren’t cool; they are lame.
By ‘The Jets’, I mean everyone excluding Riff and ex-Jet Tony. Tony is a massive sap but at least he possesses a modicum of common sense. And Riff is Russ Tamblyn and there will be no hating on Russ Tamblyn.
The ‘Daddio’ speak allows staginess to emerge in their dialogue scenes where every Jet takes turns shouting random words. It is painful.
The gang is really all The Jets have; their downtrodden lives suggest they have little to look forward to in life. I get it. I’m supposed to care. But I don’t. I care about the Sharks.
Action is by far my least favorite Jet or as I like to call him, Matt LeBlanc’s doppelganger.
Did I mention the part where they humiliate and assault Anita? Unforgiveable.
Sidney Berger knocks Carnival of Souls down a couple of notches with his insufferably lecherous skeeveball character. He detracts with his presence, taking away from what is otherwise a fabulously unsettling film. It feels like a glaring waste of time to use a subplot to showcase him. Berger is gross, slimy and the definition of obnoxious. I could not figure out the point of him when I first saw it and looking back, I am still perplexed by his presence.
Emeline Marcus-Finch – Dorothy Provine – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1964)
There are few films I have seen more than It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, which is odd because it does not represent the kind of comedy I like at all. By all accounts the film’s humor should annoy me but it doesn’t. It is one of my favorite comedies and I can quote it back to front. But Emeline will always be a major thorn in my side.
Emeline is supposed to be the innocent character. She is the poor soul who is dragged on a wild goose chase while everyone around her becomes increasingly obsessive over massive wads of cash. We are supposed to see her as the one uncontaminated character in the ensemble cast.
When you play Ethel Merman’s daughter and you are the more insufferable of the two, you know it’s bad.
Where the film sees unselfishness, I see an unendurable superiority complex. The ensemble cast’s desire for the money is not the problem. The problem is their inability to be reasonable people and come up with a method of equally distributing the money to everyone’s satisfaction. That is their downfall.
Call me unethical, but even though the money belongs with authorities and they have no right to it, I completely sympathize with their initial cause to get the money. Emeline’s haughty disapproval with the whole endeavor shows her as a stick-in-the-mud to the extreme; a nagging, prudish, bitch of a woman who is supposedly the film’s only moral character. If that is what moral looks like, then hand me a shovel so I can go look for the big W.
Blanche – Estelle Parsons – Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
What is unfortunate about this is that I cannot get past her shrillness to appreciate Parsons’ work as a performance. I have no idea if her work here is extraordinary or painfully overdone. Is every beat her acting hits purposeful? Am I supposed to find any redeeming qualities in this person? Should I feel remorse or compassion? I honestly can’t tell. If I am supposed to feel these things I am sorry to say I didn’t.
Parsons falls into the headache-inducing category here. It has been years since watching Bonnie and Clyde, but I remember wanting to jump out the nearest window in regards to Blanche. My hatred for her extends to the point where when I first saw it as a teenager; she became my most hated character in any film I had seen up to that point.
Barbara – Judith O’Dea – Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Showing a more realistic depiction of what would likely happen after a traumatic experience, such as the one Barbara has at the beginning of Night of the Living Dead, may not always be a good call. In the case of Judith O’Dea, she represents the archaic idea that women are useless shrieking creatures who are incapable of action in the face of danger. She bogs down the picture with her frenzied pouting recollections. When Ben slaps her across the face, hitting a woman actually comes a triumphant moment as a viewer, which as a woman is a really depressing confession to make.